Linda Magombo spent over a decade playing netball for Malawi's national team. As United Purpose launches Girls INSPIRED - a netball-based girls' empowerment project in Dedza district - we speak to Linda about why sport is such a great tool for creating new opportunities and what sport means to her on a personal level.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your netball career?
I am married with three daughters, and I have a Master’s degree in Development and Resource Economics. Over the past 17 years, I have been involved in development projects with rural communities.
I started playing netball in primary school in 1989, and I continued throughout secondary school and university. In 1999, when I was in my third year of studying Agricultural Economics, I started playing for the Malawi Netball National Team: the Queens. I played for the team from 1999 to 2010, both as goal shooter and goal keeper.
Some of my memorable moments include the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne where I finished as third top goal scorer, with 225 baskets and 89% shooting accuracy. I also vividly remember participating in the first ever netball World Series – Fast5 Netball in Manchester in England in 2009. I played as a goal keeper against South Africa and I won the player of the match award for that game. I have been playing for Tigresses Netball Team since 2000, and currently my main role is an executive member of the team.
What does netball mean to you on a personal level?
For me, it’s just not netball but sport in general. It means liberation from shyness, increased confidence in your abilities and pushing yourself to achieve beyond your expectations. It teaches discipline that can be applied to every area of life. It also teaches important lessons about team work and leads to lifelong friendships. In essence, sport brings endless opportunities for success in life.
Now that I’m older, most of the people I play sport with are between 10-15 years younger than me. Sport gives me a platform to share my life experiences, and whenever we have team bonding exercises with my basketball team, Lady Dynamites, my teammates look forward to my life stories. I am glad to share with them the lessons I have learned – for example, finding a balance between sport and studies/profession, choosing a marriage partner, creating opportunities in my career and looking after my personal health.
Why are you excited about United Purpose’s Girls INSPIRED project?
Girls INSPIRED is an interesting project – the first of its kind. Using netball as a tool, it aims to inspire girls to reach their full potential and to influence their own and their peers’ lives. The project will also engage boys and young men to have positive attitudes towards girls. This is exciting because communities are empowered when every member is fully engaged.
Why do you think sport is such a great tool for empowering girls?
As I mentioned, sport builds people’s confidence. Therefore, a girl who is confident on the netball court is likely to be more confident in her studies and to do better in class or at work. Sports enables people to push themselves beyond their limits, to find that extra energy and to keep going forward despite hardships or challenges. I believe it empowers people to pursue their goals in life.
What are your hopes for the futures of the girls who take part in UP’s Girls INSPIRED project?
Sport made me believe in myself and realise how important I am to my community and my country. It made me dream big, both in class and on the court. I translated the energy I had in sport into my career and my life in general, and I have enjoyed every part of it.
My hope is that the girls who participate in the Girls INSPIRED project will seize the opportunities they are given and learn to be disciplined. I hope they will embrace the power of working in a team, the power of unity and the power of positive peer influence.
Find out more about United Purpose's Girls INSPIRED project, funded by Comic Relief.