(Mar. 8, 2022) - Zimbabwe’s Natsiraishe Maritsa has made headlines around the world for how she has used Taekwondo in her local community to empower girls and young women. Her selfless efforts were recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last month as she was awarded the Winner for Africa at the IOC Women and Sport Awards last month.
Ahead of International Women’s Day, World Taekwondo spoke with Maritsa on how Taekwondo can continue to help #BreakTheBias and the role it plays in her community.
“Taekwondo helps to empower women and girls in my community by instilling self-belief and the ability to set goals,” Maritsa said. “Self-belief enables women and girls to have a positive perception in whatever they seek to achieve, and the ability to set goals instils confidence in them to pursue various programs in life hence empowering women and girls.”
“The benefits of women and girls practicing Taekwondo is that they will learn to endure pain in Taekwondo and persevere, which can also be applied in life when they face difficult situations. Taekwondo instils an indomitable spirit in women which assists them when they set goals in the sense that they will not be undermined or pulled down by negative influence from other people or by lack of resources to implement and fulfil their goals.”
For Maritsa, Taekwondo is also about breaking down barriers in how women and girls are perceived. This year International Women’s Day looks at how we can create a world free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination, and Maritsa believes Taekwondo can support with that.
“Taekwondo can help break down barriers around how women and girls are perceived. Taekwondo can be proof that women and girls are capable of doing what men and boys can do. Females practicing Taekwondo and obtaining awards and higher-grade belts can be recognized as equal to the males since they will be achieving great things through Taekwondo.”
Taekwondo, as all sport, can also raise awareness on key issues, just as Maritsa has shown with raising awareness around the dangers of child marriage in Zimbabwe.
“Taekwondo and other sports generally help to raise awareness about key issues. What I learnt is sport is not just all about physical effort and winning awards but there are certain qualities that are in sport that assist in raising awareness about key issues such as courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit.”
Maritsa’s message to women and girls around the world is:
“Taekwondo is just not for men only or about fighting but Taekwondo is a package full of good qualities that will inspire, empower and uplift the participant. One of the Taekwondo rules states that 'I shall be a champion of freedom, justice and peace', hence you can be a champion, you can break mythical barriers for justice and peace will prevail through Taekwondo.”