Happy International Day of Sport for Development and Peace
The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace is a day for reflection and action. It's a day that reminds us of the power of sport to transform lives, bring people together, and make a difference in our world. For the ITTF Foundation, this day holds a special significance as we celebrate our commitment to using table tennis as a means to promote social change and work towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Under our Dream Building Fund, we have been working in partnership with Pro Sport Development (PSD) in Bhubaneshwar, India on the Community Table Tennis project since 2020. Such projects are a testament to the transformative power of sport, particularly in marginalised, underrepresented, and underserved communities where table tennis can create opportunities, promote social inclusion, and empower individuals. Last week, during our visit to the project in Bhubaneswar, we were able to witness firsthand the incredible impact that the Community Table Tennis project is having on the lives of young people in Bhubaneswar. We saw how table tennis was being used to bring people together, build confidence, and promote gender equality, which is essential for achieving the SDGs and creating a better world for all.
Through a structured and gender-sensitive curriculum built around table tennis, PSD is fostering SDG 5 among girls and boys from slum communities. The program helps them become more gender-sensitive, confront harmful gender stereotypes, and shape the gender perceptions of their peers. By using table tennis as a vehicle for change, the initiative provides these young individuals with the tools they need to create a more just and equitable society.
In Bhubaneswar, through our consultations with the government, sport authorities, schools, and families, we realised how Community Table Tennis has helped build confidence in girls and young women to become leaders, question regressive societal norms, feel equal, and realise their full potential. We also noted how the boys and other male participants have grown increasingly comfortable working, playing and studying with the girls.
Both the boys and the girls noted how the project has helped them come closer as peers and partners, and how it has helped break down preconceived notions around gender and sport. These learnings are in line with the vision of the Honourable Chief Minister for the state of Odisha, Mr. Naveen Patnaik, who met with the ITTF Foundation delegation and spoke of his vision to build sport for the youth,“because youth are the future”.
We were also privileged to meet Mr. Kamlesh Mehta, the esteemed Secretary General of the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI), during our visit. Mr. Mehta commended our Foundation's efforts and shared his thoughts on bridging the link between community table tennis and providing ample opportunities to young individuals aspiring to play the sport regularly and professionally.
Our visit has reinforced our perspective on the impact of this initiative and validated the efforts put in by all stakeholders – the young participants, parents, school teachers, and the hardworking PSD staff. It's heartening to see how a simple game of table tennis can help transform lives and communities.
Ms. Petra Sörling, the President of the ITTF and ITTF Foundation, joined the Foundation team in Bhubaneswar, and emphasised the importance of diversity in creating sustainable societies. "With diversity comes creativity, and with creativity comes results," she said. "We must continue to work towards creating inclusive environments that allow everyone to reach their full potential, both in sport and in life."
According to the Foundation Director, Mr. Leandro Olvech, "Table tennis is a powerful tool that can help make better lives and make dreams come true. We are proud of the work we are doing with PSD to harness the potential of table tennis to promote social change and work towards the SDGs. By empowering young people, promoting social inclusion, and creating a more just and equitable world, we believe that we can make a real difference in the lives of people around the world."
We also spoke with the Founder of PSD, Mr. Suheil Tandon, who expressed his gratitude to the ITTF Foundation for their support and partnership. He noted that while progress has been made in promoting the contribution of table tennis to the SDGs, there is still much work to be done to ensure that policies and programs are in line with the ground realities in areas and regions that need it the most.
"We are grateful for the support of the ITTF Foundation and their commitment to promoting the power of table tennis to drive social change. We believe that by working together, we can make a real difference in the lives of young people in India and around the world," said Mr. Tandon.
Last year, the ITTF Foundation has also collaborated with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and PSD to develop the Table Tennis for Development (TT4D) Handbook, and used the handbook as part of a capacity building workshop in Bhubaneswar, to help participants understand how to develop sessions, projects and programmes to use table tennis for sustainable development in alignment with the SDGs. This handbook is an essential resource for anyone interested in using table tennis to promote social change and is available online in three languages:
Spanish: El Tenis de Mesa para el Desarrollo
Arabic: دليل كرة الطاولة من أجل التنمية
English: Table Tennis for Development
We hope that this handbook will help more people in diverse countries and regions benefit from the transformative power of table tennis.
The ITTF Foundation is committed to using table tennis to create a positive impact on the world, and we invite everyone to join us in this mission and to use the power of table tennis to make a difference in our world. As we celebrate the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, we urge everyone to recognise and support organisations that are making a difference in the world through the powerful medium of sport. Together, we can create a better world for all.