At a young age, Clarisse Uwayo once watched people practice taekwondo and she immediately fell in love with the martial sport. In 2013, she decided to be part of the team in Rwanda.
“I fell in love with the sport, especially because anybody can play the sport regardless of their strength, and so it didn’t require a lot to just start. Also, because girls are considered the weaker sex, I wanted to be able to defend myself from any attackers,” she says.
Over the years, the 22-year-old has improved from the white belt and currently has a second degree black belt in taekwondo.
She has since received several medals in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. In 2014, she took part in the taekwondo Under 17 Africa Youth Game in Botswana while last year, she came third place beating several other females that represented their countries in South Korea.
For Uwayo, taekwondo has gone from just being a sport to being a part of her life. When she is not practicing, the second year student, pursuing finance, teaches people in all age groups the martial art.
“I found family in the taekwondo sport, and I am able to get some money to fend for myself as well as occupy my time. As a young person, sports helps you mature up and make better decisions because your mind is focused,” she says.
Dealing with stereotypes
Out of the about 600 members in the Taekwondo Federation, only about 150 are females, among whom only about 20 have achieved black belts. Uwayo blames the small number of girls in the sport mainly on the stereotypes girls have to face in this country.
“Rwandans have not yet embraced the idea of girls practicing martial arts like other countries. People still refer to me as the ‘girl who fights’ yet I’m not fighting but doing a sport, or that I will not be able to bear children. Eight years of practicing the martial art, nothing has changed about my body so I encourage parents to encourage their daughters to join the sport.
“Taekwondo in this country is also not well known like other sports, but my wish is that it is treated like other kind of sport and that it is well promoted. That way we will have more people join,” she says.
In some years to come, Uwayo says she will stop practicing and focus on training, refereeing and helping young people — mostly girls — so that they are better represented in the martial art.Follow https://twitter.com/SharonKMugabo