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Mar 12, 2020

A Sports Summit Advocates for Equity for the Female Gender

All over, women face challenges in their professional life and the field of sports is no exception. Since Wednesday, a summit commenced in Belize City to promote equality for girls and women involved in sports. According to organizers, there is a decline in the number of women engaged in sporting activities so the event is a springboard to advocate for better conditions and equal opportunities for the female gender. Here is News Five’s Duane Moody with a report.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

The first of its kind summit to advocate for equity in sports in Belize is taking place in Belize City. At the Mexico Sports Centre and the Marion Jones Sporting Complex, female and male athletes in various disciplines have gathered to discuss what can be done to motivate the inclusion of young girls and women athletes in sports. It has been an uphill battle as the number of active female athletes continues to dwindle for various reasons.

 

Jen Jacobs

Dr. Jen Jacobs, Professor of Sports Psychology, Northern Illinois University

“We’ve been working with partners from various organizations in Belize since 2014 and we’ve been using in general sports as a tool for social change. And throughout the years that we have been working with different organizations, we have learnt that gender equity is a very big issue in your country as it also is in our country. So we organized a summit to bring together different organizations who feel strongly about fostering more equity for women and girls in sport, but then also in life, in school, in their activities and in their families.”

 

The challenges include the lack of opportunities for girls wanting to play sports, as well as the inability of women and girls to stand up without being victimised. Facilitator Edith Martinez says that the lack of support from people in power has had an adverse effect on sports in Belize, specifically for women.

 

Edith Martinez

Edith Martinez, Facilitator, Sports Women Summit

“Growing up playing basketball, we had a team, but no sponsors. We had a team we had coaches, but you barely had people wanting to support a female league. So I think the community on a whole didn’t really support female in sports.  For sure I have seen changes. I cannot speak of females playing basketball, but I have seen a lot of changes in the woman football and the volleyball and the softball. Oh yes, changes have been made.  I think we need to come together and create policies that will benefit both males and females. Right now we are fighting for equality and equity and if the guys could have it, the girls can do it too.”

 

In recent times, there have been accomplishments by female athletes in volleyball and track and field. The once popular female softball league has become almost non-existent. As to the number of female cyclists…that number is also on the decline. Deputy National Sports Coordinator, Kaya Cattouse, a cross country cycling champion, says that it is about giving young women an opportunity to become an athlete and to be compensated, just as the male athletes in football and basketball leagues are.

 

Kaya Cattouse

Kaya Cattouse, Deputy National Sports Coordinator

“Other sports don’t include female any at all. In basketball, there is no female league in Belize. In cycling the numbers have dwindled almost to nothing. In football, the females don’t get half as much as what the males are getting. And in a discussion yesterday, we also discussed that at semi-pro level in football and basketball, guys are being paid to play ball which is almost equivalent to a salary. Females in no sport are being paid to play in Belize. Nothing is being done from the top—from government come right down to individuals. You often see me on TV doing interviews, advocating for women and juniors in cycling and you can turn the cameras around and around and I am the only person there giving an interview and it would seem like I am the only one who has a problem. People are afraid to talk, people are afraid to speak out and one of the reasons is because of victimization. The way how our country is set up, it’s just how it is. But these are the steps that need to be taken to start getting things done. I mean we have a group of like-minded females here and some males from different sporting organizations, from different sporting backgrounds that have the same goal. And I think from this we will form a coalition, try to put policies in place and get the ball moving on the right track as oppose to talking without action.”

 

Doctor Jen Jacobs says that being involved in sports from a young age has far-reaching impact on an individual’s life skills.

 

Dr. Jen Jacobs

“You can build life skills through sport and so it is not about developing a strong jump shot on the basketball court or a good kick during football. It is about the empowerment that you can gain through sport and the research shows that you can gain important life skills such as taking responsibility for your own actions, being able to show respect for people from different culture. A big one is learning how to put effort into everything that you do and so it is not always about achieving and winning, but putting in effort and trying. And if you learn to develop that type of pattern early on, we’ve seen that that can last throughout life and help you be successful in your perspective careers and then make your family stronger, etc.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.


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