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GROWING up as a sickly child suffering from asthma and eczema, Anna Mguni did not let her conditions deter her from pursuing her dream in sport. Instead, it was the zeal and a persistent intent and purpose to be seen and treated like any other children that gave her power to spend time on the basketball court, on the hockey field and at times in the swimming pool.

The fact that she had eczema – a medical condition that causes the skin to become inflamed or irritated – would not stop her love for the pool, and asthma – a common chronic inflammatory disease of the respiratory system – was not good enough to keep her away from contact sports.

“I was a sickly child. I had asthma and I also had eczema and for me I think at the time the drive was I just wanted to fit in with other children and almost be normal because you find that if you have got asthma you can’t run, you can’t be active.

“So it was probably just that drive to want to be like others. I was very fortunate that my parents took me to schools where physical education was part of the programme,” said Mguni.

But this was just the beginning of what was to be her career in sport, mainly in basketball, hockey and rugby, aancing mostly in sport administration where she has held different posts in the respective organisations.

In the Basketball Union of Zimbabwe, she was the secretary-general and in rugby she was the national women’s team manager but she has grown to become one of the most powerful female sports administrators in Zimbabwe through her position in the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee.

Having been appointed ZOC chief executive three years ago, the dream is still on for the former hockey and basketball player to be one of the most powerful female sports administrators not only in Africa but in the world.

“The (IOC) board is where I would like to get to. I would really love to get to those kind of levels. I would like to administer at a level which is higher than just national, either continental or get onto an international board of governance and management.

“I love working in the structure of the Olympic Movement and that’s where I would like to grow for a few more years.

“Last year I completed my masters in Sports Organisation Management which is an International Olympic Committee qualification. So I have reached that level and I would like to go beyond that but when I do, it’s got to relate to governance or to management in sport. Those are the two areas I really am interested in.

“I must admit I remember going to one of their general assemblies, the ZOC general assembly, and I realised that I wanted to be part of that movement. It had a lot of power. I liked the international side of things,” said the 46-year-old administrator.

Mguni was last year appointed into the IOC Entourage Commission as she continues to make great strides in sport.

However, Mguni reckons that her journey as a female sports administrator has not been a roller-coaster ride especially due to the fact that she is in a leadership position in a male-dominated field.

“I think it is important for us as women to realise that the same way we face challenges and overcome them at home is the exactly the same as what happens when we are leading sport.

“So you must be prepared for ups and downs, the highs and lows, for the yes and no’s, for the questions, for the doubts. That’s one of the biggest challenge that I face as a woman as people doubt that you are able to lead.

“We go back to that cultural issue, our culture says the man is the head of the house, the father is the head of the homestead. So to be running as a domain which is principally male dominated being a woman it makes it very difficult.

“There are those with doubts, some who don’t believe that you know what you are talking about. So one of the challenges we have to overcome is to equip yourself with necessary education and knowledge.

“You have to be g in character, you have to be resolute in character as well. You make decisions that are based on facts, hopefully above emotions,” said Mguni.

However, she believes that men are not the only challenge she meets when in such a decision-making position, but there is also an equally high amount of resistance and challenges from women as well.

“We also face challenges of women not supporting other women and it’s one of the greatest challenges that you face where women won’t support you in your decisions, they will soon support a man making the very same decision that you are making and I think that’s very sad.

“I think it is related to issues of confidence even amongst ourselves as women. So those are some of the challenges I have faced,” said Mguni.

But she has her own secrets that have enabled her to brush off these challenges and made her love her job more

“One of the greatest things that is important is to have integrity in what you are doing, remaining professional, maintaining your (personal) values and your professional values because there is a misconception that a woman who is a leader, especially in a male domain in sport must be getting there through some other (unorthodox) means other than your professional ability, so that integrity is very important to me.

“I also maintain the separation between my personal and my professional life. I think that’s very important for me to protect myself and to protect my family because it can be a vicious world,” Mguni said.

Recently the nation joined the rest of the world in celebrating the International Women’s Day to celebrate the achievements of women.

However, Mguni believes women who have made it in sport are not as much recognised as their fellow women in other sectors.

“If we have got an agenda, a national agenda that says we must uplift women, it must be uplifting of women in every single sector and being able to say from a national level women in sport are important because these are the benefits we have that they bring.

“We need to work on that, put definite strategies in place that will elevate the role that women in sport are playing,” said Mguni.

Source : The Herald