Let’s invest in women in sport- Letticia Viana

19 March 2024

Letticia Viana is an Assistant Sports Officer in the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs and also a FIFA accredited referee who has officiated World Cup and AFCON finals. In our latest civil servants’ blog, she talks about the challenges of working in a male-dominated sports industry.

Government Communications (GC): “When did you join the Civil Service?”

Letticia Viana (LV): “I joined the Civil Service in 2007 and was deployed to the Ministry of Education, In-service training department as a Junior Clerical Officer.”

GC: “What is your current job now and what does it entail?”

LV: “I now work in the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs as an Assistant Sports Officer. My duties include coordinating the establishment of low maintenance multi-purpose sports fields across the country (e.g. identification of site, organizing appropriate heavy plant machinery to clear site and monitoring that communities have low maintenance sporting fields where the youth can practice sport). The fields usually accommodate football, netball, volleyball and athletics. I am also responsible for maintenance of the already existing sports fields throughout the country; dealing with all correspondence related to sporting activities; and managing Somhlolo National Stadium and supervising Stadium staff.”

GC: “So far, what would you say the biggest highlight/achievement of your Civil Service journey has been?”

LV: “Working with communities, travelling around the country and getting to interact with people and seeing the situations that they are faced with. I also enjoy the priceless moments when we complete sports fields in communities. The joy that you see among the youth and elders of that community is always priceless. It’s not much but they are always grateful and highly appreciative.”

GC: “What is the biggest project that you have been involved in working for Government?”

LV: “It has to be the ongoing rehabilitation of Somhlolo National Stadium.”

GC: “You are also a FIFA accredited referee. How and when did you get into referring?”

LV: “I started refereeing in 2005 after having played football for Two For Joy and Mbabatane FC. I was recruited by Mandla Gama who was a FIFA and Premier League referee at that time.”

GC: “What have been some of you highlights of your referring career?”

LV: “They include being:

  • First liSwati in CAF ELITE A category (2015 to date).
  • First liSwati to officiate in an AFCON (Women’s: 2016 Cameroon, Ghana 2018, and Morocco 2022, as well as 2023 Men’s U-23 Morocco).
  • First liSwati to officiate at a World Cup (2022 U-17 Women’s World Cup).
  • First liSwati to qualify to officiate as a Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
  • First female referee to be promoted to the Premier League of Eswatini in 2007.”

GC: “How difficult is it to work in such a male-dominated industry and what strategies do you employ to overcome the challenges you face?”

LV: “When I started it was very difficult because I was the first female (to referee in the Premier League) and I was dealing with people’s perceptions. People believed that refereeing was not a woman’s job. The only strategies I employed was to work harder than my male colleagues and pray I would be given a chance someday. While it has been painful being over looked because of my gender, I also understood earlier in my career that I am not doing this for myself but rather for every girl child out there. It brings me great joy today to see many female referees around and some in the Premier League. It’s not just me now but it’s “us” working together to open doors for the next generation of female referees.”

GC: “What do you think can and should be done to improve the participation of women in sport in Eswatini and Africa?”

LV: “It’s important to just give support to the ladies. We should remember that women who participate in sport are usually wives, mothers, care givers, and leaders of households. Some have to work during the day, knock off and go for training and in the evenings still have families to take care of. Women athletes juggle more in their lives than our male counterparts and they still perform by all means. It is important to address the issue of equal pay between male and female sport practitioners. Some women are fully employed by sport, but the pay (if there even is) is really not enough for them to live by. Companies should also invest the same resources in women’s sport as they do in men’s sport. Companies will always sponsor men’s tournaments with more and when they do remember women, the invested amounts become very disappointing figures. Let us invest in our women.”

GC: “What do you love the most about your job and profession?”

LV: “Sport is my passion and I was always an active child at school. I ran 800m for my school, I threw javelin and I also played football. After school I studied Sport Management and today I am working for the Ministry of Sports, so basically I am living my dream.”

GC: “What lessons have you learnt working for Government?

LV: “The value of human life. Our country is challenged in many areas and our Government is also trying as much as possible to improve the lives of the people.”

GC: “What advice would you have for someone who wants to work for Government?”

LV: “Working for Government is a service to your country. If you genuinely have a heart and love for people, then you can consider it. It’s no secret that civil servants are not paid a lot but each day they report to their duty stations to work, with the sole purpose of helping and serving people.”

GC: “What are your aspirations for the future in Government?

LV: “I am a sport person through and through and wouldn’t mind finding myself among the top administrators of Sport in our country. Who knows, I might have a small contribution that can be of benefit.”


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