Bridging the Gender Gap through Sports

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(Akasha Thapa, a community sports trainer with Pro Sports Development, reflects on his journey with Kadam Badhate Chalo, where he witnessed the incredible potential of sports in challenging and overcoming the gender gap in communities.)

Hi! I am Akash Thapa and I started my journey on 5th September, 2017, with Pro Sports Development (PSD) as community sports trainer in Kadam Badhate Chalo (KBC), implemented in partnership with MFF and PRIA.

It was an amazing start for me with KBC. In the first month of my joining, we conducted KBC in 3 states in India (Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh) with 476 youth at 10 villages.  We delivered the recently developed Freedom to Play (F2P) and Gender through Sports (GTS) modules.  The uniqueness of these modules lies in the combination of sports and gender, that how sports can be utilized to overcome gender barriers among youth.

When we started implementing these modules, we came across a number of challenges in the communities that we work with. For example, open defecation, lack of public transportation, dependability on seasonal farming, schools being far from homes, issues of women’s safety, apathy towards welfare of women, lack of exposure and minimum accessibility to co-curricular activities. Given these challenges, I was unsure about how receptive the youth of these communities would be towards our modules and discussing about gender inequality that pervades their everyday lives.

aksha

But from my first month of implementing KBC with the youth, I can recall a small change that I witnessed in Japla, Jharkhand.  On the first day, when I interacted with the youth, I observed that the girls and boys were not mingling with each other and were hesitant in playing together. Even when I asked them to sit, I saw boys were sitting in the front row and girls were sitting at the back in a separate row, with about 5-6 feet space between them. Whenever there is a sports activity in schools, colleges or communities, the general perception is that boys would always take the lead, while girls would either follow or show disinterest.

But as soon as they started taking part in the activities, they started bridging these gaps and breaking away from their prescribed gender roles. This almost instant change was quite surprising for me. I observed that the girls and boys started communicating with each other, were looking happy and relaxed. I noticed that the enthusiasm level of the group, especially while playing sports, was incredible. Girls were taking the lead, boys became more understanding and together, they managed to overcome their own inhibitions in playing and working together.

As a community sports trainer, this was a big learning for me. I realized how sports are a great problem-solving strategy and can help in challenging and overcoming various gender stereotypes.

Watch 19-year-old Deeksha Kumari from Japla share her experience about KBC’s Gender through Sports Workshop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46oPj5gOiLY

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