Parivartan, a programme of the International Centre for Research on Women, is leveraging cricket to make boys gender sensitive
At the outset one tends not to believe this but cricket is making positive change by making hundreds of boys and men gender sensitive. In a country where a number of popular Bollywood films like Chak De India, Udaan and Lagaan, have used sports as a means to inspire people to bring about positive change in society, the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) has tapped into this potential by using cricket as a tool to promote gender equity, respect for women and reduce gender-based violence.
Parivartan, a programme started by ICRW, leverages the critical role of cricket coaches as role models in the lives of adolescent boys and trains them to promote gender equitable attitudes among young athletes, aged between10-16 years.
ICRW's rationale behind using the domain of sports is simple, says Madhumita Das from ICRW. “It is where masculinity norms for young adolescents take shape, and it is where these norms can be changed and tweaked in a gender-equitable way to build sensitised young men.”
Dr. Ravi Verma, Regional Director of ICRW said: “Sports have a tendency to normalise harmful aspects of masculinity through promoting aggression and violence in acceptable and often rewarding form.”
The programme has already been rolled out in Mumbai as a phase of testing the concept. ICRW is expected to disseminate the findings and learning from Parivartan in Delhi this week.
Importantly, the three-year long Parivartan programme, which was implemented in 45 schools across Mumbai, showed substantial positive change among the attitudes of the concerned coaches themselves even before it touched the young athletes.
Ms. Das said, “From being unwilling to even consider girls within cricket -- terming it as a male sport -- believing that aggression is necessary for an athlete, and showing limited understanding of gender inequities, the transformation in attitudes of coaches was phenomenal.”
In Parivartan, ICRW adopted and modified training materials of a United States-based programme called ‘Coaching Boys into Men' (CBIM) to the Indian context. “As part of this programme, coaches had to explicitly talk to the boys about respect towards women and girls and how violent and disrespectful behaviour is neither essential for being a real man nor needed to succeed in life,” Ms. Das explained.
Explaining the methodology of Parivartan, Ms. Das said, “Coaches from the selected schools were trained intensively and provided with a range of tools such as handbooks, interactive cards, posters etc. to engage young athletes in these issues. They then began talking to students on a weekly basis on topics covering respect, ethics, gender norms, gender-based violence.”
Ms. Das explained that by using the interactive card series to initiate discussions, coaches reported observing a marked difference in the attitudes of the students over time. “With each session, I can vouch there was a change in the cognition of these boys. Once you go in the depths of a discussion—making it light, yet serious at the same time—you will see there is a change in their thinking level. And this you will see has also resulted in a change in their attitude level,” Ms. Das quoted a coach as saying.
Alongside schools, ICRW also tested the programme within the informal structure of mohalla cricket which is the normal form of the game in communities. Through Parivartan, young men with leadership qualities were trained also, to act as mentors to sensitize adolescent boys.