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13 October 2021
UWC and Sport Director In for Top International Accolades
Gender equality is a hot topic that many countries worldwide are grappling with, but the University of the Western (UWC) and its Sport Administration Department have made praiseworthy inroads in addressing the problem.

For this reason, UWC and its Director of Sport, Mandla Gagayi, have been nominated for the prestigious International University Sports Federation (FISU) awards. The university has been shortlisted for the FISU Gender Equality Award, and Gagayi is up for the FISU Gender Equality Champion Award.

The Gender Equality Award honours projects or individuals who have made significant efforts to advance and achieve gender equality within university sport in their country, on their continent or internationally. Winners will receive a grant of up to €5,000 (about R86 000) with the key criteria for selection based on sustainability and replicability of the project. 

UWC submitted the Female Student Athletes Support Programme, which aims to create space for women to exercise their rights and freedoms, get access and success to education through sport, and be accepted by society as equal partners to men. The project is targeted at girls and women who strive to use sport as a tool for their development and it was developed as one of the tools to address the legacy of women’s oppression created by the apartheid regime. The project also aims to educate and train young women to be independent and use their sporting talents to contribute meaningfully to society. 

UWC has been shortlisted along with the University of New South Wales, Bethlehem University, and British Universities and Colleges Sport for this accolade. 

The Gender Equality Champion award recognises individuals who have made significant efforts to increase the participation of women in sport, and Gagayi is the only man in the six-person shortlist of nominees. He is up against Sri Lankan Lakshika Madhushani, UniSport Australia’s Kylie Bloodworth, Beth Garner of British Universities and Colleges Sport, Chilean Maria Belen Varvajal Pena and Botswana Tertiary Student Sports Association vice-secretary general Botho Lilian Thobega. 

“At UWC Sport we have made it our mission to promote the role and voice of women in sport since 2016 when we introduced a policy that compels us to appoint female coaches and managers for all women’s teams,” Gagayi explained. “We further made funding for women’s teams a priority, including bursaries, and made it mandatory for all our teams to have a male and female section, otherwise a men only team would not be supported in any way”.  
Gagayi and his UWC Sport colleagues are loud anti-GBV advocates

Personally, Gagayi said he has made it his mission to educate men through his social media platforms to stop the scourge of gender-based violence. 

According to Gagayi, the nomination for the FISU Gender Equality Champion Award validates all the work he has been doing since he was an undergraduate student. “However, given the calibre of the other candidates, as women that have defied all odds to do what they are doing to promote the voice and role of women in sport, I would rather have the award given to one of them. Recognition for me as a man should be enough without an award”. 

In addition to his job as the director of sport, Gagayi serves on several local and international sporting bodies. These include serving as the First Vice-President for University Sport South Africa, as a Disciplinary Committee member for the Confederation of University and Colleges Sports Association, and as a member of the Policy Development Subcommittee for the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee. He is also an Executive Member for Varsity Sports and a board member for Varsity Cup. 

The FISU awards’ winners will be announced on Saturday, 30 October.

Images courtesy Skhu Nkomphela/UWC Sport