Published: 07th December 2017
This TFI fellow kills gender disparity in Hyderabad by fusing frisbees with theatre!
The students of Siddhartha High School learn lessons of gender disparity a little differently than regular children — and it's all thanks to Sashank Vissa's awesome new curriculum
Kakinada-born Sashank Vissa’s mini research of BM Nagar, near Indira Park in Kavadiguda one year ago took him to about 100 households in the area. He conducted qualitative interviews which led him to the conclusion that a huge gender disparity existed in the locality. “It was like the female population did not have a voice,” says the Teach For India fellow.
So, he figured, what better tool than sports to help eliminate this disparity. But which sport should he choose? One that speaks to his heart, of course. Sashank chose Ultimate Frisbee, a sport that he is familiar with and one that is recognised by the International Olympic Committee. It not only required the team to have female players, but it also necessitated both the teams to form what they call a ‘spirit circle’ and compliment each other. Combining both sports and performance art, Sashank Vissa is attempting to do away with gender disparity in BM Nagar in Hyderabad
I've always been good with kids. I used to teach the watchman's kid when I was a kid myself. So that way I've been teaching for a bit
Sashank Vissa, TFI Fellow
From starting out as a team that did not even pass the frisbee to girls, they are now a nationally-recognised team (by the Ultimate Players Association of India) and call themselves Goosebumps. All this, thanks to the training they received from coaches and a nationally-ranked team in Hyderabad. But the improvement that Sashank, a teacher at the Sri Siddhartha High School, saw inside his classroom was noteworthy. “The values they learnt on the field were being displayed in the classroom as well and then there was the evident change in the treatment of girls,” the 26-year-old shares proudly. One of the players, Asha Rani, even went on to play for one of the best teams in India, the Airbenders, in the Surat Ultimate Frisbee Open this year and now, she is no less than a local celebrity.
Two to go: Shashank had two main agendas for the community. One was doing away with gender disparity and the other, more environmental awareness
While the change was evidently noticed in the kids, what about the adults, wondered Sashank. And to solve this problem, he turned to theatre. A few members from Goosebumps and a few others from different schools around BM Nagar got together to put up a street play on gender disparity. The ten-minute street play took ten days of practise and was a result of a brainstorming session between Sashank and the children. While the Gender Warriors, which is what the group of 20 students call themselves, have already performed a few times, their most impactful performance was on December 6 for which even Lasya Nanditha, the Corporator of BM Nagar and V Srinivas Reddy, the Corporator of Ramnagar were invited.
Shashank co-created a three-hour curriculum along with the children, which includes Ultimate Frisbee, street plays, art and forum theatre (which involves the audience) and piloted it in another TFI school. The kids practise, both their street play and frisbee, at the NTR Stadium and the Indira Park, which is much closer, doesn’t really encourage teams to play sports. “We are trying to get permission to play in the Bharat Scouts and Guides Model School nearby,” informs a hopeful Sashank.
Photo op: The Ultimate Frisbee team Goosebumps along with Vissa
Check the Facebook page of the school here Reach Out: facebook.com/siddharthastory/