[Editorial] Making sports accessible for all – Challenges and the way forward

Quick revision mind map

Context: The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP) – April 6

  • The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics was a watershed moment for Indian sports.
  • History was written when a Paralympic gold medal was won by a female Indian athlete for the first time.
  • This achievement was an important symbol of how far India has come in using sports to foster inclusion.
  • It also became a conversation starter about how Indian women are finally claiming space for themselves in what is traditionally seen as a male-dominated field.

Why did sports need to be inclusive?

  • When sports become inclusive, they have the potential to transform not just the lives of those playing but also of the wider community by encouraging the values of fair play.
  • Systems and structures that give a voice and opportunities to everyone tend to be more stable and peaceful.
  • It is no wonder, therefore, that sports are at the heart of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  • In its contribution towards achieving educational, health and equality outcomes, sport plays a vital role in furthering the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Sports are a creative tool that can be used to reach across divisions to promote inclusion and equality.
  • Inertia is always an easy choice, but it is time that we use sports as an enabler in COVID-19 response and recovery strategies.
  • Recovering from the crisis means making communities healthier, stronger, and more resilient.
  • Societies will need to prioritise solutions that benefit all people to ‘build back better’.

What are the challenges?

Budget Allocation: Budget allocations for physical education and sport remain low.

Social and cultural barriers:

  • Social and cultural barriers restrict the participation of women and girls in sports.
  • The sports landscape is far more unfavourable for women and girls with disabilities, with opportunities minimised due to discrimination based on gender and disability.
  • This necessitates the need for making sports accessible and inclusive for all by challenging the stigma and stereotypes that surround women and persons with disabilities in sports.

COVID-19:

  • In India, like in many other parts of the world, COVID-19 challenged the inclusive legacy of the 2020 Paralympics, in turn threatening the wider benefits that sports can generate for individuals and communities.
  • As lockdowns and social distancing measures were imposed, fewer people were practising and benefiting from sports.
  • This intensified physical inactivity and the deterioration of mental health.
  • Data from UNESCO’s worldwide survey of school physical education show that some 70% of physical education teachers consider their students’ physical and mental health to have worsened during the pandemic, with children with disabilities among the most affected.
  • This crisis context is backlit by a landscape where already not enough was being done to ensure equal participation for all in sports.

Way Forward

  • Creating an inclusive sporting culture requires:
    • effective policies
    • progressive curricula focused on quality physical education
    • well-equipped/trained physical education professionals
    • good coordination among the different organisations and bodies with an interest in sports
    • flexibility to account for the cultural, demographic, and infrastructural diversity in India

Conclusion

  • Since marginalised communities, women and persons with disabilities are often ignored in sporting policies and activities, increasing their visibility in all aspects of sport should be considered as an important tool to enhance their participation in sport.
  • Promoting female role models is, therefore, an imperative to strengthen the engagement of women and girls in sports.

Practice Question for Mains

  1. Through our efforts, we can break the stereotypes so that everyone feels confident to engage and excel in sports. Comment. (150 Words, 10 Marks)
Referred Sources

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