Next Step 2014 presentation by Shikha Uberoi from SDU Seva Inc.


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  • Esteemed Panelists, members of the UNOSDP, audience members, Good morning. It is a pleasure and an honor to be here and speaking today on such an important subject. Before we begin I would like to thank the organizers and volunteers especially at Magic Bus for this beautiful conference. Thank you for your care and attention this morning.My presentation this morning stems from my first career as a top 100 WTA Tour professional tennis player representing India, my field work, and academic research .I would like to share a few points and observations on this critical topic, Female empowerment through sport. Its important to recognize why we are focusing on the value of female empowerment and not over all human empowerment. So here, I would like to quote Georgetown Professor Katherine Marshall when she said, “ the respect and education of women is the most critical issue of our time”. And this is precisely why we are here, to discuss female empowerment, because the ones who suffer disproportionately, especially during conflict, are women and children. Therefore, and I continue the quote, “the role of women in society should be the highest priority for all those that seek good in this world.” So, this morning I have the distinct honor of speaking to you about the most powerful and simultaneously most vulnerable creatures on the planet. Women and Girls. We are living in a time where three big “G’s” matter the most and they are, Gender, Generation and Globalization.To me, females in sport are a powerful solution that suspend differences that are inherent to the 3 Gs including those of religion, socio- economic background and race. And these female athletes consciously or not, act as leaders to their nations and people. They do not solve international or communal points of contention but rather they shift the focus to superordinate causes, like unity in diversity, humanity’s progress, and respect and dignity for all. DENNIS RODMAN NORTH KOREA! KHEL KHEL MEIN
  • Let me just take a moment to bring in some sociology with sports and explain what sociologists think of sports.- Sociologists have long recognized sport as a key institution used to maintain andperpetuate the stability of the current social order. Brohm’sSports: A Prison of MeasuredTime (1978) explains that sport fulfilled a triple role: “{Sport} ideologically reproducesbourgeois social relations such as selection, hierarchy, subservience, obedience, etc.Secondly it spreads an organizational ideology specific to the institution of sport,involving competitions, records and out put. Thirdly, it transmits on a huge scale thegeneral themes of the ruling bourgeois ideology like the myth of the superman,individualism, social achievement, success, efficiency, etc”(1978:77, Theory, Sport andSociety 2002).So, there is an actual need for women in sports and women in sports can simultaneously perpetuate the institutional norms of a society and the fulfillment of its people. Moreover, women’s bodies have often been the “battleground” or used to conceptualize cultural identities and even nation states (turkey pakistan hijab). Women create the public, as they are the bearers of the next generation and the perpetuators of a culture or nation. Therefore, Females in sports are also very much responsible in creating a national sporting culture.The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu said that Sports facilitate in social upward mobility, because Sports have long been associated with the cultural capital theory explained by Bourdieu (1984) in which non-financial social assets such asacquired skill or intellect are used to accumulate cultural capital and promote upwardsocial mobility.Even simpler than upward social mobility sports enable greater human capital such as the enhancement of self worth, self concept and self confidence for the individual. So a girl or woman who is empowered through sport with this human capital and who is automatically integrated into the social space thanks to sport, enables her community's potential to be one that is cohesive, integrated and has a sense of social capital for itself.And through this notion, of acquiring capital through sport, I feel leadership opportunities emerge for women. When owning a skill, a female gains importance and value in society. Mastering extremely difficult skills such as a sport, enables respect and leadership not only from her community but because we live in a globalized society, the whole world too. So we see that as women become active in the sporting field they become greater contributors to society, they become more prominent as leaders, and they co-create cultural and national identities. On June 21st 2012 Senator Clinton and the State Department launched the “Empowering Women and Girls through Sport” initiative with partners like ESPN and legendary sporting icons as ambassadors . However even prior to the US State Departments effort, we saw the success of AwistaAyub now at “Seeds of Peace” taking girls to new heights with soccer in Afghanistan. She founded the Afghan Youth Sports Exchange, an organization dedicated to nurturing Afghan girls through soccer. What began with eight young women has now taken off into a 15 team competitive league with hundreds of girls participating through the Afghanistan Football Federation.In a 2009 interview with Sports Letter, she described the results of her efforts:“They formed a strong-knit community with each other. They became sisters, on and off the field, and that for me was interesting -– to see how their lives have changed. I can't say that it's all because of the program, but I've seen in them a greater sense of confidence from when I first met them. Certainly, playing soccer and playing sports contributed to some degree.”-------------------------------------------------------Extras:” A: Yes, I'm still in touch with them. Some continue to play soccer, and some don't. For those that continue to play, you see this bond as a team. That was most interesting to me, this notion of having this team come together. Early on, they were struggling on an individual level. They had never played organized sports before, so the idea of teamwork and trust and relying on others, in a culture where there has been violence and war every day of their lives, was something new to them.*bernstiengallary currently filled with photos of girls plaingsocce
