Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Harnessing Women’s Potential in Sports

The first half of the first day at TURF 2013 turned out to be an exhausting affair for a good majority of the audience as the head count at the concluding session of the day, “Harnessing Women’s Potential in Sports” was comparatively lower. But looking at how the session went, there won’t be any exaggeration in saying that those who left were the ones who missed out big time.

Some Key Steps to Take

The session started with Miss Sunita Godara expressing her views on the shortcomings at present and what needs to be done to bring about an improvement. She believes that champions need to be acknowledged rather than forgotten. Acknowledgment can help motivate the people who look up to those sporting champions. It is also important because people who are from the same region or district as the sportsperson highly correlate to her. Any disregard to her achievements will only dampen the morale of those masses. Secondly, myths like a woman will lose her beauty and look masculine and won’t be able to perform in sports after marriage need to be dispelled. Along with that, it is also crucial that female coaches are employed for female athletes and that too after proper scrutiny so that any physical problems can be confidentially shared and there is no risk of exploitation.

Authorities need to provide equal opportunities at micro as well as macro levels for having higher number of athletes at both state and national levels. And to take care of the well-being of athletes, the healthcare system needs to be improved to the extent where it is at least on par with the world average. Being a former Asian marathon champion herself, Miss Godara’s view hit the nail right on the head about how to tackle the prevailing issues head-on.

If New Zealand can, then India can as well..

Next on the dias was Miss Penny Simonds, VP, Women's Hockey Federation NZ. Using the good practices that have helped New Zealand women's hockey succeed as the context, the main agenda of her address was to highlight how it can be improved for female athletes here. 

In comparison to India, New Zealand has a measly population of just 4 million people. The first important step there has been to facilitate better infrastructure. As an example, for every 500 athletes there is one turf available. To ensure empowerment of women, the academics there are women-oriented and social sports is prevalent to keep women engaged and involved. Female administrators in female sports is a mandate and career in sports administration is encouraged. And to maintain a connect within the group, junior athletes are mentored by their seniors.

Now despite mentioning these practices, it was clear from her words that replicating the New Zealand model is not the solution and neither would it help. Her thought was that India and New Zealand need to work together to develop better infrastructure and offer sports sciences to utilize the large existing population of females to bring more women into sports. 

The MoU signed between FICCI and SIT (Southern Institute of Technology), New Zealand is the first step in that direction.

Empowering Jharkand girls for 5 years 

And just when everyone would have thought the session couldn't get any better, it did with what Mr. Franz Gastler shed light on. He has been running Yuwa India, a football academy for young girls from slums in Jharkand. A very novel idea, the academy had a simple and low-key beginning and has grown in leaps and bounds since then. It is a football training home to around 600 female football players at present. According to the incredibly humble Mr. Gastler, it is just a simple plan put into execution and its success can be attributed to the transparent principles and methodology and the active involvement of the girls. The lovely video compilation that beautifully showcased all the hard work that has been done was one of the high points of the day.

A great conclusion to the 1st Day at TURF 2013!

Unlike some of the other sessions, complexity was thrown out the window for this one. The session was well-moderated and views regarding how India can have more female athletes were expressed clearly and there was a very earthy approach to the issues which made this session engaging yet enjoyable.  

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