Safeguarding Women Football Athletes in BUSA and FAZ from Sexual Harassment and Abuse

NOWSPAR is concerned about the well-being of sports participants especially girls and women who are particularly vulnerable. We take a zero-tolerance approach to Sexual Harassment and Abuse (SHA) which means we take all reports of sexual harassment and abuse seriously and consider them as a reason for urgent action. In all circumstances, we prioritize the wellbeing of subjects of harassment and abuse during processes of reporting, investigation and in the period after.

We have a long-term investment and interest in football through our work on various programmes. Bauleni United Sports Academy (BUSA) is a member of NOWSPAR and collaborates on various activities while we interact with the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) in the interest of developing women’s football. Our activities relating to football include funding community sports groups to deliver sport (community and competitive football included), sponsorship of women coaches to undertake training (FAZ D and CAF C), training leaders, and providing a network for women in sports coaching at all levels, gathering insights and influencing change towards a positive culture in sports.

NOWSPAR have long term work on safeguarding athletes from harassment and abuse across the sports sector. In this specific instance of concerns of SHA in BUSA and FAZ in which Mr Kaluba Kangwa is prominently accused, we have taken the approach of engaging local and international stakeholders across the sports and safeguarding sector to engage in a coordinated response.

This includes the following elements:

• safeguarding athletes who are affected as subjects or witnesses of violence
• review of the context and incidences of harm
• educating stakeholders: media practitioners and the general public
• lobbying for policy and implementation of mechanisms for protection
• advising actors on the context of sport and the safeguarding actions that are necessary
• coordinating a group of actors that play various roles such as care, investigation, representation, legal services, and research among others

Our primary concern is that all sports athletes especially girls and women can play sport in an environment that is free from harm, exclusion, or exploitation.

Our overall approach is: to mobilise, educate and influence the various actors in and outside sport to contribute to a safe sport environment. In this way the interventions we advance are going to support immediate as well as long term actions.

We want any athletes who have been subjects of SHA to be able to raise concern and to have necessary support. We are working on various actions to make this possible:

1. Internal Capacity: engaged various advisers on the matter who are subject experts who have good experience with associations and researched on female athletes and SHA in Zambia.
2. FAZ Engagement: written to FAZ providing them an overview of the issues, the interventions they can take and that they should engage with external stakeholders. Offered support to them.
3. BUSA: Engagement on clarity on the issues, the interventions they can take and support for their members. Offered support to them for immediate and longer term processes.
4. National Sports Council of Zambia: we have agreed with them to convene a stakeholder consultative meeting to strategise. This will be for key actors beyond sport organisations.
5. National Olympic Committee of Zambia: we are engaging them in education of athletes and leaders on the topic in line with their strategy and structures.
6. Media Practitioners: we have engaged MISA Zambia to work with us on education of media personnel on issues in sport. The first session will be on sexual harassment and abuse.
7. Public Education: we are covering the topic of safeguarding and SHA on radio programmes (eg ZNBC TV & Radio). Further resources will be provided on our website in the coming week. We will also have information ready for social media.
8. Service Provider Engagement: we are engaging with service providers of counselling, legal, prosecution, health, and care services to be aware of the sports context and to gain their openness to support us when needed.

Feel free to speak to us about this topic and strategy, we welcome ideas and support throughout this work.

We however urge your caution in what information is circulated as we would want to have a positive influence and caring approach to any athletes who are affected by this situation.

Educational information, resources as well as solidarity messages are important to share. These should be done with care and clarity.

We invite you to participate in this effort so that all may be effectively done and that we have resolution of the matter in the most appropriate way and with minimized further harm to those that are victims.

Please feel free to engage with us on this matter.

What should be done?

Sexual harassment and abuse is prevalent in football and across the sports ecosystem. Research has documented bleak and compelling evidence from athletes’ experiences. Sexual harassment and abuse (SHA) ,in sport in Zambia occurs in varying contexts that have in common the abuse of power, exploitation of vulnerability, structural weaknesses in the social economic conditionsof victims, and negligent bystander cultures . However, this can be changed.

In all work on safeguarding in sport, our priority must remain the wellbeing of athletes. Therefore, we first present four core areas of intervention that are critical to safeguarding athletes against SHA in sports contexts and that can guide the focus of the FAZ in their reflections, decisions, and actions to protect elite women athletes:

a. Governance and leadership

Throughout the process of interventions for prevention and response to SHA concerns, leadership is an important component of safeguarding . The organisation governance policies are critical to organisational readiness and response as well as to ensuring resources are available to implement the policies. There must also be clear and visible leaders with the appropriate authority and influence to champion implementation and accountability for organisational safeguarding standards.

