Gender sensitivity training session helps to educate Wits athletes

Sports bodies need to be more inclusive and need to implement policies and procedures to deal with gender-based harm.
This was the central message at the Gender Equity Office (GEO) and Wits Sports Council (WSC) annual Gender Sensitivity Training session, on Tuesday, March 12.

About 45 club committee members, coaches, and people of different sexualities and genders attended the training session at the Wits Sport Conference Centre.
The aim was to train staff and students on how to deal with gender sensitive issues in sports, said WSC gender officer, Aneesa Valodia.

“Gender equity has to be intersectional,” Valodia told the gathering. “Gender-based violence (GBV) is largely based on sexual harassment by men against women. Though we know that [GBV] or harm affects trans[gender] and gender non-conforming people, as well as men … what feels harmful to you is what defines harm.”

Valodia blamed society for associating certain sports with a particular gender. “Men feel threatened when challenged in the sports field. Many men won’t feel masculine because of that. Women are now taking over sports, which is why men feel threatened,” she said.

The discussion got heated as audience members shared stories and experiences around GBV and harm within sports. People spoke on top of each other without trying to hear each other out, while others weren’t given a chance to fully express themselves.

Wits Frisbee squad manager Caleb Palmer said that changes needed to be made to allow for women and non-conforming groups to be presented in sports as equally important as men.
“It is not just about women and non-conforming groups experiencing something. There are broader issues which men also face, which is why leadership in Wits Sports has taken it upon itself to deal with issues using training sessions for now,” Palmer said.

Third-year BA psychology student Mileka Mathiwane, who attended the session, told Wits Vuvuzela that, “Even when the ongoing conversation of gender equality has not yet implemented some sort of amendment to deal with issues that arise, sports has become more progressive in creating platforms that are inclusive of all groups.”

The WSC said that it would set up a website in the next three months to address GBV policies and issues.

FEATURED IMAGE: Members of Wits sports bodies and students attend gender sensitivity session. Photo: Masechaba Kganyapa