Women’s Rights Advocate Frowns On Gender Inequality In Liberia’s Sports Sector

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A strong women’s rights advocate, Madam Loretta Alethea Pope-Kai has frowned on what she terms as gender inequality meted upon females playing Liberia’s own traditional sports, kickball against their males’ counterparts in the football category at the just ended National County Sports Meet (NCSM).  Held from April 15 to May 5, 2024, the NCSM is an annual sporting festival organized and hosted by the Ministry of Youth and Sports in collaboration with the Ministry of Internal Affairs.  But the prize rewards/awards for winners in different categories have since shown high level of gender inequality in sports proven by the huge disparities in the amount provided. As provided by the Government of Liberia (GoL) through the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the cash award for the first prize winner for football amounts to L$2M, while second place took away half of that amount (L$1M). Disgustingly, the government through the MYS only provided only L$300,000 for the winner of the kickball category with the hope of getting a further L$500,000 from one of its sponsors, Ecobank to tap the amount to L$800,000 and L$100,000 for the second with similar expectation of getting a further L$300,000 from the same sponsor.  Painfully also, the third-place award for football is L$500,000 while just L$50,000 was apportioned for the third-place winner for kickball– just 10 percent of the football third place prize.  And so, speaking to the matter, Madam Pope-Kai in a statement issued her capacity as a concerned Liberian and campaigner of gender equality, pointed out that while the fact remains that all sports aren’t just the same, the disparities are so huge, especially in a case wherein the funding is being provided by national government.  According to Madam Pope-Kai, who is also the Chairperson of the National Civil Society Council of Liberia (NCSCL) and Executive Director of the Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI), this undermines fair competition between men and women and kills women’s desire to pursue further interest in sports.  Madam Pope-Kai, a vocal civil society actor, being cognizant that kickball being Liberia’s traditional sports played by women since 1964, stressed the urgent need for the game to be elevated at a higher level by national government to bring dignity to the players and stakeholders  “We cannot be bragging here about gender balance, gender equality and gender equity and continue to do things that continuously tend to discriminate against women or undermine their promotion in society. Even in sports, we strive at all to discriminate; this is unfair to our young girls and women playing sports,” said Madam Pope-Kai. 

 “What I have seen going viral on the social media in recent days is too disheartening and such needs to stop now – journalists are all discussing this on their different media platforms. I am speaking to this because it’s a national issue that have drawn my concern. We must do something that encourages women’s participation at all levels and sports is one key parts of it. And kickball specifically, which is the widely played sport by most young female folks must be given serious attention. We need to improve in all aspects including the playing pitches. If we dignify this game, we can even sell it to the international world – it can be played at the Olympics like other games.”

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