Tell us about the Global Sports Mentorship Program you were selected to attend.
It is one of the projects founded by Hillary Clinton for women leaders in sports. I am among the women who will attend it this coming September, for a month. We are to use the skills learnt to mentor and empower other sports-people in our respective countries.
What have you done to empower women in sports?
I organise discussions and tournaments for women on weekly basis and quarterly basis respectively. I organise forums as well where women get to share and see the way forward for us. I am also running a campaign called Sema, where women get to talk about their issues, beyond sports. People donate sanitary pads that are distributed to needy girls.
What does sport mean to you?
Sport has two meanings for me: hope and profession. Hope in the sense that when the youths see a sports-person from a humble background rise to the top and keep going, it drives them to pursue their dreams. Sport is also a career like any other. People earn a good living out of it.
How old were you when football caught your attention?
I was only eight years old. Then I began playing football when I was 13 years old. I began officiating matches years later then became a match commissioner few years back.
Being in charge of tackling social issues at Mathare Youth Sports Association, did that come to you as a challenge seeing that you are a sports referee?
The experiences remind me that sports can change lives. I am a role model to many girls. People call me ‘mama’ because I portray the image of a leader and helper. I love making change and leadership gives me that. I have worked towards child protection, combating harassment, gender-based violence and other social aspects.
How would you say is the progress of the involvement of women in sports?
I believe that women have the zeal to participate in sports. However, their involvement is questionable. The structures that are in place unfortunately favour men more than women. Looking around, there are more male sports teams and sports leaders than women. Very few women are in the administration posts and those who are there have little idea about sports.
In your days as a football referee, do you feel that people viewed you incompetent for being a woman?
People end up surprised to see a woman referee, officiating men’s football matches. It is the perception that I would wish would change. People still think that sport is not ideal for women. Then there is that perception that women are not good referees. There are rules of the game and we enforce them in the matches, like any other referee. It is only the mindset that needs to change.
Describe the kind of woman that you are.
I love working for the young people, especially the women as I feel that a lot has to be done for this gender. And I am happy that I am able to give back to the society through sports.
Being a mother of a seven-year-old daughter, what has motherhood taught you?
It has taught me to work harder, not just in my career but in mentorship. I see it as an opportunity for me to teach my child what I teach other young people I interact with.
Willis Awandu. Odiwuor