Participation of Zimbabwean female students in university sports.
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This study sought to establish the factors affecting the participation of female students in university sports and identify the measures that can help to increase the participation of Zimbabwean female students in university sports. Data was collected through a methodological triangulation of questionnaires, semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions from purposively sampled sports participants (n=125) and non-sports participant female students (n=125), Sports Directors (n=5) and Deans of Students (n=5) drawn from five of the eleven universities that are affiliated to the Zimbabwe Universities Sports Association (ZUSA). The resultant data was analysed by means of quantitative and qualitative procedures using Chi-square with p≤0.05 for quantitative data and by NVIVO 11 Qualitative Data Analysis Software (QDAS). The study established that, although the participation of female students in university sports has improved drastically in the last five years, female students still participate less than their male counterparts. It was also noted that, although institution based constraints have played a part in shaping the current trends of sport participation in Zimbabwean universities, these trends were mainly shaped by the gender stereotypes in the wider Zimbabwean society. The study established that the levels of female student participation can be improved by adopting a national strategy where gender mainstreaming is incorporated in the primary and secondary school curriculum as a means to influence people away from the societal gender stereotypes that have produced the current gender disparities in university sports participation. The findings show that female students derive recreational, material, monetary and psychological benefits. The findings showed that there were no deliberate institutional efforts to try and improve the levels of sport participation by female students in the five case study universities. It was also established that the participation of female students in sports can be improved through the adoption of such institutional measures as; employing female coaches and female sports administrators to be in charge of female student teams, using female role models in campaigns to motivate females to participate in sport, instituting policy measures that redress gender imbalances in sport participation and availing campus accommodation and accessible sporting facilities.