KAMPALA- That women’s sports receives far less media attention and coverage is a global problem.
But some see a huge room for change. Basketball enthusiast Albert Ahabwe, for instance, acknowledges that while female athletes have really flourished on court, women in general have not helped the sportswoman’s cause. A fortnight ago Ahabwe told the congregants at the first ever Women and Sports Conference in Uganda, at Grand Imperial Hall, that “if you are good on court, you can as well be in the locker room.” Precisely: women, tell your story.
Two outstanding sportswomen told Score how practicing the Ahabwe gospel through multitasking and creating a reputable social media identity has enhanced their careers.
Despite being Uganda’s most decorated basketballer, Flavia Oketcho cannot rest on her laurels. Popular as Flirsh, the captain of the national basketball team—The Gazelles—says Ugandan sportswomen need to think outside the sports box. She says the name Flirsh is a brand because she has tried enterprising beyond basketball. “I’m a brand known to many who even know nothing about basketball because I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I’m an entrepreneur, a socialite, a model, a brand ambassador of several brands, and I have been involved in many projects which are not related to basketball.”
On Tuesday, at the National Theatre Oketcho performed in the I Am A Female, a dance production that sought to celebrate successful women and address sexual harassment, access to education and inequality in the workplaces, among other issues affecting women today.
The cast included other female celebrities like comedienne Anne Kansiime, radio personalities Malaika Nnyanzi and Deedan Muyira, singer Rachel K, designer Nunu Umuringa, Sheila Gashumba, Mona Faces, and Stella Nantumbwe. “And that has nothing to do with basketball,” she said.
“You can’t confine yourself to only sports, because it’s what you do best. Think about what else you can do outside your comfort zone.”
Power of social media
In this era of social media, almost every sportswoman has access to either on Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube or all. Oketcho advises that what matters is not how many Facebook or WhatsApp groups you belong to. Rather, the way you use these platforms.
“Your social media account is a platform for you to promote yourself,” she said. “I follow Patricia Apolot and Jean Sseninde, who plays for Crystal Palace. Jean uses her social media platform to promote her foundation; which community she is visiting next, etc.
Apolot [a boxer and a kickboxer] uses hers to update fans about her next fight, etc. But others post about what they had for lunch.”
Apolot, Uganda most famous female kickboxer, says the first thing any sportswoman needs is exposure “and the easiest way to get that exposure is by posting your videos on social media.”
She however warns against deceptive social media identity. “Try to be original. Be yourself. People will like you the way you are. That’s what I do. I post when I’m in the village, in a slum, in a gym, etc. But many girls only post when they are in fancy moments, even when their lives are the exact opposite.”
Her page Team Apolot has a sizeable following. It is liked by 10,014 and followed by 10,024 people.
“People have come to realise that whenever I say something I really mean it,” Apolot says. “I have fulfilled every bit of promise I have made to them.”
Her strategy: “I make them part of my journey. When I go for a fight I make sure I bring the fight live to them. I show them everything about how the journey went till the end.”
To any Ugandan girl aspiring to play and make it big, Sseninde, going by her February 28 post: “it doesn’t matter where you are playing football. Whether you play in your home country, abroad, in your village or community you can still be successful if you put in the hard work.”
Such a powerful message accentuated by a video, courtesy of the Sseninde Foundation, attracted 44 reactions, three comments, two shares and a massive 72 views.
WOMEN ATHLETES OUTSIDE THE BOX
Enterprise: entrepreneurship, modelling, brand ambassador
Reach: Instagram: 3,645 Twitter: 752 followers
Career: Boxer, kickboxer
Enterprise: helping upcountry girls learn kickboxing
Reach: *10,014 Facebook likes, 10,024 Followers
Career: Footballer, Crystal Palace
Enterprise: Proprietor, Sseninde Foundation
Reach: *9,520 Facebook likes, 9,518 followers