Sport teaches essential values for developing children into better individuals and citizens for tomorrow by boosting their self-confidence, respect and team spirit. Sport is a powerful tool for inclusion; Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA) uses this transcendental and transformative power to teach younger generations the importance of gender equality.
ASA conducts Mixed Gender sports festivals for the children to encourage them to treat all genders equally and play fairly and respectfully. The Mixed Gender sports festivals are held at the grassroots in the villages to help children understand gender equality and challenge the prevalent gender stereotypes in the communities.
While the first and second phases of the mixed-gender sports festival took place in August and November, respectively, the final leg for the 6th Mixed Gender Sports Festival took place at the Anantapur Sports Academy from December 8 to 10th. 135 matches were conducted across three zones, in Cricket, Hockey, Softball and football, with a participation of 420 girls and 560 boys.
The mixed-gender sports festival garnered a lot of support from the communities. “This is a festival of sport. My son has been training for two years, and this is his second time playing in the mixed-gender Cricket league. This gives him good exposure, and playing with the opposite gender increases respect and teaches him the importance of gender equality from a young age.” said Rama Mohan, a parent.
Nazir, a cricket coach from Kadiri, said, “The Mixed Gender League provides children from rural areas an opportunity to gain exposure and play with various teams across Satyasai and Anantapur Districts. ASA’s efforts to bring gender equality in sports are encouraging and inspiring to the players, parents and coaches at the grassroots level.”
Parents, coaches, players and guests attended the closing event held at Anantapur Sports Village. Sneha Deepthi, India Woman Cricket Player, who was present at the presentation ceremony, said, “I am glad to see that both girls and boys have equal skill and technique, and there is a lot of potential in these players, and I hope to see the girls and boys here representing India one day.”
Talking at the presentation ceremony, Sai Krishna Pulluru, Director of Anantapur Sports Academy, said, “Our mixed-gender festivals are a testament to the power of sport and how sport can transform communities. In the initial years, we faced reluctance from various stakeholders to organise matches with both boys and girls. Today, we see a change as parents, communities, coaches and teachers come together to cheer these children while playing. We achieved a little, and there is a long way to go to lessen the gender gap in sport, and we will be at it.”