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Challenging sport cultural norms in India

Lisa Travella Murawsky, GNW, Sport, Development, Girls, Naandi, Nanhi Kali
Author: Lisa Travella Murawsky
Copyrights: The Naandi Foundation

Challenging sport cultural norms in India

The Nanhi Kali Boot Camp is aiming to form a bridge between competition and sport for life goals.

P.T. Usha, a pioneer of women’s athletics in India, participant in the 1980 Olympics at just 16 years old, once said: 

People were throwing stones at my home. They were just criticising and had forgotten everything that I did earlier.

She was referring to an injury that plagued her following her Olympic debut and kept her out of international competition for some time. Following her recovery, she went on to win an incredible 101 international medals for her country and was revered as a female star of athletics in India. But her injury struggle and the interim reaction of her fellow patriots helps to demonstrate the challenge of the sport culture in India that oftentimes places results above the learning.

Suheil Tandon, founder and director of Pro Sport Development (PSD) in Delhi, is currently working on some wonderful sport for development projects in India. I had the chance to ask him what the biggest challenges of his projects were. He explained: 

One of our biggest challenges is how sport is perceived in India. Oftentimes, people are so focused on the results, records, and golds of a few rather than on the multitude of benefits that sport can offer everyone, especially youth and women and girls.” 

The strive for results often leads to early sport specialisation and the sense that if you are not very talented then sports is not for you. This mindset is not exclusive to India, but can dominate the sport culture in many nations.

The good news is that the drive for results and the desire to improve sport for all are not exclusive; rather the two can work together to benefit hundreds of thousands of girls in India.  

The Nanhi Kali Sports Project is working to do just that; developing talent and educating on sport for life. We are looking to identify and grow female talent to be the next Olympians of tomorrow but at the same time we are challenging cultural norms and empowering girls to incorporate physical activity and health in their lives. 

The Nanhi Kali Boot Camp

The Nanhi Kali Project is currently organisating sports boot camps for over 600 girls aged 11-15 throughout 10 different locations in India. The goal of the camp is to identify talent and empower the girls to begin to build a sport for life programme. This process is a lengthy one, but it is beginning.