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Deaf sports body demands autonomy

CALISTUS KOLANTSHO
Deaf athletes are equally capable.
Botswana Deaf Sports Federation (BDSF) wants to be recognised as a separate body from the Paralympic Association of Botswana (PASSOBO).

The call comes in the wake of BDSF’s struggle to secure funding to compete at the inaugural Africa Deaf Athletics Championship (ADAC) slated for Kenya in September.

BDSF is an affiliate of PASSOBO, but now wants autonomy. BDSF president, Shirley Keoagile told Mmegi Sport that it has been a struggle for them to get assistance from the government. She argued that as a member of PASSOBO, they have never benefitted financially from the association.

She said for all the meetings, training workshops at continental level, BDSF has to fend for itself. “With regard to the upcoming Africa championship, I had to write letters to the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development (MYSC) seeking help,” she said.

Keoagile said BDSF’s dream is to see deaf sportspersons given the same support as their counterparts. She said that would enable them to represent the country at the Africa Championship and Deaflympic games. On Tuesday the Ministry acceded to BDSF’s plea and informed Keoagile that they would engage PASSOBO to assist with the necessary resources to ensure the Kenya trip is successful.

Meanwhile, the Nairobi-based Africa Deaf Women on Sport Commission chairperson, Miriam Opondo told this publication that the first mistake the government made was to assume that deaf sports is under Paralympics.

“We took a bold step to meet the then MYSC minister, Thapelo Olopeng about that issue.

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We explained to him the difference between sports and we presented letters from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Committee of Sports for Deaf (ICSD),” said Opondo. She said IOC recognises sport of deaf people equally with hearing and Paralympic.  Opondo said in Kenya sign language is recognised in the Constitution and it is the third official language in Parliament. She said their sports act recognises all sports equally at top level.

“Our ministry supports Deaflympic, Paralympic, Special Olympics and Olympics without any bias.

I believe if BDSF could meet with their minister of sports and push for recognition of sports of deaf people as independent from Paralympics in the first place and push for policies that can be recognised,” she said.

Opondo said it is wrong for the government not to recognise deaf people in sport. She said they bring pride to the country when they win.

“If Botswana deaf participate in ADAC and win medals, it is your country that wins, it is the Botswana flag that is raised and it is your national anthem that is sang. Deaf citizens are voters and should not be reduced to beggars,” added Opondo.

ICSD chief executive officer, Dmitry Rebrov said he is aware that deaf sports is not recognised in Botswana. He said the government should understand that deaf sports have different regulations.



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