Community Table Tennis: Females for Our Future, Future is Now
PHOTO: Pro Sport Development
Community Table Tennis (CTT) started in April 2021. The Dream Building Fund 2020 recipient, Pro Sport Development, focuses on using table tennis to teach soft and leadership skills and the concepts of gender, stereotypes, and violence. CTT aims to empower 250 children to become gender-sensitive, confront harmful gender-based stereotypes and impact gender perceptions of peers, family members and schoolteachers.
Today marks the United Nations Day when United Nations (UN) Charter entered into force in 1945. We commemorate 24 October yearly for how the UN has affected to environment and society since its establishment. This year’s theme of UN Day is Our Planet. Our Future.
Global inequality has gotten worse because of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Loss of biodiversity, desertification, pollution and severe weather destroy livelihoods and exacerbate poverty and displacement. Women and girls, who already face disadvantages, became more vulnerable to these crises since they are disproportionately affected and have less access to resources and services.
Supporting girls’ access to the same opportunities as boys gives them a chance to speak up for their rights and promote their communities. Women and girls are not only the victims but the key to solving the problem. A study in 2017 found that the more educated a girl or woman is, the more income and opportunities she has to contribute to her environment. Therefore, through Community Table Tennis initiative, PSD aims to promote gender equality through table tennis training for children aged 10-15.
Community Table Tennis provides a gender-sensitive capacity-building programme using table tennis to teach children about leadership and other soft skills and gender-related issues (stereotypes and violence).
Through the initiative, PSD distributed sports kits, including table tennis rackets and balls, to 223 (119 boys and 104 girls) students. The programme was delivered on-ground across all four schools in Bhubaneswar, including Beena Bharati Vidya Mandir, Bharatpur; Vivekanand Sikshya Kendra, Dumduma; Saraswati Sishu Vidya Mandir, Patrapara; Vivekanand School of Integral Education, Raghunathpur.
During the table tennis-based programme, the students learn diverse topics related to gender, teamwork, communication, and table tennis skills. However, the Bhubaneswar climatic conditions impact the overall programme implementation. The monsoon season and extreme heat waves caused volatility in the children’s attendance. It peaked at 92.5% in July but fell to 15.4% in August due to the unusually heavy monsoon. Climate crises worsens pre-existing gender inequalities. Therefore, progressing toward gender equality is crucial for women and girls to improve their resiliency and adaptive capability, improve their lives and livelihoods, and lessen their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.
“Earlier, when we wanted to play with boys, we were unsure if they would let us play with them. But when PSD started its activities and games, we learned about gender. We also learn about our body changes. I used to think talking about all these things was wrong. Then we slowly started playing and talking to the boys. I am no longer as afraid to talk to boys as I was.” - Rojalin Swain, CTT initiative participant.
Through the CTT initiative, the students started engaging with each other during the table tennis fun activities. They can converse while having fun.
“In PSD-led activities, we play in mixed groups. I was afraid to talk to girls. After participating in Community Table Tennis, I talked to girls and got comfortable with them. I used to think girls couldn’t play and couldn’t do anything. I had all these different thoughts in my mind. But I slowly know they can do it very well [when given a chance] and how we all play together. “ - Prabin Kumar Pradhan, CTT initiative participant.
Gender inequality and climate disasters remain the biggest threats to achieving Sustainable Development Goals. We cannot solve one problem without the other. We commemorate today’s UN anniversary by calling out the worldwide table tennis communities and ITTF Member Associations to stand in solidarity to fight for sustainability and the equality and equity of all. Females for our future, and the future is now.
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