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Female sports journalists from across India converged on Chennai for the mobile journalism workshop and to visit the Slum Soccer program / Rica Roy

Celebrating IDSDP in India

Two participants in the Women in News and Sport (WINS) program under Team Up reflect on a recent trip to Chennai, India, for International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP), which recognises the positive role sport and physical activity play in communities. 

For sports journalist Harpreet Kaur Lamba, visiting the Slum Soccer program was unforgettable.

The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP), which takes place annually on 6 April, presents an opportunity to recognise the positive role sport and physical activity play in communities and in people’s lives across the globe.

As a sports writer, I get to witness and experience a plethora of emotions. However, it is seldom that I come across an experience so heartwarming and satiating that it leaves a tinge of warmth and incessant joy that linger on.

It was a deeply moving experience as I visited the girls from Slum Soccer, as part of the WINS mobile journalism (Mojo) workshop in Chennai. Far removed from the modern-day world wherein women walk shoulder-to-shoulder with men in every sphere of life, it was an eye-opener to see these young girls, aged between eight and 15 years, trying to carve out their identity through the medium of football.

Belonging to the slum areas of Chennai where their parents work as fishermen, garland makers and vegetable sellers, and coming from a sect of society that looks down upon women playing sport or even wearing shorts; the girls presented a promising picture.

Much like their name, Shakti Girls (meaning Power Girls), they denoted power and inner strength that reflected on their enthusiastic faces. Dressed in blue and white jerseys, they smiled, giggled and listened attentively as the WINS cohort spoke to them. 

Shakti Girls, a special initiative of Slum Soccer, is funded by the Australian Consulate-General Chennai under its Direct Aid Program and has been running for two years. It aims to provide a platform for young girls to break through the taboos of society. More than sport itself, it is a vehicle of change for a better life, to build confidence, bring awareness towards menstruation, and improve self-esteem.

As part of the Mojo workshop we interviewed the girls and produced stories about the initiative. Capturing these girls on my camera, hearing their brave and inspiring tales - each word spoke volumes of how football was paving the way ahead for them.

The afternoon turned even more special as the girls invited us to play along with them. As I tried to dribble, run or score past them, it was hard to miss their zest for football and life. Away from the hardships of family conditions or societal pressures, the girls reveled in the freedom that the game provided, expressing themselves freely, laughing as they learnt.

The journalists produced stories on the Slum Soccer program and met the participants / Harpreet Kaur Lamba
The editing workshop was the culmination of mobile journalism training conducted virtually during the pandemic / Chenju Lakshmi

Journalist Manuja Veerappa reflects on the importance of finally reconnecting with her peers at the mobile journalism workshop.

It was in late August 2017 when I received an email from Karen Shrosbery, program manager of WINS. It marked the beginning of what has been a journey of learning, camaraderie, kinship and fellowship for women sports journalists in India. 

Now in my fifth year with the WINS program in India, my learning has been immense, but what stands out about the initiative is how it has brought together women sports journalists from across the country on a common platform. 

With India being geographically and culturally diverse, opportunities to network with fellow women journalists are far and few in between. At the first WINS program in New Delhi, we met journalists from states like Assam and Odisha, where the number of women sports journalists is minuscule.  

The COVID-19 pandemic ensured we went virtual and another meeting of the WINS sisters had to be put off, but we continued to meet and learn together virtually on topics ranging from podcasting to mobile journalism (Mojo). 

And then, the opportunity to meet again finally arrived, organised by the Australian Consulate-General, Chennai.

Given the time constraints it was a whirlwind 36 hours in Chennai, but everyone ensured they made the most of it. Two of the journalists had travelled six hours by road from Gangtok, Sikkim to Bagdogra in West Bengal, before taking a flight to Chennai via Kolkata just to be there. 

The heartwarming experience of interacting with the players at the Slum Soccer initiative was followed by a networking evening with Michael Costa, Australia's Deputy Consul-General in Chennai, and invited guests such as Vasudevan Bhaskaran, the captain of the Indian men's hockey team that won the gold at the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, and other media stakeholders. 

The showstopper of the program was the day-long editing workshop conducted by WINS trainer and sports editor of NDTV, Rica Roy. 

The workshop covered editing principles and gave an insight into the appropriate apps to use for mobile journalism, editing and voiceovers. 

It was two days of many firsts for participants, from a first airplane experience to a maiden beach outing!

WINS participants didn’t just take back with them new skills. Instead, they packed their bags loaded with moments and experiences to be cherished.
WINS is a training and mentoring program for women in sports media run by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's International Development Unit (ABCID) and supported by the Australian Government through Team Up.

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This video, produced during the mobile journalism workshop by participant Tazeen Qureshy on her mobile phone, gives an overview of the Slum Soccer program / Tazeen Qureshy
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