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©Connecting Clubs International

Violence, discrimination & dowry: Meet the UK-based group using sport to tackle gender inequality across the globe – one wicket at a time!

Written by Samantha Lade, Donr

Published on Wednesday, 7th February 2018

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Cricket is huge in Nepal – in fact, the country has the 14th best team in the world. Yet, Nepal is also home to male-dominated society, where gender violence and discrimination are holding back young women. So, Connecting Clubs International took their exciting new ‘Cricket for Equality’ project to Biratnagar, Nepal – achieving some fantastic outcomes in the process.

Why Nepal?

It’s a well-known fact that social inequality remains a huge issue across the globe.

In Nepal, gender violence, discrimination and dowry (money or goods brought by a woman to her new husband) continue to hold back female empowerment. A rigid separation of boys and girls still occurs in society – with sport seen as a place for males alone.

‘An old-fashioned way of thinking dictates that girls shouldn’t be allowed out of the house, they should stay at home,’ explains Ashutosh Jha, a teenage boy from the area.

‘Take cricket for example, their family asks questions like, ‘how can a girl play? She will get hurt.' Girls have to face a lot of injustice and listen to a lot of things, it’s because society says ‘you’re a girl, you can’t play cricket, you can’t go out. Society talks a lot. Girls struggle a lot.’

This is one of many reasons Connecting Clubs International (CCI) chose Nepal as the perfect setting to deliver their inaugural ‘Cricket for Equality’ project to over 200 school children.

Angus Berry signs autographs for the Nepali school kids

The fairly young charity – who use sport to tackle social inequality in the UK and across the globe – wished for the local community to lead the project's work, as gender is a complex topic in Nepal, based on religion, social class and geography.

So, after teaming with those who knew the locals well – gender equality expert Bina Jha and Abhishek Shrestha of the Nepal Cricket Foundation – the CCI team were ready to go.

Lifetime 'Firsts' for Many Girls

‘The team and I had little idea of what would be in store for us when we finally reached Biratnagar in eastern Nepal,’ recalls Founder and CCI Chief Exec Angus Berry.

‘But when we entered our first school we were greeted by an experience none of us will ever forget. Hundreds of school children running up to us, asking questions, posing for photos and seeking autographs!’

The project was split into 3: school visits, mixed gender cricket training and gender workshops.

For many of the quiet and shy young girls in the school classes it was a lifetime first – most had never played cricket, or played any sport with boys, before.

This was the case for young Unnati, whose school hadn’t given girls permission to play cricket. But during the CCI sessions, Unnati fell in love with the game and came back every day of the eight day programme to play – now she dreams of setting up her own team.

Unnati (pictured) practices her bowling skills during a game of cricket

It was a similar story for 14-year-old Prachi Khetan, who said: ‘This is the first time the girls got such a chance, because society says cricket is mostly for boys. 

'It felt really inspiring, so I was very happy.’

The cricket sessions focused on several things: having fun, working together and giving girls a voice to express their wants, with both sexes being treated equally.

"Our society is male-dominated. There's unequal treatment for women. But through the workshop I came to know that both male and female are equal."

- Aaraohi Shrestha, female student

Cricket as a Catalyst

But just as crucial to the Cricket for Equality project were the gender workshops which followed the physical cricket sessions out on the field.

‘Sport acted as the catalyst for a frank and open debate on gender inequality and the root cause of gender violence,’ explains Angus.

These issues – like gender violence, gender biases about women’s roles, and discrimination – are often difficult to discuss and tackle in the local community.

However, these classes got the kids talking.

This showed the power of sport to tackle social issues. Several teachers even told Connecting Clubs that if the workshops hadn’t of been linked to cricket training, most of the school children would not have come along.

Connecting Clubs International will return to Nepal in 2018

Looking to the Future

CCI’s initial trip to Nepal took place just over a year ago in February of 2017 – but the charity has big plans to return this year to continue their fantastic work.

Lasting changes, they say, must be sustainable and a joint effort. Projects like Cricket for Equality must not be a one-off – which is why the charity have continued their work through online groups and Skype coaching sessions over the past 12 months.

It’s clear that the kids who took part are incredibly grateful for all the ‘firsts’ the project has allowed them to take part in – especially the young girls playing cricket for the first time ever.

Aaraohi Shrestha, a young girl who took part in the classes, says: ‘Our society is a male dominated society where there is unequal treatment for women, but through the workshops I came to know that both male and female are equal.

‘We should not have any forms of discrimination between males and females. Thank you once again for this once in a lifetime opportunity.’

As for Angus, his wider goals for Connecting Clubs International are crystal clear: ‘This was just the start, but it was the start of a projectI believe can make a significant impact, not only in Biratnagar and Nepal, but in countries across the world.’