Growing boys into men: Results of a three-year programme with coaches and athletes to foster gender equity demonstrate a positive shift in attitudes
Sensitising young boys and their sports coaches to gender issues can go a long way in changing gender stereotypes, and addressing gender based violence in our society. This fact was revealed in an evaluation study undertaken by International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW) to gauge the impact of Parivartan, a three-year programme that finished this year. It leveraged the critical role of cricket coaches as role models in the lives of young athletes aged between 10 and 16 years.
The evaluation study Engaging Coaches and Athletes in Fostering Gender Equity of ICRW which was released recently attempted to answer three critical questions -- a) what changes occurred in gender and violence-related attitudes, perceptions and behaviours among the Parivartan athletes?, b) What effect did participation in training and the overall programme have on the coaches?, and c) What changes did the wives, mothers or daughters of the coaches and mentors perceive as a result of the men’s participation?
Findings from the study have been very encouraging -- they have demonstrated a distinct positive shift in the attitudes of athletes as well as coaches and mentors towards gender equity and violence against women. Alongside the change in attitudes, there is a promising indication of behavioural change as well; however to sustain and amplify the translation of attitudinal change into behavioural change, a sustained long-term investment in the Parivartan programme is an imperative.
Domestic Violence resulting from participating in or watching sports is often linked to frustrations over the game’s outcome, excessive alcohol consumption and a day of uber masculinity (as opposed to hyper masculinity). In other words, too much emphasis on winning rather than enjoying the spirit of the game leads to aggressive behaviour both in players and spectators.
This is prevalent across all developed and developing countries. For example, in a study in the USA, a link was found between the Super Bowl (the highest level of professional American football) and domestic violence, resulting in an average of 244 additional cases of domestic violence across the 15 cities studied. Sporting events such as the Super Bowl perpetuate and embody a culture that willingly sanctions and accepts various forms of violence directed at women.
The study sample consisted of 168 athletes in 26 schools of Mumbai who were exposed to the programme, and 141 athletes from 19 deferred intervention schools, where the programme was introduced later, to provide a comparison to gauge the effectiveness of the intervention conclusively. Similarly 168 athletes were exposed to the programme from Shivajinagar, while 133 athletes were exposed at the end from Chettha camp at the community level.
The findings were organised around the attitudes towards gender stereotypes, roles and behaviours, attitudes towards violence against girls, intentions to intervene in response to hypothetical scenarios of abuse against girls, actual bystander intervention behaviours in response to witnessing the abuse of girls, violence perpetration and acceptability of the programme and self-reported behaviour change.
The school and community athletes participating in the programme demonstrated a greater positive shift in gender attitudes compared to non-participants. Agreement with most of the norms relating to manhood and masculinity declined among the exposed group over the period, which is a positive indication. In terms of the norms, which focused on attitudes about the role of women and girls, there was an overall positive improvement. However, for the norms around boys’ control of girls’ behaviour, there was less improvement among the Parivartan athletes compared to the other two domains discussed above.
The community athletes became significantly less supportive of physical abuse of girls; however there was not a corresponding level of change among the school athletes.
There was also a greater positive shift among school and community programme participants compared to school participants in their intentions to intervene in response to hypothetical scenarios of abuse against girls.
Despite improvements in behavioural intentions to intervene, there were no significant changes in the Parivartan athletes’ bystander intervention behaviours. Peer violence showed some decline but still remained high among both the school and community athletes.
The school coaches and community mentors demonstrated increased support for more equitable gender roles and relationships. The school coaches and mentors became less likely to justify men’s control over their wife’s behaviour. The school coaches and mentors increased their understanding of women’s and girls’ perspectives around sexual violence. This transformation in their attitudes has been captured through in-depth interviews.
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