Women empowerment gets a Saina boost in Haryana

In an unprecedented inter-disciplinary research on sports economics, the Delhi University, which recently released its half-yearly report has come up with the finding that sportspersons can change social stereotypes and help rewrite societal rules.

Taking Saina Nehwal who hails from Haryana as the case study, a 13-member research team including three teachers, discovered that the acceptability of girls in sports in the rural areas of the state is changing fast and the parents want their girls to play outdoor sports, unlike before. Haryana’s sex ratio is 877 females per 1,000 males (2011 census) in sharp contrast to the national average of 940.

Having surveyed hundreds of residents in rural Haryana, the research team mentored by Arjun J Chaudhuri, sports commentator and anchor, found that the middle class now dreams of a different future for its girls. Households are considering sports as a tool of social empowerment. “Families from poor villages have started believing that their daughters – when successful in sports – can change their family’s economics,” said Chaudhuri. The research team also interviewed Krishen Pradhan, former sarpanch of Pakasma village, who attributed the cha­n­ging mindset to the government’s incentive given to sportspersons. Many of them are given government jobs and medal winners from Haryana are offered huge cash rewards. Recently, the state government made it compulsory for every schoolchild to play at least one sport.

“The silent social shift is becoming visible in the least likely places — in small villages of Haryana which are infamous for female foeticide and honour killings,” said Prof Smita Mishra from SGTB Khalsa College. Two faculty members from the same college, Dr Nachiketa Singh and Dharmendra Kumar also contributed to the research.

Around 74 per cent of the rural people  surveyed said they would prefer that both boys and girls play sports instead of 21 per cent who want only their boys on the sports field. The report also pointed out that the sex ratio in Haryana, though currently at absymally low of  877 females, is its best in past 110 years.

More than 87 per cent of the respondents, including schoolchildren knew that badminton player Saina Nehwal and wrestler Geeta Phogat hail from Haryana.

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