The Commonwealth Boxing Bronze medalist is the latest addition to success stories of women in sport

While most athletes start sport young, for some as early as primary school level, Lethabo Modukanele has a different story. The young woman is a boxer, and she started her boxing journey when she got to tertiary. Lethabo has become Botswana’s first female boxer to ever win a medal at the Commonwealth Games, a bronze medal under the 48Kg category.

She scooped the medal at the just ended 2022 Commonwealth Games, in Birmingham, England from 28 July to 08 August 2022. The strong-willed Lethabo shares that, in 2016, at the age of 20, while at tertiary school, she decided that there had to be more to life, than just living a routine life of going to school and back home.

She explored joining a club along the lines of an environmental club, and then changed to looking for a sporting club that could help equip her with self defense techniques as a young woman; for her to be able to protect herself should the need arise. She revealed that her first choice was mixed martial arts, but since she could not find a mixed martial arts club, she changed to looking for a kick boxing club, which she could also not find. She however, later landed at Tsholofelo Boxing Club, in the University of Botswana where she was a student, and the rest is history.

Prior to the Commonwealth Games, Lethabo had won gold at the Zone 4 Africa Boxing Championship in Mozambique in April 2022 and taken part in other various tournaments locally and internationally. She revealed that she feels honored and blessed to have achieved a notable podium finish for the country and is grateful to God for the opportunity she was presented with to represent the country at the Commonwealth Games.

Lethabo’s visible participation in sport as a woman, as well as her choice of a unique sport, and achievements, contribute to the much needed and critical visibility and numbers of female role models in sport.

The sport sector is faced with a challenge of attraction and retention of women and girls in sport, as such, female role models play a significant role in attracting and in encouraging more girls to play the sport.

Having a role model in sport is an important part of social learning. The social learning allows young girls to emulate the positive aspects of boldness and social dynamics and provides them the opportunity to visualize themselves in the role of an athlete or leader in sport .

For his part, Lethabo’s coach, Thebe Setlalekgosi, highlighted that, he believes that women are on the way up and have the potential of delivering better results for the country, citing examples of the Senior Women’s Football National Team (the Mares), who nearly qualified for the world cup at their maiden Africa Women’s Cup of Nations, which was held in Morocco from 03-23 July 2022.

Another one is Keamogetse Sadie Kenosi, who was the first female boxer to qualify for the Olympics, and winner of a silver medal from the 2022 Zone 4 Africa Boxing Championship, amongst her accomplishments.

Thebe advises that it is time investors financed equally or even more in women sport and women in sport, if better results are to be realized. In 2017, Women and Sport Botswana (WASBO), a special interest association with the aim of increasing participation of women and girls in sport and other recreational activities, undertook a gender analysis study on participation of girls and women in sport and leadership in Botswana.

The study focused on several possible areas of gender disparities to establish the existence of likely gender gaps in Botswana sport. The main areas of focus among others included funding, sponsorship, leadership, facilities, equipment, technology, media coverage, recognition, rewards, education, training, professional development, interest in sport, policy interventions and specialist personnel such as coaches, psychologists, physiotherapists, and other stakeholders.

A significant struggle in securing sponsorship for women sport was highlighted by the findings of the study. WASBO has conducted a follow up study, whose results will aid strategic deliverables with the aim of producing more Lethabos through the relevant sport organizations.