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Ignore women no more

Women play Kabbadi in Tamil Nadu
Copyrights: Wikimedia CC

Ignore women no more

The last instalment of the series on India looks at sport and gender.

It has become widely known that India has challenges with gender equality and severe gender bias. As recent as 2011 India was ranked 4th in the list of countries most unsafe for women. Some sport and development initiatives have been addressing this issue for years but what more can be done and how?

Women and sport
The background of women and sport in India reveals interesting facts. Recent news brought to our attention that it is India’s female athletes who are more successful than their male counterparts. As the BBC News article - Indian women make history in Rio said:

Clearly, women athletes are making history - and saving India's face at Rio.

Giant brands are tapping into this evolution which is another indicator for success and therefore suggests that the perception of female athletes is advancing. Even Bollywood had to acknowledge sporting women.

Women face challenges globally and countries like India, Afghanistan and Congo sometimes encapsulate the most severe cases of gender biases. However, sport has proven to be an equaliser. It’s not necessarily about equal pay, but the notion that anyone and everyone should be respected and judged only by the merits of what they have achieved. Or perhaps certainly have the potential to.

Relevance for Indian organisations
There now exist numerous role models for programmes to turn to and reference when affecting change on the ground. Organisations like Project KHEL (Kids Holistic Education and Learning, ‘khel’ means ‘play’ in Hindi) work closely with adolescent girls and boys. They strive to solve problems such as:

70% of mothers consider menstruation ‘dirty’, perpetuating a culture of shame and ignorance

Secondly organisations can learn what others have done and how they have been able to become sustainable with an aim to replicate similar models. In turn, this can drive funding and resources towards a country that is known to be open to new ideas and approaches.

With sport and gender being one the most read and discussed topics on sportanddev.org, it can be said that this is a unique and peak time for gender based initiatives. The chance presents itself, to not only tackle gender bias and create equality but also to drive programmes/organisations to do more. Across the world there are many organisations working to tackle gender issues and hence there are lots of tools, research papers and opportunities to learn from each other.

Series summary
India is a great country. With its diversity, cultural delights, traditions, cuisine, trajectory as an emerging economy and more, it must acknowledged as having achieved many things. Conversely, it still faces many challenges to progress and might be perceived as being behind many other countries. When it comes to sport and development, similar things might be said.

The country is bursting at its seams to offer more, explore new heights and set a global standard. Change lies in the hands of its people to make this happen. When sport combines with social efforts, great change is achieved. Stakeholders, from parents to sporting stars to organisation heads, can learn from each other when approaching the challenges India faces. Together, transformation has happened and will continue to do so. What that change looks like in the future – that’s all that remains to be seen.

This article is the final part of four pieces about India’s sport and development landscape.

Part 1: India’s sport and development landscape today
Part 2: Fundraising in India
Part 3: India, cricket and change

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Published

Wednesday, November 9, 2016 - 10:12