Today, people are familiar with the names of Mary Kom, Geeta Phogat, PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal and many more women from the sports arena. India is seeing an increasing number of women entering the field and excelling in their chosen sport, with many opting for sports as a career.
The last 30 years have seen a major transformation for Indian women, driven by a brave few who have broken barriers to lead by example.
The sportswomen who have won accolades at international events have altered the image of women and have played a significant role in changing the mindset of people in various ways. Karnam Malleswari (weight lifter), Geeta Phogat (wrestler), PV Sindhu (badminton player), Mary Kom (boxer), Sakshi Malik (wrestler), Saina Nehwal (badminton player), Sania Mirza (tennis player), Deepika Pallikal Karthik (squash player), Mithali Raj (cricketer), Deepika Kumari (archer) and many othershave shown extraordinary talent in their respective games and wowed the nation.
But it has not been easy. Constraints for women in sports range from social challenges to religious, psychological and, most importantly, economic factors.
However, initiatives such as the National Youth Policy, the National Commission for Youth and the National Sports Festival for Women have encouraged greater participation of women in sports.
To give it a further boost, sports should be made compulsory at least at the primary and secondary school level for all, like education. Girls should be encouraged to play a sport from a very young age, either as part of an organised team or as individuals.
More women should be appointed as coaches and referees, and there should be a special authority that focuses on the development of sports for women in India. Greater awareness must be created among parents and girls regarding sports facilities available for girls and the benefits of sports for their holistic wellbeing to bring a change in the attitude towards women’s participation in sports.
The potential to earn from sports has also risen dramatically in the last few decades. Women sportspersons are now in a commanding position as brand ambassadors and earning as much as sportsmen through brand endorsements. Be it Sania, Saina, Deepika Pallikal or Mary Kom, these women are leading the way to prove to the world that sports can be a lucrative and viable career option for women.
Sports has the power to change lives. It teaches teamwork, self-reliance, resilience and confidence, and helps bridge the gender gap by empowering women. Our ladies in sports are winning laurels and making the nation proud!