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Why Building A Sports Culture Is Crucial For India To Develop

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Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Mary Kom, Deepa Malik, Mithali Raj, Saina Nehwal and the list goes long. These are some of the names we often come across in our day to day life. Well, Who are they?
They are neither doctors nor engineers; they are sportspersons. Everyone appreciates them, loves them, but how many of us dare to become like them? What are the reasons that dissuade us from choosing sports as a career? What is the value and significance of sports in our “modern” society? How do we contextualize sports to India and find ways to promote sports culture?
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These are some of the questions that dive profoundly into the idea of sports culture, and the way we perceive sports in our society. The objective of this article is to promote sports culture among the people and integrate sports in their development process.
Sports are an integral part of our evolution and development as a human being. Running has substantially shaped human evolution (Bramble). The endurance running hypothesis illustrates the evolution of certain human peculiarities as adaptations to long-distance running. We can also experience this in our surrounding nature. If we observe pets or animals closely, especially during morning and evening, they play among each other in their unique ways. Nature is the same for all, and living beings are designed in such a way that we love to play. It is somewhere connected in the process of our development.
This is the reason why, when a child starts walking, they learn to run and jump gradually on their own. One of the main problems in our society is the age-old notion of showing sports as inferior to education. But, it can be argued that sports are an inevitable part of education. There is a local saying: “padhoge likhoge banoge nawab, kheloge kudoge banoge kharab” This proverb means that to achieve success in life, you have to study and at the same time, reflects that if you play, you will ruin your life.
If we analyze this phrase in our current times, it shows that most of our parents believe that sports are just means of passing the time and that students should not waste their crucial time playing. They suspect that sports are an excuse for children to escape their studies. The outcome of this mentality is quite apparent in our generation, especially at a time when virtual and mobile gaming devices have occupied a large part of one’s life. It has significantly reduced the time children used to devote to fields and physical sports.
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I reckon, everyone reading this article must have remembered the time when we used to get a free period during our school days or dedicated “game” period as such, how we used to run to the ground and play like it is the last day of our life. But as we grew old, we lost that sportsperson inside us. It is truly remarkable to realize what sports nurture inside us, and how it is as important as education for success.
Sports teach us many things in the process of playing, which also serves as an essential factor in our physical, mental and personal development. It teaches us valuable qualities like time management, leadership, responsibility-taking, teamwork, challenging authority and winning enthusiasm, excitement and confidence. These are some intangible advantages of sports that cannot be discovered in books or virtual gaming devices. Apart from this, it is not a hidden secret that sports keep us fit and healthy, and it helps us function better and perform well in our day-to-day routine.
It has been found in several studies that those who play sports are less prone to stress and other health disorders than those who do not. Sports can also serve as a critical suicide prevention mechanism. Nowadays, we hear a lot of students and young people ending their life due to an over-competitive environment and other societal pressures falling prey to worsened mental health conditions. Sports can be very much helpful to curb these kinds of difficulties.
In the context of India, sports is generally associated with cricket, where the majority of people follow the Indian cricket team. We are all aware of the excitement in the India-Pakistan match, and the Indian Premier League, which also gets worldwide attention. But, the subtle question is that: is it the only sport that deserves recognition? Even, when we say, “Indian cricket team,” how many of us think about the Indian women’s cricket team? What about other sports, like swimming, shooting, badminton, volleyball, football etc.?
The answer lies in the question itself. It is that we do not appreciate these sports enough because we are relatively less familiar with them. This public opinion must be transformed to give an inclusive space to all kinds of sports, and every gender must get equal recognition. The very nature of sports is to unite. It doesn’t discriminate, and it has no boundaries as such.
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There are many hidden talents in our country especially in the rural regions, which, if provided with a platform and training, can make India proud in various national and international level events like the Olympics, the Commonwealth etc. For example, tribal children living in the forests of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand have enormous potential in terms of sports. They are very good at swimming, tree climbing, running etc. without any formal training. The need of the hour is to build a sports culture where proper coaching could be provided to the individuals that help them in their development. But, the idea of development here is different from the prevalent belief.

Instead of following some rigorous age-old learning, there should be a proper learning methodology, primarily driven by sports. It is a two-way exercise where both students and instructors participate in the learning process. People should come together so that they can impact the lives of each other for a positive change and a better future. Now, the problem is, how can we participate in the process and rebuild society to elevate the status of sports? How can we contribute to the change?
We need authentic platforms and NGOs that can serve the desired purpose. Some of the organizations like “Play and Shine foundation” are working tremendously at a pan-India level for the novel cause of social development by sports and reaching out to the most vulnerable and underprivileged children from time to time. It is a platform where each one of us can come together to promote sports as a means of development.
Change is a process, and as Robin Sharma puts it: “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.” Let’s join our hands to bring out the change and come together to guarantee every individual the right to have an equal opportunity to play sports. And, expand the outreach of touching at least one million lives by the end of 2022.
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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.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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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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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.

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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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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