Inspiring women and changing attitudes
Through the Dream Big Desi Women campaign, the ECB is taking cricket to non-traditional centres, including faith centres and community settings, and signing up hundreds of South Asian female volunteers.
Dream Big launched across eight urban centres – Birmingham, Bradford, Leeds, Leicester, London (two), Manchester and Nottingham – with the aim of inspiring 2,000 South Asian women to take up volunteering roles in cricket.
“There are a lot of cultural barriers to South Asian women volunteering,” explains Shruti Saujani, who heads up the ECB’s cities and volunteer programme. “But our team mantra is ‘change the world a little bit’ and I’d like to think we do that.”
In the first year of Dream Big, 549 female volunteers signed up and despite all the challenges of the pandemic, dozens more joined in 2020 with another nine centres added to the programme.
The ECB is the first national sporting governing body to introduce a ‘modest apparel kit’, which includes hijabs, longer t-shirts and looser jogging bottoms.
While the focus is on inspiring women to get involved, Saujani has learned the importance of “taking the family on the journey”. One of her colleagues had to explain to a volunteer’s husband where his wife was headed when she went off to coach cricket. Another woman hid her kit from her family but her child was so proud that their mum was a coach, the kit kept being shown off to guests.
Saujani continues: “We’re seeing women, many of whom have never worn westernised clothes, take such pride in wearing the All Stars activator kit – it’s an association with cricket on a national scale. We package it up so it’s like receiving a gift.”
The emphasis is on fun, enjoyment and engagement. Cric-kitty Parties had food, games and prizes. Some of the activities from the All Stars programme were tweaked so, for example, flip the cone became flip the samosa. “It was amazing to see – this was really growing the love for the game,” says Saujani.
Like so many other areas of life, Dream Big had to move online in 2020. “We had Chai and Chat during Covid with special guests and Q&As,” says Saujani. “We also work closely with Mental Health First Aid England and it’s one of my proudest aspects of this campaign that a number of our activators trained have trained Mental Health First Aiders. Mental health is a particularly sensitive area in South Asian communities that doesn’t get talked about enough.”
Jasu Bokhiria is a working mum from Sparkhill in Birmingham who became a Dream Big activator.
“For me, it’s inspiring not just my kids but other kids as well. It’s also showing that Asian women can do whatever everybody else can do.”