Mama Judo, Aunty Matty, Mama as Matilda Mwaba was so fondly referred to, passed away on January 11th 2021. Mother, friend, mentor and advocate for women’s rights Matilda was a gallant women of influence and is sadly missed.

Matilda Mwaba, a great friend and inspiration to all women in sport

January 2021

Mama Judo, Aunty Matty, Mama as Matilda Mwaba was so fondly referred to, passed away on January 11th 2021. Mother, friend, mentor and advocate for women’s rights Matilda was a gallant women of influence and is sadly missed.

As a proud and honoured Zambian, Matilda has a long history of contributing to the development of sport for women and girls with an impact reaching around the world. In the 1990’s she was elected the first female president of a sport association in Zambia, the Zambia Judo Association, as such, she became a role model and mentor for many young women. Her journey and passion to build an equitable, and inclusive sport environment, was far reaching well beyond Zambia, the southern Africa region and into the global community. She challenged and engaged governments to change the face of sport in Zambia, building awareness of the issues facing women and girls. She not only educated but provided solutions and actions that contributed to managing change. Her efforts and achievements were rewarded with numerous accolades throughout her career in her community, her nation, in the southern Africa Region and throughout the globe. In 2016 she received honorary recognition from the Africa Union Sports Council for her work in promoting women and good governance.  In 2019 she was the recipient of the Zambia President’s Insignia for Meritorious Achievement in recognition of her contribution to sport and in 2020 she was inducted into the African Union Sport Council Region 5 Hall of Fame.

I had the privilege of working with Matilda since 2001. At that time, she was the president of the Zambia Judo Association and a member of the Board of the National Olympic Committee of Zambia. As a compassionate and caring leader, she was working to develop and implement a strategy for educating youth on HIV and AIDS, and by 2002, became the Chairperson of Kicking AIDS Out, a sport-based organization that engaged over 22 countries in the fight against HIV and AIDs. In 2006, she founded and lead an organization for women and girls in the fight for everyone to have the opportunity to benefit from and participate in sport. The National (Zambia) Organization for Women in Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation (NOWSPAR) was founded and the slogan “Everybody Matters” was entrenched in all her campaigns to advance and protect girls and women in sport.

Matilda’s secret to success can be attributed to her belief in partnership, sharing her knowledge and resources and working collaboratively to achieve her objectives. Understanding her capacity and drive, she was supported by her funders such as the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports (NIF) to attend international meetings and positions. In 2011 she made a presentation in a parallel session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW) for WomenSport International (WSI). New to us, she was forever working to build our membership and promote our work. In 2020 she happily accepted a position on our International Task Team. WSI supported her to represent African women as a co-opted board member on the International Working Group for Women in Sport (IWG) in 2011. Following that, she was elected by the African delegates at 2014 IWG Conference as the official African representative. In 2014, Botswana was selected as the next host of the IWG Conference (2018). As part of the legacy of the 2018 IWG Botswana Conference, Matilda led a strong team of women from across Africa in the development of the Africa Women’s Sport Network and was elected as the chairperson.

Matilda had a way of making each and every one of us believe we are important and can achieve our goals if we are committed. She seemed to never say no to anyone, always had a smile and loved to tell a good story. She set the pathway for many young women in Africa, as mentor, teacher, leader and friend.  Through her continuous efforts and as a compassionate advocate for change, Matilda has been a great inspiration for us all.

She will be missed, but in her memory, she continues to inspire us to stay the fight for an inclusive, just and safe sport environment.

Diane Huffman

President, WSI

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