Can the game of cricket help close the gender divide in India? The British Council’s Changing Moves Changing Minds project thinks so.
Many girls in India have limited access to playing sports and those that display athletic ability are often discouraged or outright mocked for pursuing their passions. The tennis star Sania Mirza, for example, has said that her extended family openly mocked her desire to play tennis.
The British Council is combating those attitudes offering cricket lessons for girls and dance for boys. By offering those two classes the Council hopes to promote positive gender roles bringing confidence to not just the children but their teachers as well.
The dance and cricket classes cover topics like choreography and movement in dance and batting and bowling in cricket. The council is offering these courses in partnership with the Marylebone Cricket Club and the Royal Dance Academy.
Teachers have specialized training for this program. One of the teachers, Ms. Kumari told the BBC that the children were resistant and uncomfortable with these new changes, boys asked “How do we dance with girls?” while girls worried about how to hold the bat to play cricket.
“It’s about challenging stereotypes and saying there aren’t just things that boys do and things that girls do and that’s part of what the dance element does,” said the director of the British Council in India, Alan Gemmell. “We hope that that’s a very small thing to do that might shift behavior or make people think differently about paths that they might take, choices that they might make as they grow up.”
Teachers like Ms. Kumari would answer the questions by motivating the children, empowering girls to be female athletes, broadening the minds of young boys to stereotypically “female” roles like dance and cooking to encourage them. They even spoke to their parents to get them involved in this program.
The British Council has now expanded the program to locations across India with an expected 300,000 students to take part in it. Promoting equality and empowering young children through sports and arts is a powerful method of changing the country, one day at a time.