Young Women In Zanzibar Sports Struggle With Mental Health Issues.


By Najjat Omar,Zanzibar

In Zanzibar, young women who participate in sports are facing significant mental health challenges. These individuals often feel isolated, experience fear, and deal with feelings of shame, impacting their overall well-being.

The Constitution of Zanzibar (1985), in Section 12(1), states that all people are equal under the law. This principle supports the fight against discrimination and promotes equality for women in sports. Additionally, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5, which aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, aligns with the efforts to support women in sports in Zanzibar.

Salama Mcha, a 24-year-old player for the New Generation team, highlights the struggle. “I love playing sports, but it’s hard to socialize,” she shares. Salama’s involvement in sports has made it difficult for her to connect with others, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation. This distance from people is a common experience among female sports participants in Zanzibar.

Farida Khamis, another young sports participant,at 20 years old, Farida has been involved in sports for five years and plays for the Green Queen team. Despite her passion for athletics, she faces the same issues of isolation and mental health struggles. “Being in sports has been a great part of my life, but it’s also challenging. I often feel alone,” Farida admits. The pressure to perform and the societal expectations placed on women in sports contribute to these feelings.

Zuhura Soud Othman, an 18-year-old who has been a sports referee for three years, also faces similar challenges. “I enjoy being a referee, but it’s tough. Sometimes, I feel ashamed and afraid,” Zuhura confesses. 

Riziki Islah, a female coach, acknowledges these issues. “These young women face significant challenges with mental health due to the isolation and societal pressures,” Riziki admits. She has taken steps to help these participants by encouraging them to socialize and providing a supportive environment. “We are working on creating more opportunities for them to connect with each other and build a strong support system,” she adds. Riziki's efforts aim to alleviate the feelings of isolation and loneliness that many young women in sports experience.

These mental health issues are not unique to Salama, Farida, and Zuhura. Many young women in Zanzibar experience the same struggles. According to the 2023 census, Zanzibar has a population of 1.8 million, with 37% being youth, equating to more than 66,000 young people. The societal expectations and cultural norms in Zanzibar contribute to the stigma surrounding women in sports. This stigma often leads to feelings of fear and shame, making it difficult for these young women to fully enjoy and benefit from their sports activities.

A significant barrier to the acceptance of women in sports in Zanzibar is the societal belief that women cannot balance sports and religious commitments. This belief fosters distrust and doubt regarding women’s capabilities and roles in sports. The community often questions whether it is appropriate for women to engage in sports, further isolating these participants and affecting their mental health.

Omar Haji Omar, a specialist in psychology, explains that young females in society face mental health issues due to environmental factors, regional faith, and other norms that discourage women from participating in sports. “Sports clubs should have a mediation in health issues,” Omar recommends. His insight highlights the need for a more supportive environment that addresses these mental health challenges.

Rahma Ali Juma, an officer from the Center of Youth Dialogue – CYD , emphasizes the importance of young women in sports fighting against stigma. “Young women who are already in sports should fight against that stigma so they can show the difference and their goals to society,” she says. Rahma's call to action encourages female sports participants to challenge societal norms and advocate for their rights.

The lack of socialization opportunities for female sports participants in Zanzibar further exacerbates these issues. Unlike their male counterparts, who often have more support and acceptance in the sports community, young women face significant barriers. These barriers include limited access to mental health resources and a lack of understanding from their peers and families.

Additionally, breaking down the societal stigma surrounding women in sports is crucial. Promoting positive attitudes towards female sports participants and celebrating their achievements can help reduce the shame and fear they often feel. By fostering an inclusive and supportive sports community, young women in Zanzibar can thrive both mentally and physically.

Post a Comment