Being the only woman on a male-dominated Kenya Handball Federation Executive Board comes with several challenges, however 2020 Momentum gsport Awards African Woman in Sport finalist, Caroline Nyadiero, continues to own her space.
To this day, there is still an underrepresentation of women in leadership positions in sport and to help change the narrative, Nyadiero is playing her part by empowering young girls and women in the coastal region of Kenya.
She has a project – Championing Gender Equality through Handball in Coastal Kenya – which aims to uplift the lives of young girls and women through sport. The task has not been an easy one with external factors attempting to prevent women from reaching their full potential.
Despite these barriers, she has forged ahead and earned recognition for this year’s Momentum gsport Awards for her outstanding contribution to championing women’s sport. She finds herself in a strongly contested category alongside marathon runner, Nontuthuko Mgabhi, and SuperSport Correspondent, Usher Komugisha.
With all her accomplishments so far, what is she still aiming to achieve? Celine Abrahams finds out.
Caroline, how are you feeling being a finalist in the African Woman in Sport category, our new Award introduced this year.
I feel so proud, excited, delighted and privileged to have been shortlisted for this new award! It confirms my belief that all my efforts in sports are being recognised and appreciated not only in my country Kenya, but also in Africa and the world at large.
What do you know about the other two finalists in your category – Nontuthuko Mgabhi and Usher Komugisha?
They are my worthy opponents in this competition, and I have been following them in their respective sporting pursuits.
Nontuthuko Mgabhi is one incredible woman whose determination and discipline during the world marathon challenge really impressed me.
Usher Komugisha’s work as a sports journalist at SuperSport coupled with her charity work at Watoto Child Care has always earned my admiration for her. She is always dedicated and passionate in all that she sets her eyes on.
I have utmost respect for them, and I salute all their contributions towards achieving women affirmative action in all sports disciplines.
What are your thoughts on the gsport platform that serves and champions women in sport across the globe?
The gsport platform has been in the forefront to ensure that women and girls are empowered through sports across the globe and advocated for women’s economic empowerment globally. It has been championing for gender equality, for balanced media portrayal to ensure equal access and opportunities for women in sports. gsport has always emphasised on the growth of women participation in sports. Above all, it has consistently defined the roles of women in sports.
We know that you are an Executive Member of the Kenya Handball Federation (KHF) and in charge of Beach Handball, but where did your journey in sports begin?
I started my journey in sports at the age of 8 when I joined the local girls’ football team in our neighbourhood and in primary school.
Later, my active participation and leadership skills led me to be elected as captain of my high school team and Changamwe Ladies Football Club.
I got involved in handball in the year 2010 through my brother David Ogwedhi Nyadiero who was actively participating in handball games. He used to tag me along and invite me to watch every game they used to play. He introduced me to his school Coach, Mr Titus Kesekwa, who encouraged me to join and support their local club known as “Glorious Handball Club.” My first assignment was to lead the team in participating in the East and Central Africa Handball Competition in Nairobi, Kenya, as a Patron. When the Coastal Branch elections were called, I won as their First Lady Branch Chairperson and my first task was to take the Coastal combined team to a national event in Zanzibar, Tanzania. The rest as they say, is history!
How would you describe the state of women’s sport in Kenya?
Women’s sport in Kenya is still developing. However, we are facing a lot of challenges brought about by economic, social, cultural and political factors.
Economic factors meaning that women have inadequate financing from corporate sponsorships to pursue further trainings internationally and lack financial empowerment to enable them to participate in sports politics or elections.
Drug abuse and doping are also rampant due to exploitation by rogue sports agents/managers.
Teenage pregnancies and poor education systems pose a big challenge to the girls too.
“There are challenges of gender stereotyping from traditional beliefs about lack of leadership in women and as a result you will find more male sports administrators than women in national sports organisations and federations.” – 2020 Momentum gsport Awards African Woman in Sport finalist, Caroline Nyadiero.
There are challenges of gender stereotyping from traditional beliefs about lack of leadership in women and as a result you will find more male sports administrators than women in national sports organisations and federations.
There are incessant wrangles in sports leadership which leads to low participation of women in sporting activities and few role models to mentor young girls and upcoming sportswomen.
However, due to our robust Constitution, which allows for gender equality/balancing in all public and leadership roles, our uptake to grab such opportunities has been low.
