Gender bias, inequality prevalent in sports: Aitoafaiga Tau

Gender inequality and bias remains prevalent within the sporting fraternity and needs to be addressed, says local sporting personality Aitoafaiga Tau.

The Apelu Sports Youth Ambassador and Samoa Titans Women's Club member told the Samoa Observer in an interview that she still sees many instances of bias and mistreatment at the sporting level.

She picked out game management and umpiring as the areas where the bias against male and female teams were obvious. 

"Being a part of Apelu Sports and Titans under gender champions, it has opened my eyes to look at the girls around you, the level of treatment, the difference between the treatment of girls and boys in sports,” she said. 

“Not only in terms of playing but in terms of refereeing, the quality of referees, the quality of equipment and management level. 

"So the treatment comes from different areas, for instance, there are two different games, the boys game will get the qualified referees whereas in the girls’ game, people will get like the trainees referee or the young (little) kids that are referees.”

Ms Tau said she was gobsmacked at the unfair treatment that female teams continue to receive from sporting event organisers.

“Just looking at that, you know, that's like that's unfair, like why can't I have the qualified referee? Why don't we get it? Why not? Is it because we're girls or just because we don't have the right support even in management. 

“As you've seen there are not that many women in management or decision-making in the different sporting industry.”

But Ms Tau, who is also a national representative for Samoa in rugby league and tag, is keen to address the issue as she doesnt want her daughter to go through a similar experience.

"So the passion in me is that I don't want this to happen or to keep happening. I don't want this to happen to the girls that we look after or the girls that we work with. 

“And I definitely don't want this to happen to my daughter so I want to be able to do something that would benefit the future generations to come.”

Promoting gender equality within sports is a big platform for Apelu Sports and Ms Tau is keen to use it to address national issues such as anti-violence and anti-bullying. 

“Not only against women and girls but also boys, men but including those with disabilities," she added.

Currently, they have a program called She Hits, which addresses bullying and they have also included the Senese disability group as Ms Tau believes that everyone has equal rights.

"Resources, capacity rebuilding, the same level of opportunities, and equal opportunities are some of the barriers. 

“There is a whole stigma as well that comes with it, that makes it difficult for women to be able to get up to that level.

"There are actually many women, single mothers too that are still carrying out their passion not only in sports but in life in general. 

“Being able to distribute those stories and telling the communities that this is a norm now, once you have children or have a family, it doesn't mean that's it and it's time for you to stay home."

"There is a difference between being in a room with three children and in a room with 50 or 80 students, so that was one of the challenges of not being able to communicate. Another challenge that they had to learn is the Child's Protective Policy being able to know, once you have a child in your care, there are many variables you have to consider, for example, like photos you need permission to take their photos, their healthy diets, their safety, their scheduled time with the programs," said Tau.

"For the Senese kids, they had to learn sign language, creating a safe space so that they don't feel like they are being put on the spot. 

“As you know, with the disability communities, there's one thing they don't like is being treated differently. They want to feel like anyone else so coming down to their level and understanding them, catering to their needs, those are the challenges but it was a great learning experience.”

Ms Tau’s position as a youth ambassador is challenging but she says she is grateful for her support system for backing her up.

"Being a youth ambassador is pretty huge. I think of it as being true to myself, and being able to communicate to the girls that I work with. 

“Being true to myself to achieve my goals, and one of the main things that I do talk a lot about with them is core values. 

“I have morals and core values that I live by, integrity things like creating safe spaces for the girls, and actually sitting down and being able to set the environment, set the space, set the mood, to make them feel that they can trust me.”

And while she strives to communicate her core values and live by her core values while being part of the young Pacific leader's groups, she actually really liked it. 

“We talk and communicate to different individuals from all over the Pacific and you know how we have issues here which is similar to issues in Fiji and Micronesia then listening to how they tackle it," she said. 

"You know how we have certain ways of looking at it, they've got a different way of dealing with it. And it's really nice to learn and connect with them. It can be challenging, balancing your work but I reckon because of the support system that I have and our culture we have our aiga (family) supporting us and our friends and specific people who push us towards our goals."

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