Greening women’s sports and leisure
By Rebecca Munetsi
It is a sad reality to walk in a city and see a beautiful and well-dressed lady eating a banana and throwing the banana peels on the pavement, when you move in high-density suburbs it’s an eyesore with litter everywhere and one can even find people fetching water and just by the borehole someone is dumping their waste.
Baffling enough is also the issue of people who go by night to dump their waste at their own created nearby dumpsites and when you ask why, they will tell you they missed the garbage truck in the morning because they were sleeping.
These are just a few but disturbing careless ways that show how humans are reckless when it comes to issues of taking care of their environment. It is a pity that anthropogenic issues have become the biggest contributors to environmental wretchedness.
Humans are killing, destroying, and abusing the environment and do not care about how their actions are affecting the environment now and for the future generations if ever there will be anything left.
In addition, it is also sad to note that while environmental and climate change negotiations are often centred on “common but differentiated responsibilities”, the inclusion and support of women is questionable. For instance, in Africa some women still face restricted land rights, lack of environmental and climate justice awareness, lack of access to financial resources and limited access to eco-social decision-making.
As a SAFCEI Regional Women FLEAT member, I believe unleashing the knowledge and capability of women is critical in the broad environmental issues and climate change adaptation and mitigation. Women have the knowledge and understanding needed to adapt to changing environmental conditions and to come up with practical solutions, but they remain a largely untapped resource.
There is a need for women’s inclusion and a focus on the interconnected social and ecological systems in communities. Studies say women are also agents with important perspectives and indigenous knowledge, which can inform and influence solutions to address environmental and climate change issues. Around the world in communities acutely affected by climate change, women are adapting their lives to survive and care for their dependents, families and communities.
Speaking during the Regional Women FLEAT feedback training, the Director of SAFCEI, Fransesca DeGapris says the “first step is always the first step , to start something and the little things will add up”.
As a faith leader in my community, it is important to see what women of faith can be doing. Currently, I am working on formalising a women’s environmental club called the Gweru Eco Women club in association with the Environmental Management Agency EMA.
I believe women are powerful agents whose knowledge, skills and innovative ideas support the efforts to combat environmental issues not just bystanders, nor simply beneficiaries of assistance since they interact with the environment more.
Our motto is ‘The environment is everywoman’s business’. Taking care of the environment should become a lifestyle. One cannot separate it from our day to day activities. We eat from the environment, we bath from the environment, we walk from the environment, and we breathe from the environment so everything that we do as women should be eco-conscious.
Women should have a role to practise sustainable development for the welfare of the earth as a whole and to protect the available resources for future generations.
We operate from Mkoba 19. It’s a high density area popularly known as ‘ghetto’. This ghetto where I live is in Africa, Zimbabwe, Midlands Province of Zimbabwe, in the city of Gweru.
We bring different faiths and beliefs together to take care of their environment through playing and working.
Our netball practices, tournaments and recreational activities are an entry point for peer education on environmental issues. The women club holds discussion groups with women and girls after practice and during activities facilitated by trained peer educators, on topics such as climate justice, food security, waste management and decision-making.
We promote healthy living, healthy habits, eating well, exercising, sleeping well and peacefully and appreciating the beautiful nature around us so that we protect and nurture the environment as we do to our families.
“Real happiness is not a destination—it’s a journey, as GEW we meet to enjoy life, gain new skills, build dreams, and support each other as mothers taking care of Mother Earth. By taking good care of the earth we also enjoy the goodness of the Earth and live meaningful lives full of joy and happiness. Hence our activities have interconnected dimensions of physical, mental, and social well-being for housewives, career women, girls and their families while staying in high density areas, ‘ghetto’.
After women leave their places of worship such as the Mosques, Shrines, Churches and Synagogues we meet on the ground to play and talk about pressing environmental issues such as litterbugs, how to separate our waste from the kitchen, how to start a small garden, how to cook vegetables among other things.
It is imperative to note that as we discuss the environmental issues informally women share their experiences and even become eager to watch out for perpetrators in our community. The daily community spirit among women of different faiths, the joy and happiness that the women exude, and the laughing, giggling and the chatting are just contagious.
Led by GEW Spokesperson, Pastor Patience is a Woman of God who enjoys working with women and girls.
“Our environmental club is not for a particular church denomination, we work with every woman in Gweru regardless of their faith and creed, because a Christian, Muslim, Hindu African and Traditional Believer, White garment woman also eats, grows food, throws away rubbish, so we unite in every activity to work and play.
The women’s group is involved in various projects such as nutritional gardening, clean up campaigns and recreational activities. To celebrate Christmas this year the women held a netball tournament and also went horse riding with their families.”
On a daily basis women of all ages gather to play netball and enjoy themselves at their ‘Chibhorani’ netball grounds in Mkoba 19.
Gweru Eco Women, GEW Women Coordinator, Locadia Chiwanza, says the Mkoba Sports for all is an initiative for women to meet daily to learn something about the environment, play netball, share experiences, and cope with idleness and stress among women.
Empowering women and girls through sport is an important tool for social empowerment as it promotes teamwork and respect for others.
“The empowerment of women and girls has social benefits of participation since women have fewer opportunities than men for social interaction outside the home and beyond family structures.
So far, we have four teams for all women’s age groups, the Eco girls team is for school-going children. The Eco ladies are 30 years and below. Eco ladies 30 years and below. Eco mothers 30 years to 43years. Eco grannies 43 and above. Practice is every day from 14:00 hrs to 16:00 hrs so that we go home and prepare for our families after playing”, says Chiwanza.
Well known Gweru Netball Coach Sahisa Zhou says women and girls acquire new interpersonal networks, develop a sense of identity and access new opportunities, allowing them to become more engaged in their families, the environment and community life.
Participation in sport also enables women and girls to enjoy the freedom of expression and movement from the routine family surroundings and increase their self-esteem.
One of the team sponsors District Chairman, Mr Darlington Magodora says sports create opportunities for women to participate in the community and be more physically active to improve confidence and positive self-esteem.
‘We have young women in our ward whom I wish to sponsor in sports so that their talents are used as a source of income for their families. I hope to get a strong netball team which I can sponsor to the national level’, says Magodora
Studies indicate that policies are needed at the local level to support and protect women’s participation in sports and, in particular, efforts are required to remove misconceptions related to women’s participation in sports and the impact of sport on women’s health.
It is important for public and voluntary sports organizations to extend sports programs which males have enjoyed to females.
Grassroots sporting activities can improve the environment, women’s health and fitness, and social networks and also offer diverse opportunities for innovative partnerships for development and work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
There is a need to involve women and break the wide chasm between women who are most adversely affected by the consequences of environmental wretchedness and international leaders who control the resources and hold the decision-making power to address issues such as climate change. Women are not merely spectators but are an important cog and catalyst for combating and adapting to new climate realities.
The UNDP reports that in Mali and Ghana, women started to cultivate Jatropha curcas in commercial quantities. This fast-growing shrub is a source of bio energy for cooking; its seeds are used to make soap and shea butter.
In Nigeria, the latex from this plant is also used for dental inflammation treatment. This shows that women can use indigenous knowledge systems to mitigate the effects of climate change and adapt in their communities.