What FAZ can do: ensure an up to date and adequate organisation policy is in place and that the leadership of FAZ are knowledgeable about the policy provisions and can ensure its implementation. Through their various structures, ensure that FAZ leaders are providing guidance and direction towards safeguarding athlete wellbeing as part of their leadership responsibilities.

b. Victim support, care and protection

Sport organisations often lack the capacity and dedicated resources to ensure any persons raising concern and victims of SHA have the support and care they need following harm that has occurred. They also lack access to support and care during the process of raising concern and afterwards as there may be secondary issues such as backlash. In many instances, topics of safeguarding athletes’ wellbeing in sport organisations are left to the women on the technical and administrative teams. Women in sport leadership view the responsibility to address harassment and abuse as an additional duty assigned to them (formally and informally) based on gender expectations that they perform motherhood, despite not receiving training or institutional support for it .

What FAZ can do: Facilitate access to personnel within the Association who can provide support to any persons that need it during the process of raising concern all the way to getting resolution. FAZ can establish partnerships and relationships with organisations and service providers that might be a referral resource for persons that need care. This is during process of raising concern to completion of cases.

c. Investigations and documentation

In the dealing with SHA, all concerns that are raised must be investigated. This requires organisations to have a clear mechanism to receive and progress concern appropriately. Documentation and investigation of concern calls for adequate capacity to ensure consistency and quality of the processes and outcomes. An important element is accessibility to persons who wish to raise concern, those who wish to provide information that is useful to the investigation. Athletes however find it a challenge to participate in investigations in sport organisation. These challenges include articulating SHA and the complex contexts in which it occurs. A particular complexity that often masks or deflects from athlete abuse is the situation of athlete misconduct in which influence, and pressure exerted from participants onto the leaders/coaches is not articulated by the coaches as harassment, it is obscured by gender stereotypes and expectations about directions and forms of power . It is important that this is recognised without using it to negate athlete experiences as victims and witnesses of SHA.

What FAZ can do: Ensure that the organisation actions and communications are clear that athletes who have been subjects of SHA are safe to raise concerns and that there is a credible process for investigation in which they will be fairly heard. It is valuable to commission an investigator external to the organisation that can be seen as removed from internal conflicts of interest.

In view of the above, FAZ must ensure there are systems in place to keep athletes safe . The importance of a strong and appropriate safeguarding system is noted within FIFA programmes and safe sport interventionsas you are aware and is worth keeping in sight.

In consideration of the FAZ organisation arrangements and culture in relation to safeguarding women football athletes from SHA, there are some key questions that form part of a review or inquiry into delivery on duties and accountability for athlete wellbeing. The main question is whether there are safeguarding systems in place that work and if these systems are understood and trusted.

Tangible steps that the FAZ should take to ensure long term change within the organisation:

a. Address Power Abuse: Assess and act on risk of vulnerability due to contexts of cultural, relational, and resource-based power differences
• Transparency in team selection processes, recruitment and reward of staff
• Engage athletes and all involved to be informed of requirements and procedures
• Accountability for athlete wellbeing at all stages of participation
• Implement consistent responses and repercussions for breach of codes

b. Implement Change in Coaching Staff: Appoint women technical teams for women’s elite teams and ensure they have appropriate support and resources
• Women coaches and technical officials
• Ensure appropriately qualified and experienced personnel with adequate support
• Provide ongoing support and wide education

c. Education for all: Embed safeguarding in the training and capacity development of all involved with elite football athletes
• Leadership responsibilities, cultures and approaches
• Leaders, Technical staff, Athletes, Support staff must all be educated on their rights, responsibilities and organisations arrangements
• Provide ongoing awareness on any policy and system changes
• Educate all involved on athlete wellbeing, rights, needs and any issues affecting sport and wider society that impact on their safety

d. Accountability to all: Establish safeguarding as a standing agenda item at all levels of accountability across the organisation and football ecosystem
• Report on athlete safeguarding measures, incidences, and interventions
• Engage at all levels including to governors, the membership, and stakeholders
• Engage with athletes in accountability processes and actions in a way and format that they can comprehend and engage with

These actions are well within FAZ policy, resources, and strategies and can contribute to creating a safe environment for elite women athletes.

Leadership and coordination of the FAZ response.

In circumstances where media have reported on concerns on SHA in sport organisations whose leaders treated it as a media incident and not a cause to undertake institutional change, it has been seen that those organisations have ended up with escalation and deepening of SHA crises. We therefore advise that the FAZ should not treat any concerns regarding SHA as mere media or reputation crisis but to rather treat concerns as an athlete wellbeing crisis.

While responding immediately to crisis, the interventions must lead to expanded capacity and shift in organisation culture towards more embedded safeguarding principles and practices.

However, to achieve this requires urgent and considered actions. In order to ensure a sustained shift towards a safe sport environment within FAZ we urge the following immediately:

• Set up an advisory group of internal and external experts to support the FA to strategize their safeguarding intervention
• Outline a time defined schedule of steps and outcomes
• Provide the resources and support to the team and the scope of their work
• Provide a specific leader senior in the hierarchy to advance this internal safeguarding work
• Communicate the above to members and stakeholders

Good football means that athletes are safe from all non-accidental harm and that as governors of sport, this duty to protect is cardinal.