Parents need to be informed, sensitised and witness to the positive developments in their children to be able to heartily support the SDP organisations/individuals working with their children. Their support would notably add to the efforts put in by SDP professionals.
In the recent past, two reports of immense significance for all involved in sports for development and peace (SDP) initiatives were published in the Indian media. The first concerns a family of professional wrestlers from Haryana who are challenging parochial traditions. The state is infamous for female feticide, unequal sex ratio, child marriages, dowry killings and patriarchal Khap panchayats. The second report is from a neighbouring state, Uttar Pradesh (U.P), where Kabbadi is healing wounds inflicted by the communal riots a year ago.
A story about wrestling
When Mahavir Singh Phogat, a wrestler himself, introduced his daughters to the wrestling-pit, the villagers objected in the strongest possible manner. In a society where women have no role to play apart from carrying out household chores, bringing them into the pits was nothing less than challenging the patriarchal dominance. The family was criticised by everyone, including the girls’ grandmother.
It will not be an exaggeration to say that Mahavir’s resolve and the hard earned victories of the three sisters (Geeta Phogat, Vinesh and Babita Kumari) at international events, has brought about a social revolution in the society where a girl-child was considered no less than a curse. The villagers now see role models in the three.
A story about kabaddi
The family of Lal Mohammad was vehemently against letting his two daughters, Shabnam and Rookaiya, play kabbadi with their teammates from the Jat (Hindu) community. It has been just a year since one of the worst kinds of communal violence, in about a decade, engulfed most of the villages in Muzaffarnagar district of U.P. The wounds are yet to heal and tensions remain high, but Lal yielded to the repeated requests of his daughters.
Both the girls are now playing for the district team which comprises of nine Muslim and 11 Jat girls. Kabbadi is the new religion for these girls and it is acting as a vital catalyst in fostering communal harmony amongst the Muslims and Jats. People could be seen shedding inhibitions and mingling together while watching the game.
For the SDP community the lesson to be learned from the above examples is, for sport based initiatives to yield desired results, we need to make parents an important stakeholder of the process. It is important that we encourage parents to actively engage themselves with both the child and the initiative. Had the parents not supported the girls, who knows, perhaps by now they would be lingering in the darkness society was pushing them into.