President Samia Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania is facing online criticism over comments that female footballers had flat chests and were unattractive for marriage.
Hassan, the 6th president of the 58 million East African nation, was speaking at the state house in Dar es Salaam where she received the Cecafa Challenge Cup trophy won by the national under-23 football team.
According to her, while women were making the country proud by winning trophies, some of them did not stand a chance of getting married because of the way they looked.
She said, “If we bring them here and line them up, for those with flat chests, you might think they are men – not women,” adding that for many unmarried sportswomen “a life of marriage… is just a dream”.
Hassan said sportspeople were living a tough life after their career in sports and asked the authorities to ensure their future was well taken care of after retirement. She noted that it was particularly harder for women “where their legs are tired when they have retired from the sport”.
However, her comments have generated outrage on Twitter with one Maria Tsehai saying: “This is what the ‘first female president’ has to say about other women who are challenging stereotypes by playing professional soccer.”
Similarly, Harry Mwala said: “What she says is not true!! She has generalized without scientific facts regarding women athletes, their flat chest and their not having beauty and regarding their marriage prospects!! She is not only wrong but she lies yet again!”
Hassan became president in March after then President, John Magufuli, died from a heart condition.
When she was sworn in, the 61-year-old in a speech said there were people who doubted she was qualified to lead because she was a woman.
Some “don’t believe that women can be better presidents and we are here to show them,” she said.
She is currently Africa’s only female political head of state.
“Even some of my government workers dismissed me at first as just another woman, but they soon accepted my leadership.
“But this is not just in Africa, even in America, [Hillary] Clinton reached a place where we thought she was going to be the president but she couldn’t,” she added.
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