Changing paradigms: Breaking gender norms through sports!
Pro Sport Development (PSD) in collaboration with Girls Not Brides organised a two-day joint consultation called "Changing the game: Sports for gender equity and ending child marriage" from 5-6 November 2019 in New Delhi. Members from 40 organisations from across 16 states in India, along with a few participants from Nepal, Bangladesh, and the UK deliberated the role of sports in breaking gender norms.
The aim was to understand the sports-based strategies that can be used in challenging gender stereotypes and empowering girls and women to stand up against child, early and forced marriages. On the first day, specially curated presentations in the form of a keynote address, a panel discussion with youth leaders as well as TED-style talks informed the participants about the experience of individuals and organisations in using sport for to challenge gender norms. On the second day, participants engaged in interactive workshops to share learnings, challenges and key recommendations to take this agenda forward.
There were many insightful takeaways recorded on day one. In his keynote address, Sai Krishna Pulluru, director at Anantapur Sports Academy, pointed out that sports have inspired girls to take their own decisions and be the masters of their future.
Stories were shared by several young leaders at the consultation on how sports-based interventions played a major role in their lives. They testified that sports had inspired them to counter the practice of child marriage in their communities. “I am 23, and not married and will get married when I want to”, said Afreen, a youth leader from the Centre for Equity and Inclusion (CEQUIN).
Mohit Chhabra, a youth leader from Martha Farrell Foundation, spoke of the role of boys and men in promoting girls in sports. “Initially, I hesitated to play with girls, thinking of how people would react since I was told that girls and boys should play separately. Later, I realised the importance of interaction between genders. Now, I encourage the girls in my community to participate in sports actively”.
These testimonies made it clear that stakeholders acknowledged the impact sports can have in challenging gender norms. Speakers also acknowledged that families and community members have started accepting the participation of girls in sports and stated their support in their fight against gender disparity.
The second day of the consultation focused on in-depth group discussions where the participants identified key challenges to the participation of girls in sports such as a lack of sports equipment and qualified coaches, menstrual health, safe playing spaces, and sexual harassment.
PSD aims to work together with Girls Not Brides and their members in India and other countries in the future, to further the agenda of changing gender norms through sports. To ensure the implementation of key learnings and recommendations from this convening, a report on the consultation will be shared with various organisations and stakeholders, channelling a collaborative effort to end child marriages and foster equal participation of girls and boys in sports.