Gender Equality in Sports | Kenyan Situation

gender equality in Kenyan sports

There Seem to a Systemic Reluctance to Promote Gender Equality in Kenyan Sports.

There is no doubt that there exists some systemic bias against gender equality in Kenyan sports, not only in Kenya but also in most countries. This situation is historical because generally, female participation and popularity in sports started later than male sports. Compared to their male counterparts, female sports grew and continues to grow albeit slowly. Although developed countries are trying to better facilitate women participation in sports, they also have their challenges. These challenges cut across the global north and global south, but worse in the south. Women first broke out of the traditional female fold during World War II when they took charge of protecting the domestic front, a role that traditionally belonged to men. During the war, most women participated in all military and sporting activities alongside their male counterparts.

Case Study

For participating in the 2014 FIFA world cup, the US Men’s Soccer team got USD 9 million after being knocked out in the Round of 16. In 2015, the US Women’s Soccer team won the FIFA Women’s World Cup Finals but only took home USD 2 million. Worse still, the total revenue money for Men’s World cup was USD 576 million whereas, for the women, it was a mere USD 17 million.

The Vicious Cycle Dragging Women Participation in Sports

There is a vicious cycle of stereotyping, poor pay, low revenue, and poor coverage when it comes to female sports

Low Revenue

Women competitions generally attract low revenues due to less attention from fans, advertisements, and poor sponsorships. Low revenue generated only mean less pay to female athletes and slower development of female sports. Low revenues also mean that teams do not get enough money to run efficiently and professionally thus enhancing stereotyping and discrimination against female sports.

Fewer Women in Sports Leadership

gender equality in Kenyan sports

A screenshot of FKF Leadership retrieved on October 3, 2018 (Source)

Sports governing bodies are also not doing enough to promote women participation in sports. For instance, FIFA’s executive committee has only six women and thirty men. This composition translates to 16.7% females. The situation is similar in other bodies like the International Olympic Committee (IOC) together with their national subsidiaries. Research shows that including more women in management positions not only brings diversity but also leads to fewer cheating and corruption incidents because of the increased number of ideas and the ability of women to act fair compared to men.

Poor Renumeration

It is no secret that globally, women are underpaid. In Kenya, the statistics for women participation and pay in sports are rare to come by. I believe they receive allowances during assignments, these allowances are less than those that their male counterparts receive. This situation makes it difficult for them to turn professional and globally competitive despite being talented.

Poor Media Coverage

The media pays less attention to women competitions. The FIFA under 20 Women’s World Cup just ended but did not receive the needed coverage. People may argue that fans are less interested in female competition, but I believe that, with good hype, people will start attending female competitions and more will watch. I have seen locally that whenever institutions like Safaricom and SportPesa sponsor sporting activities, more fans attend. The success is normally because of the massive advertisements they put in place. Furthermore, to increase coverage and fans’ participation, bodies like FIFA should find a way of holding both the female and male versions of World Cup or continental competitions at the same time, just like at the Summer and Winter Olympics. Women’s tournaments are just as entertaining and as interesting as men’s tournaments. Better coverage will eventually lead to better funding and more revenue.

Stereotyping in Sports

Most people believe women should appear feminine and any depiction of features close to masculinity invites ridicule and stigma. Many female bodybuilders, wrestlers, and boxers have complained, in the past, at the lack of male suitors for sexual relationships. Most males may shy away from such relationships because of masculinity associated with these sports. In short, women are not allowed to build muscles despite the fact that exercising for sports competitions tend to make everybody build muscles.

Difference of Sexual Development (DSD)

gender equality in Kenyan sport must have womens


South Africa’s Caster Semenya is a recent example of a woman who underwent a hard time in the hands of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) scientists just to prove she is a woman. Furthermore, IAAF recently passed that Semenya and other Difference of Sexual Development (DSD) athletes must reduce their natural testosterone hormone levels or else compete with men. The question that nobody seems to realize is what if the opposite happens to a male athlete, would he be allowed to compete against women? Another case of stereotyping happened to US athlete and multiple Olympics winner Babe Didrikson. Didrikson won several competitions in the sprint, 80 meters hurdles, high jump, javelin throw, discus throw, shot put, and golf. The press criticized Didrikson for being unladylike and that she excelled in sports because no man found her attractive. Some people actually believed that she was a man.

Benefits of Promoting Gender Equality in Kenyan Sports

Looking at the Kenyan situation, I can comfortably say some sports are moving in the right direction, albeit slowly. The current Football Kenya Federation (FKF) has given all intentions by supporting women football. From this support, Harambee Starlets are performing better than before. Former Kenyan international and professional footballer, Miss Doreen Nabwire, who we will feature in our next article, leads women leagues and activities at FKF, therefore, doing her part in promoting gender equality in Kenyan sports. The benefit of having the likes of Miss Nabwire is that they grew during the broken systems and rose to play in some of the most competitive women leagues globally. Therefore, she understands what works, and the gaps to be filled.

Athletics Kenya (AK) are better at supporting women but I tend to believe it is because of the individualistic nature of the sport that ensures an almost ready product for AK to polish further. In the sports for development article, we saw the ability of gender equality in Kenyan sports to generate sustainable social, economic, and political changes in the society. Imagine what will happen if more women were to participate in one way or the other. UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also covers the potential of sports in gender empowerment and general societal development. Sports can amplify the voices of Kenyan women and reduce gender disparities in the country.

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