The above factors may not only be unique to Kenya, but they are the common challenges that affect women sport’s in Africa and even other places on the globe.
Which areas concern you and how are you planning to help make a change?
My main concern is how to use sports to uplift the lives of young girls and women. To make a positive change, I have been running a project dubbed, “Championing Gender Equality through Handball in Coastal Kenya.
Sport has the utmost potential to change dreams and lives. By teaching women and girls, the values of cohesion, self-reliance, teamwork, resilience and hard work, it has become one of the pillars of gender equality.
Girls and women in sport make inspiring role models and they do this by defying prejudices, gender stereotyping, toxic social norms and practices.
In the coastal part of Kenya, where am based as a Sports Administrator with Kenya Handball Federation, we have been working with local schools. Our programmes mostly target girls aged 11-17 and women aged 18-30 and we advocate for messages of equality, non-discrimination, non-violence and girls’ empowerment.
Due to our coastal area close proximity to the neighbouring war torn Somalia, and its potential to provide fertile ground for recruitment of Al-Shaabab terrorists, I have been championing and advocating for the promotion of handball as a sport, in order to build leadership skills among the girls with a single aim to foster self-discipline and avert their recruitment into radicalism and violent extremism as “Jihadi” brides. With clarity of mind as an elected sports official and role model to hundreds of girls and women, the major strategy I employ is to ensure that most of them are given sports scholarship to enable them stay in school.
Despite Kenya Handball Federation having gender equality strategies, there are various mitigating factors that my position in leadership role must address to demonstrate that girls and women gender parity and equality is given priority, by providing effective leadership which involves having a clear vision and strong strategy for change implementation. This means developing a gender mainstreaming strategy with clear objectives that identify gender considerations as cross-cutting and non-negotiable.
As a Sports Administrator, I usually employ several ways in order to support gender parity and equality and at the same time be more gender sensitive: Acting as a champion on gender issues I have been supportive and have taken on an active role in gender initiatives by organizing women conventions. It means making the girls gender champions while taking time to explain to them why such initiatives are important to their future in sports activities.
Communicating in a gender-sensitive manner: I ensure my messaging is consistent in all forums where discriminatory language is never tolerated.
“I continuously seek to increase equal representation of girls and boys as team players, as well as greater representation from diverse groups.” – Nyadiero on creating an equal playing field in sport.
Promoting gender balance and diversity: I continuously seek to increase equal representation of girls and boys as team players, as well as greater representation from diverse groups. I view them as equal contributors to the sports fraternity and never afraid to encourage girls to take on challenging roles by organizing women Coach and Referee training to ensure their skills and talents are noticed and rewarded whenever they officiate games.
Challenging discriminatory practices: I consistently challenge gender stereotypes, discriminatory societal norms and practices by making them more gender sensitive. It is crucial because I fight to eliminate discrimination on the basis of gender and call out any potential gender biases or mindsets that create invisible barriers to women by teaching them to take challenging positions in leadership and federation offices.
As you continue to break down barriers, what have been some of your biggest achievements?
Being the founder of Women Handball Commission in Kenya, which promotes women and girls in sports. Being the only woman on the male-dominated Kenya Handball Federation Executive Board.
Leading the Kenya National teams to the 1st African Beach Games in Sal, Cape Verde in 2019. Successfully spearheading the international “sports people work at home” challenge during the Covid-19 lockdown. Mobilising resources and donating foodstuff, sanitary materials and masks to affected sports people during the Covid-19 lockdown.
What are you hoping to see in future when it comes to the recognition of women in sport?
Recognition of women in sports goes a long way to confirm to women that their efforts, dedication and hard work is valued. This will increase their morale and motivate them to scale to higher levels.
What is your message to the public as we draw closer to the final day of voting for the 2020 Momentum gsport Awards?
Dear ladies and gentlemen, as we embark on our journey to promote women’s sport both in Africa and the rest of the world, we should come together and lift each other up in the spirit of “women helping women”. We have come from far and the future looks so bright. I will always be in the forefront to champion for your interests. Let us walk this journey together. I will never let you down!
Photo 1 Caption: 2020 Momentum gsport Awards African Woman in Sport finalist, Caroline Nyadiero, heads up the Women Handball Commission in Kenya, which promotes women and girls in sports. She is the only woman on the male-dominated Kenya Handball Federation Executive Board. Photo: Supplied