Sport Officer at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, Busisiwe Sijora has been appointed to serve in the SA Handball Executive Committee until 2026.
The Momentum gsport award Finalist for Volunteer of the Year is drawing inspiration from phenomenal women in sports, such as Ilhaam Groenewald and Nomsa Mahlangu for their amazing contributions over the years.
She is very passionate about sports in general and has consistently demonstrated a willingness to volunteer in the past 10 years in various positions.
Sijora’s advice on closing the visibility gap in sports leadership is to encourage the participation of girls across all sports and heightening the overall transformation process.
Speaking with Tlamelo Kganakga, Sijora reveals more about her appointment and the importance of women taking leadership roles in women’s sport.
Busisiwe, thank you for chatting with us. Please tell us about yourself and where you are from.
I am a 30-year-old young woman, born and bred in Khayelitsha, Western Cape. I am very passionate about sports in general and have consistently demonstrated a willingness to volunteer in the past 10 years in various positions.
Currently, I am a Sports Officer at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, with responsibilities that include overseeing 10 sporting codes. At University Sports South Africa (USSA) I am currently the Secretary of Handball, and lastly, I am also part of the SA Handball Women’s Commission which was established last year (2021).
I am a graduate of Tshwane University of Technology with a National Diploma in Officiating and Coaching Sciences.
You were recently appointed to serve on SA Handball’s Executive Committee. Please tell us more about how you feel and what this appointment means to you?
I am very happy, and to be honest I did not expect it. This means a lot to me as it gives me a platform to also revive handball in the institutional setup. This is a great opportunity to also grow the awareness of the sporting code, contribute to the development and strategic plans and processes and most importantly, to learn and grow as a Sport Administrator.
What are you hoping to achieve during your term?
To contribute positively to the federation and the development agenda of Handball in the country. I am looking to grow my knowledge and establish my career, bring positive change to Handball, while I also grow as a female Sports Administrator and gain knowledge through different aspects of the sports environment and enhance my skills.
When we talk about Handball, what are we talking about? Kindly describe the sport to a reader who may have not seen it.
It’s a team sport played by seven players per team, including the goalkeeper. It involves the use of hands and embraces team sports fundamentals. The objective is to throw the ball into the opposing team’s goal. It allows for the three moments of the game (attack, defense and transition). Handball is an Olympic sport. It is also considered to be a combination of basketball, waterpolo, and soccer.
How important is it for women to take on leadership roles, especially in sport?
It is our moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that sport is diverse and inclusive for the entire community’s benefit. More women leaders will not only improve the sports’ governance and performance but also contribute to transformation. This will result in a virtuous circle, with more diversity which will contribute to an improved pipeline of potential female leaders. This can all help drive the change for women in sport that is sorely needed.
With such a stellar career so far, which of your many achievements would you say is one of your biggest highlights?
In 2013 during my first tournament as a Team Manager, I won the Team Manager of the Tournament award (Chestrap Tournament). In 2014 I was awarded the Best Student Administrator at the TUT. In 2015 I moved from football and recruited some girls at our campus to start playing rugby. We lost every match during that year. Despite that, I went on to recruit girls physically and via Facebook to come and study at TUT and play rugby.
I was successful in that, by 2016 we had nine of our girls in the Blue Bulls Senior Women’s Team Squad and one in the SA Schools National Team.
We even won the league and I was called up to manage the Blue Bulls under 16 girls and Women’s Senior Team.
I served in different sporting codes and my great work, was awarded by being a finalist at the annual gsport Awards (Volunteer of the Year category) hosted by Kass Naidoo and the Minister of Sports. My greatest joy or reward from this was seeing some of my recruits graduating and obtaining academic qualifications.
I was also elected at USSA to be part of the NEC which deals with 26 sporting codes, and I held the portfolio of Transformation and Development during my term.
Who are some of the sportswomen you admire and why?
Ilhaam Groenewald and Nomsa Mahlangu for the role they have played in USSA as women leaders. As a student, I use to measure myself with them and say one day I will serve on those committees and play a role in the development of institutional sports.
Debbie Jevans – The first woman to organise a Rugby World Cup. Once a professional tennis player, Jevans remains active in the sport as a member of the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s committee of management and championships. She also sits on the UK Sport major events panel and is a Sport England board member.
Jevans is not only passionate about her own role in the sport world, she’s a very vocal advocate for all women in the industry. In January she spoke out about “a dire lack of progress” in recent years and noted the failure of the industry to embrace women has caused her to rethink her opposition to hiring quotas.
How do you think we can close the visibility gap in sports leadership?
This can be achieved by opening doors to women, encouraging participation of girls across all sports and heightening the overall transformation process. In short, create opportunities, inclusion and embrace diversity.
What’s your greatest ambition?
Seeing myself serving at different levels of university sports panels such as USSA, CUCSA, and FISU, and coming back to contribute to the positive growth and development of university sports.
To have my own Foundation and Girls Sports Academy for the underprivileged girls who have the potential to become great Sports Personalities, Sports Administrators, Social Media Officers, and Performance Analysts in the future.
What’s your advice to aspiring women who want to get into sports leadership?
Choose a well-rounded academic program.
Find ways to explore the industry, and do not underestimate the value of networking.
Research and read about leadership to discover the type of leader that you are or strive to be.
Confidence is key. Being confident is an important trait of an effective leader as it means you can move past any fears and embrace self-assurance.
Value innovation. Don’t be afraid to voice out your ideas. You need to be able to venture out of your comfort zone, do things differently, and explore new ideas and suggestions from your team.
Take opportunities presented by volunteering in small, local and community events.
Photo 1 Caption: Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University’s Sport Officer Busisiwe Sijora’s greatest ambition is to contribute to the positive growth and development of university sport. She also chats to Tlamelo Kganakga about the importance of women leaders in the sport industry. Photo: Supplied