Tanzania’s President criticised over female footballers comments

Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan
President Samia Suluhu Hassan rose to power in March

Tanzania’s president has been condemned for describing the country’s female footballers as having “flat chests” and being unattractive for marriage.

Samia Suluhu Hassan made the remarks while hosting Tanzania’s Under-23 men’s football team at State House in the coastal city of Dar es Salaam. The 61-year-old is Tanzania’s first female head of state.

She recently told the BBC some people doubted whether she should become President because of her gender. “Even some of my government workers dismissed me at first as just another woman, but they soon accepted my leadership,” Ms Samia said.

Her latest comments have been widely condemned. “The comment by president @SuluhuSamia on women footballers is a humiliation to all women,” said Catherine Ruge, head of the women’s wing of the opposition Chadema party and a former MP.

While gender and mental health researcher @Sajokm said she was “shocked”. @bomba_mudolo wrote: Where are the rights of our women? Mama [Samia] encourage our African women to excel in what they are good at Henry Ngogo: Isn’t this equal to saying life is meaningless without marriage?

The BBC has approached Tanzania’s football authorities for comment.

Mrs Samia said that while female footballers were making the East African country proud by winning trophies, some did not stand a chance of getting married because of the way they looked.

“If we bring them here and line them up, for those with flat chests, you might think they are men – not women,” she said. She said while some sportswomen were married, most of them were not, “and for the way they are, a life of marriage… is a just a dream”.

Elsewhere in her speech, she said that sportspeople had tough lives after their careers and asked the authorities to ensure they were looked after in retirement. She noted that it was particularly hard for women “where their legs are tired, when they have retired from the sport”.

President Samia became president in March when she replaced John Magufuli who died from heart complication. He was widely criticised for enforcing a ban on girls who were pregnant, or mothers, going to school.

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