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Malawian Woman breaking the glass-ceiling of Bodybuilding is a Male Sport

by Milicent Atieno

Imagine walking into a gym to build up on your body’s general strength and endurance levels only for it to turn into a profession that is now pitting you against male chauvinism! That is the story of 33-year-old Doreen Kumbatira, who loved cycling all her life and walked into a gym in 2015 to improve her strength and endurance only to later turn out as a bodybuilder.

The only reason she was in a gym in the first place was to improve on her cycling, but she soon realized that “there are other avenues in bodybuilding especially for women, like, competing for fitness shows, and that’s how I got more interested in bodybuilding, to see what else I can (do) with it.”

The only Female Bodybuilder from Malawi

From just a girl looking to up her cycling game three years ago, to represent her country Malawi at an international bodybuilding contest in South Africa. Kumbatira initial intentions were clearly not to become a professional bodybuilder.

Standing at 175 centimeters (5 feet 8 inches) and weighing 72 kgs (158 pounds), Kumbatira has jumped in with full throttle into the male-dominated sport. She takes part in competition both locally and internationally.Doreen Kumbatira MALAWI BODYBUILDING

In October this year, she was among the few female contestants competing in South Africa at the Gentle Giant Bodybuilding show. Though she came in at fifth place, if that is what she can achieve with just three years of training, her future in bodybuilding sports looks promising.

I was very excited about that, and I learned a lot from that experience, and next year, I am sure I will do very, very well.”

Kumbatira was up against eight other female contestants, all clad in bikini competing under the fitness category.

Muscled up and not losing the Femininity

Though a good number of women have broken the glass ceiling, bodybuilding if still widely viewed as a male sports. That is mainly because of the way the sport changes the body of the players; the get muscles. Something that is synonymous with masculinity, and thus a lady in this sport is deemed to have lost her femininity.

I still have my feminine curves, I still look like a woman, so it’s because of that. As women, we don’t produce that hormone and we cannot look like men.”

An Ambassador for Bodybuilding

The Malawian National Weightlifting and Bodybuilding Association wants to engage Kumbatira in promoting the sports across the country. The General Secretary for the body, Harold Mwayang’ana said:

We will be moving around with her, just to have a talk to some women who may (want) to join the sport because we have seen that other women, they are shunning.”

Other than bodybuilding, Kumbatira is a mother of one, and she also has a degree in architecture. She also does baking and graphic designing to support herself and her child.

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