Nita Ambani, chairperson of Reliance Foundation, on Tuesday said women can excel not only in playing sports but also in promoting them at national and international levels.
"Today women in India are breaking the glass ceiling in more and more areas of human endeavour. Indeed women all over the world are doing so, in sports and science, in boardroom and courtroom, in Bollywood and Hollywood, in politics and philanthropy, in effect, anywhere and everywhere," she said at the Sports Business Summit in London.
Describing women empowerment through sports one of the silent revolutions taking place all over the world, Ambani went on to the speak about the dynamic shift in women following and playing sports in India and gave an example of cricket that she said has "traditionally been a bastion of men."
"Even Lord's - the iconic home of cricket - welcomed women to its pavilion only in 1999 and offered full membership to women only last year.
"In a tradition-bound country like India, the change has been even more dramatic. 10 years ago when IPL started, cricket in India was watched largely by men. Over the last 10 years, we have seen a new fan base for cricket indeed, for all sports in India. Today female following for IPL is almost equal to male following and this dynamic shift has just not been with the fans. India's women cricket team is now ranked No.2 in the world, followed by England," Ambani shared.
Ambani also lavished praise on runner Hima Das and said her story shows the power of sports.
"The young indian players have taken the world by storm. In the month of July, indian athletes won over 200 medals on international levels. Out of these majority were won by women. Our 19-year-old sprinter Hima Das in a span of just 20 days picked up 5 golds across track events in Europe. Moving up from not having enough money to buy shoes and practicing barefoot to today, when she is not only a gold medalist but a brand ambassador of adidas shoes. This is the power of sport."
She expressed that by working with women and children closely through the Reliance Foundation, she has grown to believe that "when children play, communities grow and countries prosper."
She went on to further describe the role sports play in the development of a child and said if 'young' India is left to spread it wings, the most beautiful stories will come out.
"India is home to 1/6th of humanity. It is the youngest country in the world. A resurgent nation of 1.3 billion people, of which 600 million are under the age of 25. If the youth of India were a country, it would be the third largest country in the world. India is truly is truly at a point of inflection, a country whose time has come. India is scaling new heights especially in sports.
"For the holistic development of a child's personality, there is only one proven formula - 'just let them play a sport, any sport'. Sport is a great teacher, a magical equaliser and in a young country like India, the aspirations are so audacious, the adrenaline is so high and the appetite to achieve so strong that if we can just guide and steer our children in the right direction, they will script the most stunning stories the world has ever seen," Ambani added.
Ambani shared her experience through one of Reliance Foundation's biggest projects 'Education and Sports For All' (ESA) and said the project "combines the power of pull of sports and education, especially for children who are underprivileged and differently-abled."
"Under the ESA initiative, every year we take 21,000 children to watch their favourite Mumbai Indians team play. For all of them, this is their first-ever visit to the stadium to watch a live match. It is a day that gives them immense joy and hope.
"It is really gratifying to watch these children interact with their sporting heroes. Not only do these children go back home with stars in their eyes, but also with the belief that they too can dream and achieve. Let us experience the magic of ESA. Education and Sports For All is truly the soul of MI."
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