Palesa Manaleng on Amplifying Para Sport

In an engaging #PowerOfRecognition gsport Twitter Space, 2019 Momentum gsport Awards Woman in TV winner Hloni Mtimkulu chatted with 2018 Ministerial Recognition of Excellence recipient Palesa “DeeJay” Manaleng. 

The discussion provided valuable insights into Manaleng’s respective achievements and recognized the impact she has made in the field of para sport.It was a dynamic exchange that highlighted the power of recognition and celebrated the accomplishments of remarkable women in sport.

Click here to listen in to the full conversation!

Palesa, you are the recipient of the 2018 Ministerial Recognition of Excellent award on the gsport stage, why is the power of recognition important?

For me, it means that other people see the work that I do as an athlete. It also means that kids and individuals who look like me, people with disabilities see that we are seen by society and we are celebrated as well.

How did your life change in terms of getting that award and what did it mean in terms of people seeing that here’s someone in a wheelchair winning awards?

It was weird at work because people now recognise that I’m not just that woman in the wheelchair in the online department, she’s also an athlete. And I saw that at work, I got more coverage to speak about disability sport, which also pushed me to start writing about para sport as well. So it was like a ripple effect.

What was your best part of the Momentum gsport Awards experience?

I think everything, it was everything. It’s being on stage telling my story and people celebrating that moment with me. It’s afterwards calling my mom and saying I got an award for para sport. It was everything.

How do we destigmatize disability and make it okay to talk about?

For me, personally, what will make it an okay thing is if in a room where there’s an individual with disability, allow them to have a voice and an opinion on things that are happening when it comes to access. Allow them to have a voice when there’s conversations about anything actually because sometimes we are sidelined. When there isn’t an individual with a disability within that room to talk about access to talk about their needs, we are airlines. Talk on our behalf, say actually if we put a ramp here maybe people with disabilities will be able to access the area, actually maybe if we have interpreters here, people who are deaf would be able to access this space as well. Be our airlines but at the same time when we are there allow us to talk about our lived experiences.

You are a triple threat in inverted commas, you are black, you’re a woman, you also have the wheelchair. How do you navigate that dynamic?

I just take it one moment at a time, some days it feels like the world is just against me as a black woman, as a disabled individual, as a homosexual. Some days I have wins and I’m like okay at least we’ve got access to this or at least now we’re talking about equal pay for women but wait a minute why aren’t we talking about equal pay for women and including how we can make sure that women with disabilities are paid fairly. So it’s always something with me.

Your thoughts on the year of women in sport?

I’m extremely excited about all the women’s World Cup’s but you also personally know that I am excited about all the para World Cups that are happening. It’s great that we’re giving all the spotlight to women in sport so for me I always bring it back to let’s make it about all the women in sport as well because right now the para athletes are in France for the Para Athletics World Cup. The cricket World Cup is done, they did great, it was wonderful. The netball World Cup is coming up and they’re going to do wonderful stuff but at the moment let’s also give the spotlight to para athletes who are I’m also I’m hundred percent sure are going to bring back medals, they’re going to break records and I want us to give them as much coverage as possible.

How have you navigated the lack of coverage and what is your advice to someone who is struggling to maybe value themselves?

I write a lot about para sport and also other sporting codes like I picked up gaming now, I don’t know how that happened. So I make sure that I follow the calendar and see what’s happening in para sport. Sometimes it’s hard to get access to the athletes via the federations. So in the days of social media you can inbox an athlete and say do you mind if I write a story about you. And most para athletes will respond because they understand the value of media, they understand the value of coverage because they need that. Without coverage you can’t get sponsorship, you’re not seen so that’s how I go around.

Your thoughts on the work that gsport has done?

gsport is a powerhouse, it’s a force. I’m grateful that we have gsport, they’re gamechangers. When you just go to the website, they’ve got categories, all the categories of all the sporting codes. And they make sure to cover all the sporting codes from para athletes to karate. Sometimes I go to their page and I’m like who’s this, and I want to know who this athlete is because of the gsport awards and because of their social media accounts as well. I think what I loved particularly right now was the way they followed the netball World Cup (trophy tour), that was beautiful. How they followed the netball world cup and they had reporters as well from those towns or from those cities actually reporting on the world cup being in their city. I take my hat off for that.

How much of a difference does coverage make in athletes’ lives?

It is a gamechanger. The more media coverage you get, the more people jump on to the same train as you, the easier it is for you to get kits or a coach. People know you, sometimes you can get people to sponsor you. So it’s important to tell the stories of these athletes because in that way you change their lives and you’re giving them the opportunity to live their dreams. That’s why media coverage is important.

What can athletes do to help themselves get recognised?

They live in the day and age of social media and they can use their Twitter, they can use their Instagram, they can use their Facebook to tell their stories, to talk about their training. At the same time I know that gsport offers some programmes where you can learn how to talk to the media. 

What drives you and your passion to report on para sport?

The need for kids or those athletes to be seen. The need to be seen and given an opportunity to shine. To be an athlete is such a beautiful thing, and it is even more important to share it with the world. And the best thing I can do for these athletes is to tell their stories.

What are your immediate goals?

I would personally like to go back to school to study disability rights. I know I write about it a lot in my articles but just to study some more. I want to compete again as an athlete.

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