By Sandeep Dasika:
School girls everywhere are made to believe that wherever they go, they can be just as smart, athletic and successful as boys. However, the story is not the same in reality. From the moment they are born, girls are forced to realize that even instances wherein only talent and passion are the quintessential distinguishers, they are still to be inferior to their male counterparts.
Welcome to the world of gender discrimination!
Unsurprisingly, sports, which house the careers of the most passionate and the aspiring, is also a major concern when it comes to the issue of gender discrimination. Male dominance in sports has become a nightmare for female athletes, who in the hope of pursuing their careers in the field of sports, have been deprived of self-esteem among a plethora of gender discrimination instances.
Women’s participation in sports has a long history. It is a history marked by discrimination, but also one that is filled with major accomplishments by female athletes and important advances for gender equality. Among many, some of the most notable achievements of women in sports are those of Helene Madison of the United States of America, the first woman to win the 10-yard freestyle in one minute at the 1932 Olympics, Maria-Teresa de Filippis of Italy, the first woman to compete in a European Grand Prix auto race in 1958, and Tegla Loroupe of Kenya, who in 1994 became the first African woman to win a major marathon. These achievements were made in the face of numerous barriers based on gender discrimination.
Many factors have led to the continuance of this ill practice; one such factor being the media. By lesser representation of the achievements of women in sports, the media has cut down the possibility of a farther reach of talent possessed by female athletes to the audience. Several studies done on media coverage of women sports go on to prove that women sports are generally ignored or are given very less importance. In addition, sexual harassment has also been a major concern, especially in developing countries like India. The recent accusation of coach M K Kaushik by the 31 members of the Indian women hockey squad bring out in the open, a badly kept secret – that Indian sportswomen are constantly exploited.
Also, women are often perceived as being too weak for sport, particularly endurance sports like marathons and weightlifting. Most people still hold the belief that sports are harmful to women’s health, particularly to their reproductive health. However, the data available suggests that women derive many health benefits from participating in sports. Separate studies from two economists provide evidence to the fact that sports can result in lifelong improvements to educational, work and health prospects. Participation in sports can prevent many non-communicable diseases which account for over 60 percent of global deaths, 66 percent of which occur in developing countries. For girls, it can have a positive impact on childhood health as well as reduce the risk of chronic diseases in later life.
As such, it is everyone’s responsibility to support the promotion of women in sports and to ensure the empowerment of girls and women.