Challenging gender norms in the Mumbai slums

15 February 2017
Shweta Bankar & Sephy Valuks

A Kabaddi tournament and graduation ceremony event marks the successful conclusion of the Parivartan – change at play programme.

Parivartan for girls is a sports and mentoring programme designed to increase adolescent girls’ self-esteem, self-confidence and educational aspirations. In the Shivaji Nagar slum area of Mumbai, STRIVE partner International Centre for Research on Women - Asia Regional Office (ICRW-ARO) engages young women to coach the traditional Indian contact sport of Kabaddi. The coaches are trained to mentor groups of girls aged between 12 and 16.

The programme empowers adolescent girls to be active in ways that have not previously been considered ‘appropriate’ for them. Mentors support girls to:

  • improve their physical fitness
  • occupy public space safely
  • discuss topics ranging from life skills and health, to gender, violence and sexual harassment

On 11 December 2016, the public sports ground at Shavaji Nagar was flooded with girls in their blue track and field uniforms. A total of 93 girls participated in the tournament. Previously many had felt unable to leave their houses without covering their heads. Girls were visibly eager to get on the pitch and play in front of the excited crowds of onlookers.

I look forward to tournaments like these, where I can play and show people the skills we have developed in the programme. I no longer fear playing in public. Tournaments like these help me build my confidence that I can be an achiever.

The programme has positively affected the girls’:

  • confidence
  • negotiation skills
  • aspirations

These girls now look forward to continuing their education and aspire for a career as a result of their increased mobility.  Parents interviewed at the event expressed pride at their daughters occupying public space and playing like professionals. Many had felt a change in their daughter’s confidence which had led to an increase in trust.

More information about the programme is available on the Parivartan project page.