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This Foundation Is Promoting Gender Equality With Mixed-Gender Sports

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Gender inequality and gender-based discrimination is an age-old problem in our society. Young girls and women are breaking gender stereotypes and participating in sports with equal vigour and passion. Consequently, sports has become one of the impactful platforms to promote gender equality. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has acknowledged sport as an important facilitator of sustainable development. Moreover, the United Nations acknowledges the role of sports in achieving SDG 5 (Gender Equality). 

Moving in this direction, Pro Sport Development (PSD) believes that sport is a powerful tool in the holistic development of youth and children. PSD has implemented various sports-based interventions at the grassroots in India since its inception in 2013. Through the Community Sports Program (CSP), PSD regularly organizes mixed-gender games and tournaments to aid in the holistic development of children from underprivileged and marginalized backgrounds.

In 2019-20, PSD organized mixed-gender tournaments to bridge the gender gap and promote gender equality, and women empowerment through sports. PSD hosted mixed-gender football and netball tournaments in the schools part of the Community Sports Program in Bhubaneswar, Odisha reaching out to 260 participants (51% girls). These tournaments aimed to break gender barriers and promote mutual respect, inclusion, and better understanding between the participants. 

 “My favourite aspect of the program is that girls and boys play together. Earlier, we used to play separately. Therefore, interacting with girls was a challenge for me. We were the runners up of the Mixed-Gender Netball Tournament held this year. We considered everybody’s suggestions and together devised a winning strategy”, said Shamim from Vivekanand Shiksha Kendra, Bhubaneswar.

Communication is also key to a successful relationship between members of the opposite gender. Another student from Saraswati Shishu Vidya Mandir Revati Nayak, said, “I had noticed I was good at goalkeeping in the practice sessions, so I focused on the basic skills during the mixed-gender football tournament. Moreover, our win was down to good teamwork and constant communication among the team. Our ability to interact with each other was an important factor in breaking rigid gender stereotypes and win the game together!”

“Tournaments such as these are important as they provide exposure to children and build peer-to-peer relationships. Moreover, the mixed-gender format helps break rigid social norms that don’t allow genders to play sports together,” Suheil Farrell Tandon, Founder-Director, PSD

In collaboration with Martha Farrell Foundation (MFF) and Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), Pro Sport Development has been implementing the Kadam Badhate Chalo (KBC) program in various locations across the country to foster gender-equality among youth. 

The sports-based interventions in the KBC curriculum ensure equal participation of boys and girls in the activities and games devised to impart knowledge on breaking gender stereotypes and discrimination. This has led to a better understanding among both the genders and is visible both on the field as well as in the classrooms. Moreover, sports provide a great platform for the youth to come forward and raise questions on the issues of discrimination based on gender thereby making efforts to bridge the gender gap.

Alok Kumar, a teacher at Beena Bharati Vidya Mandir said, “The KBC sessions have fostered better understanding between the students. The activities held during the sessions required teamwork thereby imparting sporting values of teamwork, leadership, and communication skills along with respect for the opinions of their peers.”

“Through mixed-gender games in both CSP and KBC schools, we have fostered a change in the mindsets of girls and boys. They have become more comfortable in each other’s presence since the inception of the programs in their schools. The students interact more with others on and off-field and have started to understand and respect each other well”, said Swagatika Khatei, Community Sports Trainer at PSD.

Sports has the power to unite us in a way that nothing else does. Sports foster a healthy personality and equip youth with better communication and leadership qualities along with inculcating sporting values of teamwork and mutual respect for the opposite gender. It can be concluded that mixed-gender games have become important vehicles to deconstruct the myths of prevalent gender-based stereotypes and bring the world closer to a gender-equal society. 

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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