While West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is attempting to ride piggyback on the IPL success of the Kolkata Knight Riders to whip up enthusiasm for her flagging ‘pariborton' (change) agenda, a Delhi-based think tank is attempting to link ‘parivartan' and cricket for an entirely different purpose – gender equity.

The International Centre for Research on Women's (ICRW) initiative, Parivartan, has developed a module to use sports to sensitise young boys on gender issues, especially gender-based violence.

“What we have done is a small experiment of building gender concept through sports; essentially changing masculinity norms. We believe that by creating more equitable men we can create equitable social relationships outside the sporting arena,” said Ravi K. Verma, Regional Director of ICRW.

The study, undertaken by ICRW and Futures Without Violence, engaged cricket coaches and mentors in schools and communities to teach boys to control aggression and promote respect towards women. It involved 600 participants from schools and communities.

Conducted over three years, the project found a significant attitude change among the participants in the control group (300 athletes), who received these messages and participated in discussions with their coaches.

For example, the number of participants who believed that only men should work went down to 39 per cent from 52 per cent earlier. The number of athletes who felt a wife should always obey her husband dipped from 62 percent to 45 percent at the end of the study period.

However, though an attitude change was witnessed, there was no considerable change in their behaviour as bystanders or when actually witnessing harassment or violence against women.

“The first thing that needs to happen is a change in one's own attitude to violence, then it has to translate into action and then into intervention. You empower a person by giving these notions of equality and hope they change. Three years is a short period of time for bringing about fundamental changes,” Verma said.

He added that as young athletes look up to their coaches, engaging coaches for such an activity is effective.

Further, Sushma Kapoor said that India should also use the star-power of sports stars to take the message of gender-based violence to people.

In the recently concluded season of IPL, the Delhi Daredevils team had partnered with the Centre for Equity and Inclusion (CEQUIN) to promote gender equality on radio and TV, with messages such as “Treat women with the respect they deserve and you will deserve to be called a Daredevil.”

The study engaged cricket coaches and mentors in schools and communities to teach boys to control aggression and promote respect towards women.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 31, 2012)
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