Gender war erupts at chess

Francis is the only female player in the team
Francis is the only female player in the team

Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) public relations director, Kutlwano Tatolo has come out seething over the chess body’s treatment of female players. Tatolo accused her own committee of unfairly treating female players, which left BCF president, Mothokomedi Thabano shell-shocked.

Tatolo was incensed after the chess body sent only one woman in a three-member team to the Zone 4.3 Chess Championships in Madagascar.  International Master, Providence Oatlhotse, FIDE Master Phemelo Khetho and Woman International Master (WIM) Onkemetse Francis will represent the country.  “It baffles me why the Open section is represented by two men and there is only one woman in the women’s section. If at all the national team selection criteria are being followed, the highest rated player and the national champion in the women’s section being WIM Kgalalelo Botlhole should be in this team,” Tatolo lashed out.

Tatolo said the team was selected through a WhatsApp group and she was disappointed with a federation that purports to support women empowerment. 

“The Federation agreed to postpone the women’s section Metropolitan National Championship, disadvantaging women for a greater cause which was to allow the youth players participating at the World Chess


Schools Championship in Turkey, a chance to also play,” she said.

Tatolo said that meant the zonal championship comes at a time when there is no women’s national champion, but there is still the 2018 champion who could have been included in the team.

“How is the decision to field more players in one section more than another taken? Both sections bring home medals and they both deserve equal representation,” she fumed.

Tatolo said she was not consulted when the decision was taken though she is an ex-officio member of the women’s commission and the only woman in the BCF executive committee.

“I challenge them to bring forward the communication which indicated that I refused to participate in the zone 4.3 team discussion. This blatant disregard of fairness cannot be allowed to thrive in silence. It is very disappointing for a code of such high regard to put so less regard in equality issues,” Tatolo said.

She argued that if it was a financial issue, how does one justify the higher number of representation in one section over the other.

BCF president, Thabano, said they are still in shocked by Tatolo’s behaviour. He said as a committee they normally discuss issues on WhatsApp group as members stay in different areas.

“Tatolo was not happy when the committee decided to take an extra player being Kheto. The decision has nothing to do with gender, but the fact that he is the national champion and he has been consistent.

On the other hand, Botlhole said she could not travel because she does not have leave days at work,” he said.

He said BCF requested funding from Ministry of Basic Education (MoEB) and they were assisted with P188, 000. He said they did not want to deplete their grant from Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC).

He said they decided to take the extra player after receiving the fund.

Thabano said it was after this decision that Tatolo exited the WhatsApp group, before going on to post her frustrations all over social media platforms including the Africa Chess Federation page. He said BCF cannot condone such behaviour and the constitution empowers the committee to take action against anybody who brings the Federation into disrepute.

“We are currently looking into the matter with a possibility of taking action against her. We are aware that she is going to feel that we are going for her because she is a woman,” he said.

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