A year after setting in motion Kicking Gender Boundaries, an initiative to promote the inclusivity of trans athletes in sports, Arjun Pandey (founder of Kicking Gender Boundaries and winner of Prime Minister’s National Child Award 2020) has expanded his work to support para-athletes as well. In the last few months, after having many conversations with athletes with disabilities, he realized that they aren’t given the right resources and opportunities to succeed. He believes that India’s recent success at the Para-Olympics is indicative of the talent that para-athletes have and he wants to raise awareness about the struggles of such sportspersons. Arjun said “Sports has always been my passion and I want to share that joy with everyone. I hope that such events can spark a bigger change in the Indian Community, and make it more accepting of all kinds of people.”
Learning of Arjun’s initiative, Shri Pramod Chandurkar, Secretary-General, Archery Association of India, said “Arjun is a risk taker who is trying to bring about a positive change in Indian Sports and we support him in this mission.” Along the same lines, Dr. Deepa Malik, a Paralympic medalist and the recipient of the Khel Ratna (2019) and Padmashri (2017) awards alongside being the President of the Paralympic Committee of India, also had words of encouragement for Arjun, saying “I am delighted to know that the youth in this country are so sensitive and are willing to go out of their comfort zone to help our society. Arjun’s initiative will go a long way in making Indian Sports more inclusive.”
To spread awareness, Arjun organized an online webinar and brought 5 para-athletes as well as the renowned Dr. Deepa Malik to educate teenagers and adults across the country. Along with sensitizing the masses about the struggles of para-athletes, the webinar also focused on encouraging people to celebrate para-athletes in the same manner that athletes without disabilities are celebrated. Thousands of people attended and appreciated the webinar, some even saying that they would want this to become a regular event. Ekta Bhyan, a shotput athlete, mentioned “We hope to continue working to spread awareness with Arjun and ScoutMe. In the long run, this could be a game-changer for all of us.” Mithali Gaikwad, an archer, echoed the sentiments of Ekta “We are very happy to be part of an initiative that we think can be the catalyst for change in the Indian society.”
Along with the webinar, Arjun has modified his platform, ScoutMe, to facilitate players with disabilities. He wants to use this as a medium for para-athletes to connect with potential organizations that can help them in their careers. The goal behind this is to get people to sponsor para-athletes in whatever capacity they can so that the athletes have better equipment as well as more opportunities to advance their careers. Harvinder Singh, another archer, was delighted when she heard this, saying “This is a great way to bridge the opportunity gap that exists between different athletes in India, and will help our country succeed in all sports in the future.” Along with the help of corporate houses, Arjun plans to continue selling t-shirts signed by famous sports personalities from India to have another source of raising funds, which he hopes can again be used to support para-athletes. Shyam Sundar and Vivek Chikara, both archers, commended Arjun, saying that “Young trailblazers like Arjun are making the real change in this country and we fully support his mission.”
Arjun hopes to keep scaling his actions in the future and wants to see sports become a source of joy for all human beings.