Emancipation of Women through Sports

International women’s day was recently celebrated and I thought I’d share my musings on a few aspects of sport and women. In the context of gender equality sport has the potential to empower women, amplify their voice and bring down gender barriers. Women in sport have challenged the misperception that they are incapable or unequal. They can bend a ball on the football field much like Beckham or effortlessly clear a hurdle with finesse like Edwin Moses. In 1967, Katherine Switzer made a bold move to bring down the barrier disallowing women to participate in the world’ oldest marathon: The Boston Marathon. Despite this,incredibly enough, women were only allowed to run the marathon in the Olympics in 1988. More recently, in the book ‘Born to Run’, Christopher Mcdougall writes about the finest Ultra runner Ann Trason as being the only one that could have challenged the supremacy of the Tarahumara runners (all male), a Mexican tribe with superlative endurance, at the Leadville 100, a 160 km race over mountainous terrain. In other words, women have held their own. Women are far more visible in sports today than at any previous point in history. In India we currently take pride in the achievements of Mary Kom in boxing, Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik in Wrestling, Dipa Karmarkar in Gymnastics and Hima Das in athletics just to name a few, all of whom have put India on the world stage in sports. Sport is an area in which we can leverage our engagement with the audience to teach everyone that a future where all playing fields are truly level for all women and girls can be achieved. With the running boom spreading across India, it is heart-warming to see women athletes, corporate women and homemakers participate in the Mumbai Marathon, a grand celebration of elite and recreational athletic endeavour. It is here that the change in stereotypes and misconceptions of strength and endurance in women is most visible. Marathons bring thousands of men and women together. These events have the potential to bring universal values of gender equality and non-discrimination. Today we are slowly but surely moving towards fulfilment of the wish expressed by Freidrich Engels when he said, “The emancipation of woman will only be possible when woman can take part in production on a large, social scale, and domestic work no longer claims anything but an insignificant amount of her time.” Special thanks to Mala Mansukhani for connecting us with Daniel Vaz.

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