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“The Gift Boxes Containing Race Cars, Football Or Cricket Bats Are Solely For Our Brothers”

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Men and women are treated equally under the law, but isn’t it always the men who are at the receiving end regarding rights and privileges? Similar is the case in sports. How much we term ourselves as the supreme creation, as the most intelligent beings, we always end up in our narrow mindedness, questioning a woman’s ability based on her gender.

A women’s physical strength has always been considered inferior to men. Although steps are being taken to reduce this gender gap, there lies a lot of social barriers that being a female one has to overcome.

The root cause starts from our families. Gender discrimination begins at home initiated by parents’ unwillingness to let their girl child participate in sports. There exists a line of difference in the upbringing of a girl child and a boy child.

We are taught that girls are not supposed to play in the fields; in the open, girls are delicate, vulnerable, and might get hurt. Be it kabaddi, weightlifting or wrestling, it’s the boys’ sports. The gift boxes containing racing cars, football or cricket bat are solely for our brothers.

Also, sports news and sports channels are mainly watched by the male members of the family because that’s what we grow up listening to, “sports is a field of male activity and interest”. Even one glance at our educational institutes would give us a similar picture. In most schools, sports isn’t a part of the curriculum. Our report cards are what matters. Sports should be made an integral part of the curriculum.

Sports aren’t what we observe as a day once a year, but they should be done dedicatedly and passionately. Even the schools that have sports teams for several games mainly constitute boy’s team. A handful of schools have separate boys and girls team.

Gender isn’t to be blamed; society should be questioned. Why are we taught outdoors sports are not for girls? And when one tries to break away from these traditions, she becomes unacceptable to the society till she achieves something because she is questioned who will marry you with such a physique once you start with sports! Winning in sports for women is an achievement and a step forward to combat society’s stereotypical thoughts.

Women are objectified and commented at, leading to further male dominance in the sports industry. The biggest struggle for female athletes is the inequality of pay. The Global Sports Salaries Survey 2017 identifies that the gender pay gap issue in sports is more than in any other professional fields.

Even attaining the first rank in the women’s final, they are not given equal payment, which their male counterparts receive. This is an example of peoples’ sheer disbelief that female athletes can perform with all their might and reach the audience’s expectations.

Still, no one wants to invest or sponsor a women’s team or a women’s league because they might never reach the popularity which a men’s team does. The Forbes 2018 Highest Paid Athletes report does not mention a single sportswoman within its top hundred.

The fan following for men’s sport is beyond imagination, epitomizing sports as a male’s activity. Hence money generation, including merchandising, ticket sales, advertisers etc., are inclined to the male sports category. It is considered “less manly” when the same is done for the women.

BCCI’s 2018 contracts clearly show the pay gap difference, where an A-grade women cricketer received fifty lakhs, which is half the amount received by a C-grade men cricketer, whose earning is one crore. The worst-hit sport in case of the pay gap is football, though even hockey being India’s national sport experiences a severe wage gap ratio.

Questions can arise on women’s physical capabilities, but sports as a discipline is a matter of daily exercise and practice with focus and determination. Research says women’s bodies have better flexibility and balance, thereby providing them with greater endurance. This gender ideology prevents women from getting the financial support and resources for their participation in sports.

There also exists a lack of media coverage on women’s sports. Also, women’s sports do not receive the same viewership ratings as men’s sports. Neither there is equal investment in sports brands for men and women. UNESCO reports say keeping aside the major festivals, women sports receive only 4% of all media coverage. Similar is the case with crowd turnouts.

It isn’t necessary or important to cheer for the women’s team as much as it’s done for the men’s team. From 1896 till 2016, the graph for the number of men’s event in the Summer Olympics showed values more than 150 while that of women didn’t even touch the same. Another factor is that a women’s attainment of success, excluding the great personalities, is hardly ever portrayed. Also, it’s high time we give equal importance to all sports genres and not only the pinnacle sports such as cricket, football and hockey.

However, over thirty-five years of research on gender and sports, scholars believe that there have been significant changes in the sports industry in order to resist and reduce the male-female controversies. Several Olympic Movement stakeholders have also tried hard in implementing rules and regulations for the same around the world.

In the past decade, women teams have been incorporated in almost all genres. There is government’s participation and NGOs are working to promote women in sports. A BBC report says a total of 83% of sports now awards men and women equal prize money. It’s not only about financial support but also the lack of encouragement that hinders women from participating in sports.

The tag of “one has no future in sports”, the profession’s uncertainty needs to be removed, and media can play an essential role in bringing more women athletes into this sports field. It’s not about competitiveness but equal recognition that female athletes strive for.

Mithali Raj is known as the “second Sachin Tendulkar” for her current status of being the all-time leading run-scorer in all formats, but the society is to be questioned why isn’t she called the first Mithali Raj? Why she has to bear someone else’s recognition in order to be termed successful? If we genuinely want to bring a change, it needs to be done from the root levels. It’s time that we address the cause, seek solutions and execute the plan. Talents shouldn’t go unappreciated, hard work shouldn’t go unnoticed, and success needs to be recognized, only then can women compete on equal grounds.

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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.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

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.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

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.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

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
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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