“Bicycling has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world” —Susan B. Anthony, suffragist, 1896
National and international authorities have recommended that children and youth should engage in regular physical activity. A gender-based disparity in physical activity (PA) among youth, whereby girls are less physically active than boys, is a persistent finding in the literature. Girls have been shown to participate less in organised sport, may receive less social support to engage in PA, and may perceive less enjoyment when taking part in physical education. Apart from the notions that biological reasons are the major factor which contributes to this result, social notions and stigma plays the most important role in less PA among girls than boys. The need to overcome gender differences in physical activity (PA) is an essential part of health and education policy. Adolescent girls display less PA than boys. Differences in activity preferences, as well as such factors as environmental and social obstacles and logistical issues, are additional barriers for girls in relation to PA participation at higher rates than boys. The school has a responsibility for creating balanced conditions for PA among girls and boys. Each Panchayat also needs to take the responsibility of increasing PA outside the school time among girls along with boys. Our local playgrounds are partially active because half the populations of children are left out, the girl children. The specific character of girls to take part in PA has to be respected with adolescent girls in terms of lifestyle evaluation spheres, preferences, inclinations, condition bases and other gender differences. School PE (Physical Education) plays a significant role in creating habits for regular PA and acquiring a healthy lifestyle in the lives of children and young people. Active transport to and from school is also important in supporting regular PA with the greatest factor being the linking of school PA with free time PA.
Participation in sport and physical activity can also facilitate good mental health for women of all ages, including the management of mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. It can promote psychological well-being through building self-esteem, confidence and social integration, as well as help reduce stress, anxiety, loneliness and depression. This is particularly important as rates of depression among women are almost double those of men in both developed and developing countries. Adolescent girls in particular are vulnerable to anxiety and depressive disorders and are significantly more likely than boys.
In West Bengal, a local community based NGOs developed a project to raise awareness of community sport and health development through local campaigns and training for women. The project also involved developing basic infrastructure for girls in community sports such as playgrounds and gyms and building a database on community sport for girls. A study was carried out in rural and urban India by the Indira Gandhi Institute of Physical Education and Sports Sciences on the attitudes of parents, teachers and coaches towards female participation in sport. The findings indicated that policies are needed at the local level to support and protect women’s participation in sport and, in particular, efforts are required to remove misconceptions related to women’s participation in sport and the impact of sport on women’s health. A common social constraint is the stereotyping of sport as “masculine” or “feminine”, which affects both male and female participation, and can be difficult to overcome.
Gender stereotyping is a process in which children’s biological sex determines the activities they engage in (and not engage in), as well as the manner in which they are treated in these activities. Sports are generally considered a masculine domain, and this stereotype results in boys’ perceiving greater ability and attaching greater importance to sport than girls. This contributes to the gender differences observed in sport. Following are some specific examples of gender stereotyping.
· Females have not been as encouraged by parents to be physically active.
· Females are less apt to be taught and to engage in fundamental motor skills during sensitive periods.
· Gender-stereotypical toys have been emphasized throughout childhood and adolescence.
· Youth are often pressured into “gender-appropriate” sports.
· Female athletes are constantly sexualized by the media.
· Boys who are not physically skilled or good athletes experience ridicule and embarrassment, based on the rigid male stereotype that includes strength, muscularity, athleticism, and lack of empathy for other participants. Boys/Men with more physical capabilities and sports Excellencies are considered manlier.
· Primary and secondary data collection methods are used.
· As primary sources, interviews and discussions are conducted. The method of primary data collection is simple random data collection.
· The data collection is done in Mudakkuzha Panchayat, Koovappady block, Ernakulam district, Kerala. Primary data is collected from the 120 children (60 girls & 60 boys) of age 8- 14, school head master, PHC doctor, health nurse, teachers and gender experts.
· Secondary sources of data used during the study were books, papers presented on the related topics and Internet search.
Analysis & findings
Mudakkuzha is a Village in Koovappady Block in Ernakulam District of Kerala State, India. It belongs to Central Kerala Division. The population of the village is16767, in which there are 8358 male and 8409 females. Female ratio is higher than males. The village is hundred percent literate and equipped with better medical and educational differences.
Even when the village claims all the developments, gender differences exists in the case of physical activity, sports activities, leisure times among boys and girls. We evidenced important sex differences in children’s social play, differences that stress a developmental gap between girls and boys. Approximately till the age of 5-8, lower primary period, girls and boys seems to be equally strong(Presidential Physical Fitness Test) as they mingle each other and play together and undergoes equal physical activity. As they move on to adolescent age, the physical activity level varies among both the sex due to various reasons. The association between physical activity and health is well-known; active individuals present a lower likelihood of developing several chronic diseases, and exercise is also recommended in the treatment of some diseases (World Health Organization 2004; U.S Department of Health and Human Services 1996).
The idea of female physical inferiority seems to be promoted even when facts debunk such claims. Physical education for girls has lower standards, even though it is not necessary. Boys and girls who have not reached puberty have a similar body composition. One issue that has been noted is that girls do not engage in the same amount of physical activity. Boys are encouraged to be in football, basketball, little leaguing baseball, and soccer. Girls are directed toward something within the realms of traditional femininity. Girls as they age become even more physically inactive. This can in the future have negative consequences for women’s health. The problem is that gym teachers do not engage girls to be active. Girls may feel pressure not to engage in sport because of ostracism and social barriers.
Puberty is a human life cycle stage in which the body becomes fully mature. Boys and girls will become adults capable of sexual reproduction. This is the point in which there is a gap in physical strength. Hormones will alter a boy’s body composition. The relevant hormone to body composition is luteinizing hormone. LH controls androgen production by means of the Leydig cells. These cells are located in the spaces of the Seminiferous tubules. Luteinizing hormone is present in females, but they produce another type of hormone. The ovaries produce estrogens (and progestrone). Testosterone allows for greater muscle mass, while estrogen allows for more fat composition. Puberty can start at different ages ( recocious and delayed puberty), but on average it is between the ages 11 to 17. Girls start earlier and still have an equivalent level of strength. However, by age 17 puberty is complete and men’s testosterone level peak at 20. Women do not gain more strength unless they engage in physical activity. Testosterone increases tenfold during puberty. The shoulders become broader as well as the chest. The skeleton gains more mass and gradually denser than before. Knowing this, boys and girls are on a similar level between the ages 1 to 13. The 40% increase in muscle mass in males during the teenage years make it difficult for girls to compete with them. It makes no sense to have separate boys or girl’s teams for swimming, baseball, football, or soccer at childhood. Lower physical standards for girls are ludicrous.
Women now have the opportunities to build strength that they did not have previously. Everyone is not an athlete, but an improvement in their fitness through a regular exercise regimen. It would be difficult to find an average man could beat Serena Williams at tennis or out run Camelita Jeter. Niomi Kutin a young child was able to break a weightlifting record by lifting 215 pounds. This girl is certainly stronger than most boys. She could possibly continue to be stronger as she matures into adulthood.
Graph number 1 below shows the willingness among the girl children between the age of 7- 10 to play in public playgrounds. As they are in their pre-adolescent age, they are more willing to play and show greater interest. But social restrictions are denying their interests and opportunities