Can Rwanda ever get a female football president?
Written by: George Kalisa
Monday, March 12th, 2018, 6:17
Felicite Rwemarika fears that Rwandan sports landscape being male dominated might be one of the huge challenges standing in her way to become Rwanda’s first ever female football President and the third in the world.
Rwemarika is an eminent sports personality who left her lucrative business more than 10 years ago to contribute to the development of Rwanda’s sports. The bigger image of the situation is that with this lady, Rwanda is like a person left with a single match to start a fire where a miss leads to one regrettable outcome – no fire.
People in the know further fear that it may take Rwanda some two decades or so to produce a lady that can fit in her shoes.
“This is the time for women as movers of society to defy the odds by extending our influence in all spheres, the sports field included to propel sustainable development,” observed Rwemarika during an exclusive interview with The Light Magazine.
“I believe in women empowerment as a bed-rock for any civilization. The RPF-led government respects women’s roles in development though there is still a dent in the sports field that needs to be filled,” she added.
Much as Rwemarika is not on the same page with some critics of Rwanda’s federation that say Rwanda’s footballis desperately wanting due to the top management she thinks the male dominated sports landscape particularly football needs an overhaul.
The strong-willed lady claims that her stance to clear football of the alleged deep-seated corruption could have won her many enemies hence diminishing her support. “When the hunter of corrupt guys becomes the hunted it is Rwandans who are bound to lose,” Rwemarika warns.
She has by far shattered the glass ceiling by expressing interest to be FERWAFA President campaigning on the back of an endless list of achievements in Rwanda’s sports. Rwanda will celebrate her pending success in the race as the third nation in the world to produce a female soccer president after Burundi and Liberia and the only nation with the sitting female football President since the first and the second exited office.
Rwemarika being a big shot in Rwanda’s football coupled with the country’s sanity in election not all hope is lost for Rwanda to be the only country with the sitting female football President globally and hence another landmark in women’s emancipation, analysts say.
She boasts of a big network regionally and globally including formidable and excellent working relationship with the FIFA President, GianoInfantino.
The bigger picture
Sports development and tourism are inseparable where sports equates to a tributary that continuously deposits water into the main river.
Thus, Rwandans should be proud that the daughter of the soil boasts of a wide international football network and hence her ability to attract world games into the country is not doubted This will boost tourism as such games bring in more guests and hence more foreign exchange.
Rwemarika says that men have been at the helm of football in Rwanda since the game was invented. Yet, Rwanda has never been ranked among the best performing nations compared to the glowing progress registered by institutions led by women. Limited space restricts me to four examples - Bank of Kigali (BK), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health and Rwanda Development Board (RDB). Rwanda is the second easiest place to do business according to Global Technology report 2015 and second most competitive in Africa revealed the World Bank report 2017. We ought to give credit where it is due. RDB is led by a woman. Yet, the world has many lessons to draw from Rwanda’s health systems like the success of community health workers programme and universal health insurance.
Rwemarika is not only famous for founding and presiding over the association of women in sports (AKWOS) in 2004 but also has for over a decade dedicated immense resources including her time, expertise and energy to develop Rwandan football and sports in general. Recently, she contested for FERWAFA President in a flopped election that was eventually postponed for a future date where her anticipated victory means becoming the third woman worldwide to head a national football association and boasts of a wealth of sports experience accumulated along her journey to fame in Rwanda’s sports, holding various leadership posts.
Rwemarika a holder of a Diploma in FIFA leadership development, who has been a member of FERWAFA Executive Board since 2007 to date, is the first Vice President of the Rwanda Olympic and other games. Besides being the brainchild of women football in Rwanda she has since 2007 been the President of women football commission to date, a member of CECAFA women commission since 2011and member of the international Olympic Committee Commission [sports and active society]. She has won many accolades including the Continental IOC Award for women in Sports 2016, Stars Foundation United Kingdom Award 2015 and ASHOKA fellowship Award International organization for change makers from 2012 to date.