November 30, 2017
Woman athletes dashingly ran around the track. Although some Tanzanian men have performed very well in track and field events, there are limited opportunities for women’s athletes to compete. To improve the situation, Ladies First, Tanzania's first women's track meet, was held Nov. 25-26 at the national stadium in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's largest city. JICA co-sponsored the event with the country's Ministry of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, and the National Sports Council of Tanzania.
The United Nations Development Programme's Gender Inequality Index, which expresses disparities between men and women in human development, ranked Tanzania 159th among the 188 nations of the world in 2015, and gender equality is an issue there.
"There is a preconception in Tanzania that sports are something only men do, and there are limited opportunities for women to compete in track and field events," said Juma Ikangaa, a marathon runner who won the Tokyo Marathon in 1984 and 1986, and placed in both the Los Angeles and Seoul Olympics.
Mr. Ikangaa now is the PR advisor for the JICA Tanzania Office.
With Mr. Ikangaa’s cooperation, JICA assisted with this meet to support woman track and field athletes in Tanzania as part of its gender equality initiatives, which aim to make the world an easier place to live in regardless of gender.
Eleven events were held at the meet — including short-distance races such as the 100-meter run, long-distance races such as the 10,000-meter run, the javelin throw and the running long jump — and a total of 105 athletes from various regions were chosen to compete. The event was used to officially record times in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
At the opening ceremony, Hon. Dr. Harrison George Mwakyembe, Minister of Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, said that we agreed with the significance of the event to address two issues, sports promotion and gender equality at the same time.
Winifrida Makenzi came in first in the 100-meter run.
"There was no good environment for me to train in, but I found a way, which led me to this result," said Ms. Winifrida, describing the hard time she had practicing on a daily basis.
Asked about her future ambition, she said without hesitation, "I want to compete in the Olympics."
Girls from nearby primary and secondary schools were invited to watch the meet from the bleachers. Japanese companies doing business in Tanzania also contributed some of their operating funds. Some also supported the meet by providing goods such as T-shirts and towels.
Nov. 25, the day the event was held, has been designated by the U.N. as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. JICA collaborated with volunteers from related NGOs to hold side events in the venue for the track meet, such as a reading of a picture book on the problem of pregnancy in adolescence. With these events, this track meet was registered as a side event to the 2017 World Assembly for Women, held in Tokyo in November. WAW is a venue for discussing the creation of a society in which women can play an active role. "In Tanzania, most physical education is mainly lectures with little focus on practical skills, so I have large expectations for JICA's assistance to promote physical education," Mr. Ikangaa said. JICA is supporting efforts to improve the social position of women through sportsinTanzania.
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