  • Although we often think of movement and action when we think of sports, Sports, especially on international stages have an uncanny ability to suspend reality and hurdle prejudices and boundaries in away not much else can. It is in those moments of stillness that FEMALE champions speak to the world. I’d like to draw your attention to 2012’s Olympians proudly representing their nations in their head scarves and gear, negotiating their values of religion and their personal fulfillment . (wojdanSheherkani Judo) (Sarah Attar 800 m)I would like to highlight Sarah Attar of Saudi Arabia who ran the 800 meter but finished last in 2012 Olympics. However, she received the loudest cheers for her iconic role and for being the first saudi women at the Olympics, lifting a ban on female athletes. Despite being called the prostitute of the Olympics by her countrymen, sarah told Australian Women’s Weekly, "This is such a huge honour and an amazing experience, just to be representing the women," Sarah said after her race. "I know that this can make a huge difference. To make that first step for women is just the most amazing feeling ever.”- australian women’s weekly aug 13 2012.This is a prime example of the mechanism of sports creating young female leaders and how females in sports facilitates the first steps in shaping a cultural identity for a nation or people. Despite her personal struggles and facing threats from her own countrymen, Sara Attar stood tall. Bolstered by the inspirational figures who came before her, she is now another icon paving the way for a generation of Saudi Arabian and Islamic girls to come forward and realize their sporting dreams. Its incredible to see the power of a single example.On a final thought on this subject, we know that the athletic gene is passed down through the mother. It would be very interesting to study the correlation between nations who’s women have a high sense of safety and the number of both male and female elite athletes those nations have. We can look at the US and India as a prime example with the total number of athletes at the 2012 olympics. (India 83 23 women 60 men) (USA 530 261 men and 269 Women)-----------------------------------------------------------------Extras:
  • All that being said, I must touch on how just as sport empowers it can also disempower, they can go hand in hand. Here is where I appeal to sporting organization committees to recognize, with cultural relativity, the need for rules and regulation to include all. Unfortunately there have been instances where the magic of sport was empowering young girls, in countries where our world needs their empowerment the most, but the lack of vision and understanding of the law makers wound up disempowering the future leaders of our world. In June 2011 a pre qualifying match in Amman Jordan saw FIFA disqualify the Iranian team because they would not remove their religious head scarves or Hijabs. Had these promising young leaders played without their head scarves they would have suffered severely upon returning home. Playing without their hijabs was not worth the risk on their lives. So they did not remove their scarves and were disqualified from the match and their dreams were crushed. So we as citizens and policy makers must remember that enabling girls’ leadership through sports does not stop at simply providing safe access to sport, it must be a world wide effort by all policy makers, athletes and fans to ensure the fulfillment and dignity of the female athlete. Thankfully Amendments to the FIFA and even Beach Volleyball attire have been rectified thanks to the efforts of MoyaDodd and the UNOSDP.But I also need to express that when a female is equipped with social and personal human capital that her culture and environment is not ready to adopt or understand, she can feel isolated and disempowered when she returns to that society. Empowerment for girls in places that are not culturally ready for girls to have so much of it can create worse situations. Members of US AID asked me for some solutions when many of the female Pakistani hockey players they were working with were going home to non-understanding and hostile families upon returning with more skill and global experience than their patriarchs. They were feeling alienated and stopped playing hockey. Therefore, empowering a girl in isolation is dangerous, it must be a community effort. And a peer support system must be set in place so girls who have a unique sense of empowerment can continue to communicate with each and maintain a solidarity. I suggested facebook chat groups and even buddy systems where the girls could stay in touch and be accountable for each other.
  • At first blush, one may think it odd to discuss the idea of sports as a tool for female empowerment and leadership when almost half of the world survives on less than $2.50 and can barely eat let alone play a sport. But sport is a binding force that positively and peacefully integrates people into the social space and therefore builds communities. It also facilitates in the acquisition of social and human capital enabling a positive concept of self and self worth for women and girls. This is perhaps why it is a human right for women to participation in recreational activities and sports (United Nations, Convention on the Elimination of all Form of Discrimination Against Women (18 December 1979) A/Res/34/180, entered into force 3 September 1981, atArticle 13 (c))WE understand and see why the world needs more empowered girls and women and the next steps forward will be about creating and ensuring a sustainable system of safe access to sport with organized structures of follow-through to all people no matter how poor or destitute. In an era when we are so easily connected to each other with simple clicks on the computer, we must make a collective effort, because we are a human family. Together, we must ensure that the opportunities for sports are made available to girls in a time when our world needs them to lead.So, using modernity and its social media, internet and cell phone usage I propose a solution in my social issue venture,. My multi-media, global venture, World Heroes, is a web based platform in conjunction with a Television show that honors the unsung leaders of the world.Using cell phones’ capturing capacity, I ask for civic society of every country to find and upload videos or images of social heroes they know. They will then vote and have their friends vote using social media for their nominated hero in order for him or her to win the cash prize and Hero of the Week title on the TV Show.This show is customized for every nation and much like the Olympics, there is a World Heroes tournament where the heroes of each nation will be honored and celebrated.As professional tennis player, TV host, and social entrepreneur I can see how it takes all avenues and amalgamated efforts to create opportunity for sport to thrive.Women’s leadership does not miraculously appear. It is cultivated and nurtured by families, communities, and nations. With this tele-democratic system, civic society actively chooses their heroes and sheroes creating leaders from bottom up.This global venture, World Heroes, works purely on civic society and mainstream media. It is not dependent on government or policy and it supersedes religious conflict, and gender and socio-economic differences. It activates and energizes the youth by showing examples and process on how they can be the “change they want to see.” within the current times which call for negotiating tradition with progression. religion is more civil religion today:heroes take on a religious status. civil status religion not very doctrinal but its neuvo, emotional, heroic, TWANG OF INCLUSIVENESS and belonging to a community. neither secular or faithbased.its inclusivity, and relativist liberalism. a new kind of spirituality by community building that media is responsible. hero is sanctified the nation and will sanctify the nation itself
  • Next Step 2014 presentation by Shikha Uberoi from SDU Seva Inc.

    1. 1. Female Empowerment through Sports Next Step 2014 Shikha Uberoi "You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation” -Plato
    2. 2. Sports and Human and Social Capital
    3. 3. Examples of Female Athletes as Leaders and Culture Shapers
    4. 4. Empowerment Can Disempower
    5. 5. Thank You “By playing together, girls and women can develop social networks and benefit from increases in self-esteem and sense of self-worth.” -Right To Play