Vusiwe Ngcobo and Precious Hlaka Inspire Inclusion for Women and Generations to Come 

8 March marks International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, an important day of the year to celebrate women’s achievements, educate and awareness raise about women’s equality, call for positive change advancing, lobby for accelerated gender parity and fundraise for women-focused charities.

This year the theme is #InspireInclusion as women continue the fight to enter spaces that have been historically dominated by men. This theme is very deep on many levels. For example, the first fight is to enter the space, break down barriers that have been set to prevent women to lead organisations, to coach prominent teams, to anchor the biggest sporting events. 

The second battle for a woman, once you’ve broken down the closed doors, you have to prove your worth. Qualify to those around you, how you got the job and why you deserve it and prove if you can really do the job you’ve been hired to do. It’s a mountain to climb. 

However, true to the undying spirit of woman, many have and continue to fight these battles that will ultimately make life easier for generations to come. 

Momentum gsport Awards, Woman in TV Winner in 2023, Vusiwe Ngcobo has benefited from greats that came before her in South African broadcasting. In an incredible way, she’s taken the baton and now paves the way for young girls that would like to walk in her footsteps. 

Weekdays on Morning Live on SABC2 and on SABC Sport productions, it is fitting to say she “Inspires Inclusion”. An industry still dominated to an extent, by her male counterparts, she’s held her own. She anchored football games during the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and was exceptional in her delivery in the most recently concluded AFCON in Côte d’Ivoire just to highlight a few. 

As things slowly change Vusiwe is finding that “men in the room” is slowly dropping down on her list of worries, making way for normal broadcaster worries like preparation and execution. “I embrace the opportunity to cover events historically dominated by men.

Yes, “men in the room” is gradually becoming less of a concern for me, for a number of different reasons:

  1. Increased representation, as more women enter the sports broadcasting industry and gain visibility in prominent roles, there is a growing acceptance of female voices in traditionally male-dominated spaces.
  2. Society’s attitudes towards gender roles and diversity are evolving, leading to greater acceptance and respect for women in sports media.
  3. As female sport presenters, we are gaining recognition our professionalism, expertise, and ability to deliver high-quality coverage, regardless of gender.

“I can easily say, while the presence of “men in the room” was once a concern my focus is on my skills and contributions as a broadcaster and my ability to prioritise preparation, execution, and other aspects of my job without the distraction of gender biases. It’s empowering to see the landscape evolving, allowing us to concentrate on delivering top-notch coverage without unnecessary distractions.”

As Ngcobo makes headway and inspires change in broadcasting, another force is gsport18 finalist and co-founder of Youth Alive Sports Project – a non-profit organisation based in Diepsloot, Soweto, Precious Hlaka. Hlaka has been very influential and impactful in her community. She inspires inclusion by changing the lives of young kids in the township that face a myriad of socio-economic challenges. In her journey she has used the challenges she faced as an inspiration to change the lives of the kids in her community so that they are kept busy by sport and not the endless set-backs that are common in underprivileged communities. 

“I was built and moulded through the obstacle courses that I went through in the township as a young girl who was seeking to be actively involved in sports within the township. I went through quite a lot and that did not actually break me but it built me so I’m here within the township so that I can give that young girl a bit of hope. Giving them hope is giving them an ear and being able to shape them just as much as it shaped me, reminding them that to be raised in a poor background, is not a choice but to get out of it and growing and becoming a better person, it’s all up to you.”

While we have a number of breakthrough stories of kids that came from South Africa’s townships and rural areas from Limpopo to Soweto to representing the nation in global events. It remains a massive challenge to unearth more “Kgothatso Montjane’s”. 

Hlaka elaborates: “In SA sports most of the people that are out there making it big within sports, where do they come from, where was talent identified? It was identified within the township so if there could be more of recognition within township sports. There should be more scouts within, even with broadcasting as well, there should be more township sports even broadcasted in the media, some of these kids, they don’t get recognised because they are not exposed to huge platforms. If we have more programs coming down whereby we have like these tournaments that are happening within the townships it will make a huge difference.

“Sometimes kids in the townships they end up getting into bad things for various reasons. Our parents in the township don’t even see the impact of a girl consistency going training, they just see them going but with no real support. Then half of them end up working in retail, nothing wrong with working in retail, but you see somebody working in retail and you’re that girl used to be so good in football, that girl used to be so good, it’s sad to see such talent dying out.”

As the global community continues to fight for women’s inclusion, gender parity amongst other pressing matters, it is encouraging to see that women themselves are grabbing the bull by the horns and changing the status quo for themselves and for the future generation. 

Ngcobo details how she is changing the landscape, one broadcast at a time: “I can pave a smoother and more inclusive path for the next generation of female sports presenters by:

  1. Actively mentoring aspiring female sports presenters, providing guidance, advice, and support as they navigate their careers,
  2. Advocate for greater diversity and inclusion in sport by actively seeking out and amplifying the voices of women from diverse backgrounds,
  3. Be more vocal and speak out against gender stereotypes and biases in sports broadcasting and use my platform to promote a culture of respect, equality, and inclusivity, both on and off air and
  4. Lead by example by demonstrating professionalism, expertise, and dedication in my work as a sports presenter. 

“This will show the next generation of female broadcasters what is possible through hard work, determination, and resilience.”

It is only important to note that gsport has inspired many women to keep fighting to make meaningful contributions to their society. The organisation has inspired change and inclusion through the daily stories told of women from various backgrounds in sport. Something Hlaka echoes: “One of the biggest highlight, and I’m still pinching myself, my biggest highlight, was being a finalist in the gsport Awards. It actually opened a lot of eyes within my community. I come from a very disadvantaged community, the community that does not have any facilities for most of our sports, like basically we don’t have any sports, including even the major sports that we normally know, football, we don’t have any facilities. We just train kids in an open space. 

“It was very emotional for me because that’s when I got more and more parents acknowledging me, now I’m getting calls saying, we didn’t know we have something like this, or that we have someone like you, you’ve given us hope within the community, to have somebody, a leader within the community. Getting texts saying we are proud of you and we are proud of what you’re doing for the community.

“Through your recognition as gsport, I’ve grown a different life within someone else’s spirit, within a young girl’s dying out dream, now it’s been given a different life, and it’s been rejuvenated within the community.”

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