Empowering women and girls in India

Netball Australia’s Miriam Slattery, Head of Stakeholder Relations and Public Policy, joined Caitlin Thwaites and Nat Medhurst in India last month. She shared her story with us…

I had the pleasure of accompanying two of our Diamonds athletes, Caitlin Thwaites and Natalie Medhurst to India last month as part of the Australian Government’s Sports Envoy Program. It was a phenomenal experience to work with DFAT and other Australian Government partners in Delhi.

We visited our partners under the Australian Government’s Asian Sports Partnerships, the Naz Foundation. Naz do amazing work delivering the Goal Program to empower women and girls, offering 10 months of leadership, health and life skills training alongside their netball sessions. We are incredibly proud to contribute to this innovative program, where this year they will reach around 15,000 girls in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. 

We also attended a fabulous event at the Australian High Commission in Delhi with the Deputy High Commissioner, Chris Elstoft (where Chris’ excellent shooting skills were on display!).

We were privileged to be able to see the great work of Asha and meet with some inspiring children and women from the slums of Delhi. The Diamonds players were truly moved to be able to share and hear stories from these women, at one point it actually felt like we could have been having a conversation with friends in Australia, such was the level of openness despite the language barrier.

The response to Caitlin and Natalie was fantastic. Girls in India don’t have a lot of female role models to look up to and ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’! It was wonderful to watch these young girls meet two incredible talented and approachable women. From taking selfies together, to talking tactics on the court, these informal interactions were a pleasure to experience and helped to quickly build rapport. It was also wonderful when I was confused for an elite athlete (height does help!).

Caitlin and Natalie learnt so much from these interactions. For example, playing Pitthu (7 stones) with the girls and staff from Naz was a great experience for Nat and Caity – learning a game that they had never played before and being taught by those they had been guiding over the previous few days. 

The programs delivered by Naz and the visit by our athletes is about so much more than sport. Yet the importance of the sport component is clear.  The sport component of the programs builds confidence and self-esteem, and it is a space that the girls own.

Netball Australia has provided technical input over years, crucial in making sure the girls were well coached and supported while learning about a new sport and developing new motor skills and physical competencies and coordination.

The partnership model with Naz works perfectly, where we deliver the sport capacity building component and Naz runs the life-skills component, and we ensure development outcomes are achieved.

It was a privilege to be able to witness the role sport can play in empowering women and girls.

ONE NETBALL: ONCA Visit; India: Netball Clinic by Diamonds players with Naz Coaches - New Delhi, India. Photo: Narelle Spangher, Netball Australia