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Sports effective tool for change in gender issues: Study

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New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) Sensitising young athletes and their coaches about gender issues can be an effective tool for prevention of violence against women, according to a study by a prominent women's rights group.

Revealing the findings of the study, titled Parivartan, at the capital's India Habitat Centre, International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) specialist Madhumita Das Wednesday said that through sensitisation of young athletes and their coaches, "we found that it was possible to create a positive behavioural change towards gender issues".

"We were able to make the coaches realise that their athletes carry on-field teachings off the field too and that the sports education could be a powerful tool for gender sensitivity," she added.

Parivartan, based on American programme "Coaching Boys into Men", utilises the fact that coaches are role models for adolescent athletes and create awareness among them about gender issues and crimes against women. The study was done in 45 schools in Mumbai.

Agreeing with the findings, Vivek Ramchandani of Australian Sports Outreach Programme (ASOP)-India said that sports can be a very powerful tool for creating change and for issues like gender equity. It is not enough to just address the women, there should be interventions for men as well.

"We had done a similar programme in Georgia where men from national rugby team had campaigned for sensitisation of public towards gender issues and crimes against women," Sushma Kapoor of UN Women said.

Similar campaigns have been started in many countries in Asia where UN Women and other United Nations agencies are working with boys and men, on improving gender equity, she added.

Magic Bus's chief operating officer Pratik Kumar added that coaches and mentors could play tremendous role in betterment of the athlete as a person. Magic Bus is an organisation which works in field of education and development of slums.

ICRW regional director Ravi Verma said that by bringing together two key institutions of education and sport, "we have demonstrated that it is possible to sustain behavioural changes".

However, he added that for long-term changes, the projects like Praivartan will have to be followed up on a larger scale and for longer periods.