sociocultural factors influencing women participation in sports in Nigeria

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Sociocultural factors influencing women participation in sports

Chapter one/Introduction

 Background to the Study

Despite immense contributions of women to national development in Africa, they still face a number of difficulties that limit their potentials in promoting personal and collective development. Ladan (2009) opined that, for many years, society maintained a greater degree of sports competition for boys than for  girls. In recent years, there have been many change in women’s participation in sports, but the rate of changes have been found to be extremely low. Adler (2008) explained that, today as in the past most female members of the society have fewer opportunities in life compared to their male counterparts as they are expected to run a home and bring up children. Women have less free time in their choice of leisure activities and they are more restricted than males. Over a long period of time, women have demanded changes in society to give them equal status with men. Social changes have gradually given women greater opportunities to plan their own lives. Nevertheless, the battle for equal opportunities with men is still being fought.

The low rate of women involvement in sports is not due to lack of interest in sports by them. Instead, it is due to the long history of direct and indirect forms of discrimination and stereo-typing that women have to contend with (Adeyanju, 2011). The sport for all movement started in the mid-1970s in Europe. It was a concept being adopted to achieve a long term objective by the council of Europe, it was aimed at encouraging the population at large to become more active while it also proclaimed the message that sports are not for the talented few. Almost twenty years later, participation in sports and recreation are justified on the assumption that they serve as mediums for developing desirable attitudes and behaviour that are essential for one’s own wellbeing. Sports for all was an attempt to extricate sport from domination by the privilege few and to declare it as an entitlement for everybody in an egalitarian society. This means that, sports for all implies equal opportunities for participation for both males and females, irrespective of age, political affiliation, gender, race or religion. While this was considered to be important and the ideal, it has proved difficult to achieve in reality, particularly  in relation to women (Okey, 2011).

In contrast to the expectation of sport for all, women experience role conflict and this is reflected in the attitude of the general public regarding female athletic participation in Nigeria. Women’s participation in sport in Nigeria has for a long time been relatively low compared with men due to differential treatment based on socio-cultural roles and expectations. Consequently, the traditional images of gender in Nigeria have often worked against women’s participation in sport. This perhaps, extensively reduces already existing opportunities that are available for women in sports. An analysis of those actively involved in sports in Nigeria indicates that men constitute the greater number either as players, coaches, or as administrators. In spite of Nigeria’s ethnic, culture and religious diversity, a constant theme seems to run through the society as regards the traditional place of women; her traditional place is in the home. Her ideal role is associated with child bearing, rearing and housekeeping. Nigeria is therefore is classified as a society where cultural values predominate in all activities (Adeyanju, 2011).

Women have faced barriers that have discouraged their progress in the level of participation in sport. Amuche (2004) demonstrated that, throughout history, men have controlled sport, used it for their own purposes and shaped it to fit their abilities. Consequently, fewer numbers of women have participated in sporting activities than men. Ikhioya (1999), reported that, women in Nigeria universities were not active sport participants. According to him, these women did not regard sport as conducive to their physical wellbeing. Nigerian society still experiences significant gender inequality in sports, despite recent international class performances by women sprinters and football players in national teams. This inequality can visibly affect the opportunities for women to participate in sport, thereby limiting their sport experiences. Ikhioya (1999), further showed that in most communities in Nigeria especially rural ones, cultural beliefs and attitudes had strong influences on low participation of women in sports. Besides, organization of sporting activities in most communities are usually focused on combative sports, such as boxing, wrestling, archery and shooting. Men are major participants in such sports which tend to discriminate against women. Sports participation and non- participation are influenced by several factors which are related to and basically hinged on socio-cultural background. The survival of any activities like sports is regarded as a function of socio-cultural characteristics which prevails in an organization. Sports therefore as an institutionalized social phenomenon depends largely for its continuing existence on the favourable support it receives from cultural and social forces.

It was stated by Adeyanju (2011) that, psycho-social and cultural factors which exert pressure on women through the immediate family, community, religion, media, peer groups and other sources of socialization to reinforce expected behaviour and teaching of gender roles. Sports is an exemplary activity which focuses attention on the gender influence by allowing for the comparison of innate against learned factors. Sports, traditionally, is defined as a male domain. Excellence in sports is an attribute cherished for men while it is seen as a distraction for women rather than an element of healthy living.

Ikulayo (1998) observed that, most developing countries, including Nigeria, have not experienced rapid changes in women’s active participation in sports compared to their more developed counterparts. This is due to a number of socio- cultural factors such as religion, parent, culture, peer group, gender role, massmedia etc on religion aspect for example in northern Nigeria where majority are muslims. The Islamic religion and social expectations for public behaviour influences the choice of women in this part of the country to participate actively in sport. Adeyanju (2011) observed that, religious attitude as regards the free association of men and women and the exposure of parts of the body especially that of women, is a major constraints to  female participation in sports.

Ikulayo (1998) stated that, most societies in the late twentieth century still believed that a woman’s place was in the kitchen, in care of children and in managing domestics chores. When women are at home, they may not have adequate space or time to fully participate in sports. Yan and Thomas (2005), reported that, cultural expectations shape children’s physical activity patterns and gender differences in their motor performance. Adler (2008) indicated that,parents’ reactions and e xpectations towards their children create the messages or concepts of children’s sex role stereotypes in physical activity. This report portends that, sex role stereotype can affect sport experiences of women.

 Statement of the Problem

Human beings live in a world where inequality reigns. This inequality manifests itself in various spheres in Nigeria and it affects the womenfolk greatly. Inequality exists in political, social, education and sports spheres; where women are being discriminated against based on their gender. Adeyanju (2011) observed that, the low involvement of women in sports is not due to the lack of interest in sports by women. It is due to the long history of direct, and indirect forms of discrimination and stereo-typing as well as many other problems that women have to contend with. Women’s participation in sports in Nigeria has for a long time been relatively low compared with men due to differential treatment attached to socio-cultural factors i.e parent, religion, culture, gender, peer group, mass media etc. Ikhioya (1999), reported that, women in Nigerian universities were not active sport participants. According to him, women did not regard sport as conducive to their physical well being. Changes can however be noticed following the advent of western education accompanied by exposure across culture and ethnic background. Review of available literature revealed that there is paucity of study on influence of social cultural factors on sport participation among students in the University  of Ilorin. The present study therefore, investigated social cultural factors influencing female participation in sports as perceived by female undergraduates of the University of Ilorin. The study was carried out to provide information on some socio-cultural factors influencing women participation in sports. It is hoped that the findings of the study would benefit sport administrator, parents, students and society at large as regards involvement of women in sports.

Research Questions

The following research questions were posed to guide conduct of the study:

  1. Will cultural belief influence female participation in sports?
  2. Will parents influence female participation in sports?
  3. Will religion influence female participation in sports?
  4. Will peer group influence female participation in sports?
  5. Will gender influence female participation in sports?

Research Hypotheses

  1. Cultural beliefs of respondents will not significantly influence female participation in
  2. Parental role on respondents will not significantly influence female participation in
  3. Religion role on respondents will not significantly influence female participation in
  4. Peer group will not significantly influence female participation in
  5. Gender-role will not significantly influence female participation in
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