A PROJECT using cricket to tackle sexism in India’s schools has been praised by sports chiefs in the UK.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), coaches and charities have hailed the British Council-funded scheme where thousands
of girls in India play the sport while boys learn how to dance.

The Changing Moves Changing Minds initiative aims to stump gender stereotypes and promote equality between the sexes in states
including West Bengal.

Around 300,000 youngsters will take part in lessons given by teachers who will receive specialist training over the next three years.

An ECB spokesman told Eastern Eye: “Cricket is a game for everyone, no matter your gender, background or religious beliefs.

“Programmes like our South Asian Action Plan, Women’s Soft Ball Cricket and All Stars Cricket are ensuring that women and girls have the opportunity to take up the game. We welcome initiatives such as this that engage girls and boys with the sport and teach them the benefits that cricket can bring.”

The British Council project, in partnership with the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and the Royal Academy of Dance, will teach students dance steps and cricket movements.

Sumita Kumari, a teacher at Jawahar Navodya Vidyalaya school in West Bengal, said it would help to dismiss sexist attitudes after one of her pupils said “How do we dance with girls?” while another argued, “playing cricket with girls is absolutely impossible”.

Shaz Zaman is the CEO of community group Luton Tigers, which has run sports classes for kids including a project with a girls cricket team in Bradford, Yorkshire.

He told Eastern Eye: “Cricket, and sport more generally, allows you to express yourself in ways that other activities can’t necessarily.

“To see such an important and enjoyable pastime in India being used in a unique way, allowing young girls to challenge gender stereotypes, is really refreshing.

“We organise similar activities at Luton Tigers, offering cricket, football and boxing to engage our youth. Any initiative that channels sport in such a way is a win in my book.”

The Chance to Shine charity, which organises cricket events, has also backed the India scheme. It brings the sport to around 450,000 children annually and nearly half of them are girls. Fabian Devlin, a spokesman for Chance to Shine, said: “We believe strongly that all young people should have an opportunity to play and learn through cricket.

“At a time when over nine in 10 teenage girls are physically inactive, we have seen how cricket can support girls to build a positive relationship with sport. In a recent survey of our participants, girls were just as likely to say they had fun and become more confident playing sport, as boys. Many commented on how Chance to Shine had supported them to develop confidence to take risks, make mistakes and continue taking part.”

Arfan Akram, who is head cricket coach at the University of East London and cricket coordinator for the Essex team, believes the England women’s victory over India in the 2017 World Cup final was turning point for the sport.

He said: “Over 120 million people worldwide watched the final. Lord’s was a sell-out with nearly 30,000 people attending.

“This was a fantastic platform to engage girls and women inspired by the game. The University of East London held its own well-attended, women’s-only cricket session, and this is just the beginning, as there is a strong desire for more among the women
and girls among the diverse east London communities.”

“We are in an exciting period and this is being supported by the England and Wales Cricket Board.”