Role of physical activity and sport in leadership and empowerment for women in India
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The Role of Physical Activity and Sport in Leadership and Empowerment for Women in India
The Sports and Society Accelerator (SSA), in collaboration with the Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) under the aegis of G20Empower, hosted a closed door roundtable in New Delhi, India on 25 May.

The focus of this roundtable was to deliberate and strategise on the crucial importance of physical activity and sports in optimising leadership for women, with the aim of making it a key component of India's national development agenda for 2047.

The roundtable provided a platform to set the context on this issue, enabling participants to share their expertise and insights. It witnessed the participation of diverse leaders from the public and private sectors, government, and other stakeholder representatives towards building a focused movement to champion the cause of physical activity and sport.

The discussions also touched upon the importance of creating an environment where adequate physical activity is encouraged and supported, thus making India an active, healthy, and productive nation.

The roundtable concluded with the release of a discussion brief titled ‘The Role of Physical Activity and Sport in Leadership and Empowerment for Women in India’. The discussion brief highlights the unequal background when it comes to physical activity and
sports access for Indian women.

While it is universally acknowledged that participation rates in sports and active recreational activities are lower for women than for men, Indian women also have to combat regressive mindsets, and constraining social attitudes and practices. It is also likely that the situation has worsened because of COVID-19 due to increased sedentary lifestyles and the added burden of domestic care work for women in addition to curtailed movement owing to a variety of reasons.

The discussion brief looks at the positive impact and wide range of benefits when it comes to playing a sport or being physically active - with respect to better physical, mental and social health, in addition to socio-economic gains. Further, the brief also brings out the importance of physical activity and sport in optimising leadership for women.

For instance, research conducted by EY showed the role sport can play at every stage of professional women’s lives, with a survey finding that 94% of women in the C-suite played sports and 52% at a university level.

The brief goes on to highlight the specific barriers faced by women when it comes to accessing physical activity avenues or playing a sport. Some of these barriers include a lack of awareness and recognition about physical activity, safety concerns, strong traditional gender roles in society, lack of affordable avenues, etc.

The discussion brief ends with a discussion on the immense opportunity that lies ahead with regard to empowering women through sport and physical activity. It is essential to recognise that women come from diverse backgrounds and face different challenges based on their intersecting identities, such as caste, class, social status, and religion.

Therefore, efforts to promote physical activity for women must be inclusive and mindful of these intersecting identities and work towards promoting diversity and inclusion.

The influence of strong female role models is also brought out in the discussion brief, as it can help break down the gender stereotypes and biases that prevent women from participating in these activities. The scope of technology to address critical structural barriers preventing access and participation for women and girls is also a key opportunity for India, which currently holds the G20 Presidency.

The discussion brief is a baseline document basis which WEP and SSA will work together for providing key policy and research output on gender-forward equality and inclusion through physical activity
and sport.

The roundtable was moderated by Ayesha Chaudhary and Radhika Kalra and convened by the SSA team in association with WEP (details on WEP are available in the discussion brief).

Key contributors to the discussion brief are Lokesh Kaza and Mridul Kataria of SSA, with input received from Ayesha and Radhika.

SSA is co-founded by Desh Gaurav Sekhri and Nandan Kamath, and is a not for profit ecosystem builder with a vision of enabling universal physical activity in India by 2047, with every child playing, and every adult active.


Sports and Society Accelerator
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All sports
Sustainable Development Goals
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Target Group
All target groups

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