December 12, 2019

How selling in ‘go-slow’ prepared me for sporting excellence — Prof. Okonkwor

Commuters stranded, following protest by LAGBUS operators over treatment by the state’s traffic law enforcement agencies (Story on Page 10).

Commuters stranded, following protest by LAGBUS operators over treatment by the state’s traffic law enforcement agencies (Story on Page 10).

Mrs Cordelia Okonkwor, a professor of Human Kinetics and Sports Management has revealed how difficulties in her early life enhanced her career as a sports personality.

Okonkwor, a lecturer at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, told her story while delivering the 53rd Inaugural Lecture Series of the institution on Thursday.

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The lecture is entitled, “Gender issues in women participation in competitive sports and leadership to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

She said while awaiting her admission into higher institution, she helped her father in his shop where she had to run and jump to sell goods to fast-moving vehicles.

“I helped my father in his shop and sold items to fast-moving motorists with all the risks but I never knew the experience was preparing me for the Olympics.

“I never had time for myself in the day time and me read-only in the night, I can say I saw a ghost,” she said.

Okonkwor recommended that women should be assigned leadership roles in sports not out of pity but for what they could do.

She said that this would help them to optimally harness their potential in national sports development.

She said that the election or appointment of women into leadership positions in sports were done as mere tokenism rather than equal partners in sports business.

She also decried some of the barriers to the active participation of women in action sports.

According to her, some of the barriers include religion, wrong beliefs that sports are harmful to women, political and social discrimination and media bias against women in sports.

Okonkwo said: “Sports development in Nigeria has witnessed a one-sided approach in favour of men.

“Though this discrimination based on gender is not peculiar to sports in Nigeria, sports rank very high as a field in which this type of segregation is sustained.

“Women in leadership positions in sports are disproportionately by far smaller in number than men.”

The sports and dance expert urged women to look beyond the limitations and engage in competitive sports as athletes and leaders.

She said sports and kinetics were critical for the achievement of SDGs and advocated that government at all levels should integrate women in sports because of their numerical strength.

“Women should form part of the policy and decision-making body in the sports sector.

“Nigeria should use the services of women physical educators to effect changes in women sports life in Nigeria and Igbo culture.

“Government at all levels, in collaboration with relevant agencies, should create support services that decrease the barriers limiting the access to leadership, education, training welfare package, facilities and publicity to women in sports,“ Okonkwo said.