As the year draws to a close, the International Center for Research on Women's (ICRW) Asia Regional Office in New Delhi, India, is preparing to expand a groundbreaking program that uses sports as a vehicle for social change.
In this case the sport is cricket, omnipresent in India, from high-end neighborhoods to slum communities. The ICRW program is called Parivartan, an innovative effort that from 2008 to 2012 drew in young men and boys through cricket to challenge them to question traditional notions of manhood in their society and teach them about respecting women and girls and preventing violence against them. Targeting boys 10 to 16 years old, the program took place in formal cricket sessions at Mumbai schools as well as informal settings in two Mumbai slum communities called Shivaji Nagar and ChittahCamp. With funding from The Nike Foundation, Parivartan was modeled after the "Coaching Boys Into Men" program by Futures Without Violence (formerly Family Violence Prevention Fund).
Now, ICRW will launch another version of Parivartan in 2013 with a new group of youth in two underserved areas. In a separate effort, experts in the New Delhi office also are proposing to scale up the original Parivartan model in two states that hold the highest incidences of violence against women nationally.
In each of these new endeavors, youth may play cricket or a different sport that is popular in their particular community.
ICRW's move comes at a time when the role of sports in international development and social change is gaining traction globally. The growing effort includes programs such as Fight for Peace in Brazil, which uses boxing and martial arts to help youth from violent communities realize their potential; Grassroot Soccer in South Africa, where with soccer games come lessons about HIV prevention; and Women Win, which uses sports as a strategy to advance the rights of girls and women around the world. Meanwhile, the United Nations General Assembly last month reaffirmed in a resolution the power of sports in empowering women and girls, strengthening education, facilitating conflict and more.
Indeed, Parivartan's program proved to have an impact on shifting participants' ideas about manhood and women's roles in society - their views became less patriarchal and more gender equitable after the program. Results from ICRW's evaluation of Parivartan demonstrated that sensitizing boys to gender issues can potentially change stereotypes they hold as well as their attitudes about violence against women.
For the next phase of the program, ICRW will develop "Parivartan Plus" as part of the British Department for International Development's STRIVE effort, which aims to address structural drivers - such as poverty and HIV-related stigma - that continue to fuel the AIDS epidemic. Parivartan Plus will take place in rural Karnataka in southern India and again in Shivaji Nagar, the Mumbai slum community of about 600,000 residents by using the local sport as a medium of engaging with adolescents.
The original Parivartan program model will be at the core of Parivartan Plus. However, ICRW and its partners will build upon the model by designing a curriculum to include components of HIV prevention, sexual and reproductive health as well as substance and alcohol use. And, for the first time, girl athletes will be included in the program.
"Part of what we want to evaluate is the feasibility of incorporating this Parivartan Plus model into the overall STRIVE strategy," said ICRW's Madhumita Das, a senior technical specialist who directs the Parivartan program. "We also want to better understand the links between gender norms, violence, substance use, HIV and sexual and reproductive health among youth."
The Parivartan Plus curriculum will be implemented by Kartnataka Health Promotion Trust (KHPT) with girls and boys in 40 to 60 schools and their catchment areas including thousands of villages in two districts in North Karnataka.
Girls also would be included for the first time in the other proposed Parivartan effort, which would involve a major expansion of the program. ICRW is proposing to replicate the original Parivartan model - this time with girls, too - in the states of Bihar and Rajasthan, which respectively have the highest and second-highest incidence of violence against women.
ICRW would partner with Magic Bus, an organization that uses sports-based curriculum to improve children's lives to reach an estimated 7,500 participants with almost 360 mentor coaches by engaging boys and girls of similar age from 90 villages across two districts of Bihar and Rajasthan. The original Parivartan program reached about 1,200 athletes.
Das said that the original Parivartan curriculum for the proposed expanded program should easily be transferrable to an audience of girls. "It's the way that you take up the discussion, not the content," she said. "And for girls especially, being involved in sports can be transformative in terms of boosting girls' confidence and self-efficacy."
"If you really want to achieve gender equality and reduce gender-based violence and see a larger impact on the lives of women and girls, you need to engage with boys and girls," Das added. "It's an investment in both."
Additional Resources: Parivartan: Transformation Through Sports