“If I weren’t playing sports I would probably be married by now.”
Rashmika Parmar & Saroj Parmar
Medalist at State level in Judo Competition, Shikhar Program, Kalol, Panchmahal
Sports has the potential for inter-generational impact. Sports can be used to challenge entrenched gender norms, reduce the vulnerability of girls and provide them with opportunities and skills required to negotiate life’s transitions. Sports provides a way to reach boys and girls on a variety of social issues, including health, education and human rights. Sports builds skills in communication, teamwork, leadership and negotiation. Sports provides girls with safe spaces in which to assemble, enjoy mobility and freedom of expression, and create their own supportive social networks. Achieving sports goals and playing alongside boys increases their self-esteem and enhances their self-image leading to greater confidence. Studies show that girls participating in sports are less likely to enter into violent relationships, suffer depression or become unwillingly pregnant. Given that sports is traditionally a male domain, girls participation in sports itself challenges stereotypes, breaking deep rooted attitudes held by
boys, families and communities.
Setco Foundation utilizes sports as a medium to empower both adolescent boys and girls and build life-skills capacity. Through its sports program (Shikhar), Setco Foundation promotes healthy practices, education and gender equity. Series of sessions are conducted to highlight the importance of right diet and its health benefits. To build on the values being inculcated by the program, the Shikhar team provides supplementary nutrition to participants on a weekly basis to help curtail instances of malnourishment in the community.
The Shikhar team has also introduced group study sessions amongst the participants of the program to positively boost their educational performance. To further build the capacity of the adolescent in the community, youth are identified and trained to take on the position of sports leaders. The young men and women are allocated the responsibility of conducting regular sports classes in their community.
One of the most interesting findings from the Shikhar project is the manner in which sports has proved to be an effective medium to rework gender biases and create a more egalitarian society. Female youth who initially had trouble getting permission to travel from their homes to their anganwadis are now travelling to other villages for sports sessions and across the state for participating in various competitions.