Amid nomination of one female aspirant in the forthcoming Football Association of Malawi (FAM) elections, Weekend Nation has established that few women hold top positions in crucial local football institutions.
The gender imbalance, activists and female football leaders fear, may lead into stunted growth of women football and dwindle chances of women taking up various jobs in the football industry.
“Low women representation is affecting the development of women football,” remarked Severia Chalira, chairperson of the National Women Football Association (NWFA).
Our findings indicate that FAM has one female executive member Flora Mwandira, also nominated for the December 12 polls, representing a 10 percent female representation.
Meanwhile, it has also been noted that out of the nine FAM affiliated institutions, which influence most football decisions, only two have women representatives; the NWFA, with an all-female executive, and the National Youth Football Association with Bernadette Banda as the only woman in the team.
In southern Africa, Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) is one of the few countries that have made strides in promoting women to top football positions after it appointed Henrietta Rushwaya as its chief executive officer over five years ago before she was fired following allegations of corruption. It also has two female executive committee members including outgoing vice-president Omega Sibada.
South Africa has three women executive members while Zambia has one.
Chalira attributed the poor representation to the mindset that the sport is male-dominated, therefore women cannot play a significant leadership role.
She querried that for local women football to develop, there was need for high levels of women representation in decision-making institutions.
“We need more women at FAM. We need more voices among FAM affiliates. These voices could raise concerns from women and girls who play football, who watch football and those who officiate games,” Chalira said.
The NWFA chairperson said if women were given much power in football circles, they could inspire more women to earn a living through refereeing, playing and coaching.
Asked why her association nominated one female aspirant only for FAM elections, Chalira said endorsing more women could have jeopardised their chances of winning.
“Our dream is to have 20 percent representation in FAM and we could have liked to field more women, but we felt that votes will be split and in the end we wouldn’t stand a chance of having a single woman,” she said.
In the meantime, FAM president Walter Nyamilandu said they have inserted a clause in the soccer governing body’s statutes which makes the NWFC chairperson an automatic member of the executive committee.
“This shows that we are making efforts to promote women. My dream is to have women representation to be 20 percent. Hopefully, it will happen soon,” he said.
Nyamilandu said it was shocking that there are few women in FAM affiliates, but pointed out that plans are underway to make it mandatory for such institutions to have female members.
“We want the affiliates to be following what is in our statutes. The direction we want to take is that all the affiliates must have women in their committees,” the FAM leader said.
At a recent FIFA Women’s Football and Leadership Conference, experts and football leaders proposed introduction of quotas in a bid to increase the number of women in leadership in football.
Nyamilandu also said that they are grooming former footballer and Blantyre Zero coach Maggie Chombo to become the national women football team coach.
“Top positions in women football have been given to women except the national team coach for which we needed someone with experience, that is why we appointed Thom Mkorongo. However, Maggie is understudying him and would take over the role soon,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Marcel Chisi, chairperson for Men for Gender Equality Again says male football administrators have the responsibility to balance gender in the sport.
“If more women are to take up crucial positions in sports then men that are in top positions need to formulate policies that would enhance women participation in decision making,” he said.
Since the inception of women football some years ago, Malawi has exported two players, striker Tabitha Chawinga who plays in Sweden where she scored more than 40 goals in one season and midfielder Chisomo Kazisonga who mid this year signed a one-year contract with Austrian Women Bundesliga champions SV Nosv Naulengbach.
Another woman that is making a name in football circles is Fifa referee Bernadette Kwimbira-Mzika. She has officiated during matches in Portugal, at Africa Women’s Championship and has also been assigned to Africa Cup of Nations matches.