When I got the news that I was pregnant, I started to worry about my professional future as a female athlete. There’s so much risk involved with our jobs that is why it’s always an automatic assumption that if you get pregnant, you’re not going to do what you do anymore said a Zimbabwean female athlete who decided to remain unanimous.
Most female athletes in the country haven’t had access to paid maternal leave. Contracts of our female athletes don’t include payout during the maternal leave. This perspective underscores the impression that women aren’t capable of having babies and being athletes.
Most if not all Zimbabwean sports associations are yet to professionalize women’s sports. And this explains why most of them don’t have a maternal leave policy for their players. We can’t afford to have women players denied the opportunity to realize their sporting and human potential. For most of them, it’s either unpaid or low-paid leave this is one of the main culprits keeping the gender gap wrenched open.
“Female athletes in Zimbabwe have struggled for decades to convince sports association, league owners, and fans alike that they deserve to earn a decent living as athletes in the first place, so asking for maternal leave seems doubly difficult. “
What then should happen? National sports association should work in partnership with players and players’ association to develop a clear strategic vision for women’s sport, including its economical development.
Also, fans should support, uplift, and encourage female athletes in their organizing efforts and fights for better wages and work environment by sharing their stories more and watching their games live once government allows spectators back at the stadiums.
Maternal leave policy should be the first thing that comes to our sports administrators’ minds each time they consider professionalism and equity in sports. While salaries are still very vastly unequal between male and female players in the country, guaranteeing paid leave could bode well for the future of equal pay for women athletes.
Our female athletes should never feel like they’re being punished for becoming mothers nor should they feel like they have to choose between motherhood and being an elite athlete because of the lack of paid maternal leave policy.