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Hardy Boineelo - Botswana Basketball Association
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Boineelo looks to steer women's basketball in Botswana

GABORONE - Newly-elected Botswana Basketball Association (BBA) President Hardy Boineelo is keen to inspire more girls and women to take up the hoops game during her four-year tenure in charge.

The 34-year old former national team captain has outlined major changes for her new administration including restructuring the organisation of the game from the bottom up as well as put emphasis on gender balance.

Speaking to FIBA.com, she said: "With these structures, my intention is to build in measures to ensure gender balance, a quota that will ensure that women are as involved as men in decision making positions."

Before Boineelo decided to run for BBA presidency, the only women to ever make it to the executive committee were either there in the role of treasurer or public relations officer, non-decision making roles and so she felt that she should be the one to change the narrative.

While pondering on whether to pursue this, she attended the prestigious annual International Working Group on Women and Sport Conference held in Gaborone in October.

There she met women sport leaders from across the African continent and the experience changed her for the best.

"The conference came as the nomination period for the basketball association was nearing. When it was done, I had solidly made up my mind that I would run and run well," she explained.

"It empowered me greatly because I sat in the same room with many great women, holding amazing portfolios. It was great in that a lot of the discussions kept going back to women in leadership and whether women should be handed roles just for being women, or on merit."

Boineelo, who defeated Tsholofelo Kenosi 7 votes to 4 for the BBA presidency, has since learnt that girls and women in sport - let alone basketball - are discouraged by the sexual stereotypes highlighted by people around them.

"The biggest part of it that touched me though was the part about body shaming, sexualizing of female athletes," she pointed out. "It is a big problem we have in basketball as we live in a patriarchal society, and women who are 'marriage type' have to be soft and curvy.

"So a lot of girls leave the sport when they come of a certain age because it is not feminine enough. They worry about developing muscular physique, they can't keep nails and their boyfriends also discourage them so it is a real big challenge because we cannot grow if we keep losing a good number of good players every year over the same thing."

Boineelo came through the system, first as part of the U19 national team in 1999 before she was named the U20 captain.

She was promoted to the senior national side which she captained from 2003 to 2006. A decade later, she has been entrusted with the highest basketball position in the land to bring change.

The women's league currently has five teams, one more than when they started out in 2001 when the nationwide competition was set up but Boineelo believes that now is the time to increase the number of teams by empowering young girls in primary schools.

"Women understand each other better and can come up with ways to make the league retain and grow players," she said.