Table tennis for gender equality
In collaboration with the ITTF Foundation’s Dream Building Fund, Pro Sport Development (PSD) began a new project, the Community Table Tennis Program, in April 2021. The program uses table tennis as a tool for the holistic development of children from marginalized backgrounds in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.
Focusing specifically on addressing issues of gender inequality, the program aims to empower girls and boys between the ages of 10-15 years to become gender-sensitive and take leadership within their schools and communities to confront rigid gender norms. The students come from four community-based schools in Bhubaneswar, where the program is being implemented through a structured and goal-oriented table tennis curriculum.
Preparing the program
In June 2021, PSD completed designing the three components of the program curriculum - table tennis skills, soft skills, and gender sensitization. A team to implement the program was also formed - support workers, a gender trainer, a table tennis coach and two peer leaders were recruited to carry out the program.
Prior to delivering the program, the team was provided with capacity building and gender sensitization training, to help them deliver sessions smoothly and competently. In September, partner organization Martha Farrell Foundation assisted in developing the gender component of the program curriculum.
Understanding the importance of and need for robust monitoring and evaluation, an M&E framework was developed by the PSD team to capture all necessary data and information for the project team to be able to effectively track the impacts and outcomes of the program. This includes a baseline survey to gauge participants’ understanding of gender-based discrimination, in order to trace their gender-sensitization journeys through the program. Thus far, the baseline survey has been conducted with 179 participants.
Implementation of the program
Due to COVID-19 related school closures, the PSD team and school administration decided to start the program online in October. In the online version, WhatsApp groups of participants were created by PSD trainers, and these groups were used to provide participants with information relating to the program and upcoming sessions.
Despite the uncertainties caused by the pandemic, PSD was able to register a total of 252 participants (46% of whom are girls) in all four Bhubaneswar schools. With schools beginning to open in October, the program sessions have started to be conducted face-to-face and we have seen an attendance rate of 80%, despite the ongoing challenges.
Thus far, a total of 78 sessions, 57 of which were conducted on-ground, have been held. The sessions have focused on themes such as health and hygiene during COVID-19, teamwork, communication, leadership and nutrition.
Children have been very excited about the continuation of the program face-to-face. As Sandhya Rani Rout, a class 8 student, said:
“Our on-ground sessions have started again and boys and girls are getting to play together. I'm having fun learning how to play table tennis, which I've never played before, and it has increased my interest in the game and motivated me to learn it so that I can continue to play it in the future.”
With the possibility of a new wave of COVID-19, due to the Omicron variant, schools are expected to be shut again. However, the PSD team is ready to pivot online, if needed. Indeed, even the online sessions have been a success with participants, as noted by N. Rahul Rao, a class 8 student:
“I'm very happy to be a part of the table tennis programme. Through the online classes, I learned about teamwork and leadership, as well as how to stay healthy at home. We're all having fun playing table tennis together. I think this game will help me move forward in future.”