In a dust-covered ground in the midst of a teeming Govandi slum, a bunch of adolescent boys are engaged in a spirited game of cricket. Their coach, Zaheer Sheikh, a 19-year-old commerce student from the slum, stands nearby, shouting tips on hitting lofted shots.
Sheikh is not only training the boys to become future Tendulkars, but also upright citizens like him off the field. From the next session, he will punctuate the games with talks on the importance of respecting women and why it is not right to hit one’s wife and sister.
These unique sessions at Ambedkar Maidan in Shivaji Nagar are part of an 18-month-long programme called Parivartan, which aims at using India’s favourite sport as a medium to change mindsets and, in turn, combat domestic violence.
Parivartan is an adaptation of a campaign, Coaching Boys into Men, which was started in the US in 2001.
The programme is being implemented by the International Centre for Research on Women and non-governmental organisation, Apnalaya, in Govandi for the last six months.
Soon, it will be implemented in 25 private and government-aided schools across the city with the help of the Mumbai School Sports Association.
The formal launch is on Monday.
Sheikh is among the 16 young men selected from local teams to become coaches — 11 teach cricket, the others teach kabaddi and kho-kho — and change-makers. They are training 228 boys aged between 10 and 18 years.
“Children don’t like listening to long lectures. But if the coach, who they look up to, says something, they are more likely to embrace it,” said Nishant Salvi from Apnalaya.