At the Uganda Para Badminton International 2021 in Kampala (16–21 November), 15 female players were handed the BWF Female Participation Grant to be classified and to participate for the first time at the tournament.
Some of the first-time recipients included athletes from Benin, DR Congo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
One such athlete was Guillain-Barré syndrome-affected Zimbabwean Yemurai Ngoma, who uses Para badminton as an advocacy tool to raise awareness among fellow female athletes on their sexual reproductive health rights as well as gender violence.
“I was made aware of the BWF Para badminton Female Participation Grant by my coaches, who urged me to apply through my Member Association,” revealed Ngoma, whose journey saw her transition from wheelchair basketball and Para volleyball to Para badminton after being approached by her coaches through a friend.
“I was curious to find out what Para badminton was all about, and after training with other players and exploring the numerous opportunities of growth availed by BWF, I fell in love with the sport.
“Having the opportunity to be an athlete and represent my country and the disabled community means a lot because I’m not only a girl but also a person with a disability. It’s a chance to empower my fellow female athletes through sports, and I thank BWF and BCA.”
Ngoma also works as a disability inclusion officer for an organisation that helps women with disabilities in hard-to-reach places.
“I’m working towards creating a platform, a safe space for female athletes to accept themselves as individuals living with disabilities,” she said.
“A space where they will be able to discuss freely things like sexual reproductive health, sexuality as well as gender violence, the challenges, the experiences and how to mitigate them.
“Talking about sexuality in the disabled community in Africa is considered taboo but we are human beings, we have feelings, right to a partner, right to a relationship yet we don’t have the platform to discuss these things openly free of judgment and just share our experiences.”
At the Asian Youth Para Games 2021 (2-6 December) in Manama, Bahrain, another five female players were granted a similar opportunity.
This is what some of the first-timers said:
“At first, I was quite nervous but as I took a step forward I couldn’t believe I actually have this ability. I’m proud and really confident that I got my self-esteem high.” – Sapuna Subba, Bhutan
“I have only participated in national competitions and not been abroad. This event gave me new feelings. I saw how children like me were not shy and enjoyed playing, felt free. Many children with physical disabilities are ashamed and stay home. I’m very grateful to BWF and Badminton Federation Tajikistan for this support and opportunity.” – Shabnam Mekamboeva, Tajikistan
The BWF Female Participation Grant, which offers athletes a chance to apply for financial support to attend and be internationally classified at BWF-sanctioned tournaments annually, also supports BWF’s global goal to increase female participation in Para badminton across all classes.