A LOCAL netball club is doing its bit to empower Indian women and help develop community links between the two countries.
Macorna Netball Club representatives, Jo Bear, Natalie Goudie and Archie Bear spent 10 days earlier this month running basic netball workshops in the Indian city of Kolkata as part of an AFL Central Victoria annual expedition.
The local group joined members of the Bendigo Football Netball League, Bendigo Umpires Association and Golden Square Football Netball Club – who have been helping to establish Australian Rules football in the country – to see if there is scope for a similar initiative involving netball.
The trio were inspired to investigate whether it would be possible to run the program in India's third-most populated city after learning about the work Golden Square Football Netball Club chaplain, Bruce Claridge has done in the city with Australian Rules football.
"Five years ago Bruce decided to offer something different to the end of season football trip and instead went to India to teach Indian boys and men about the game," Mrs Bear said.
"Two years ago a friend of mine mentioned Bruce's work and I thought it sounded really cool, maybe someone should do the same thing with netball to help people connect with their community."
Mrs Bear took the idea to her netball club, which agreed the initiative met the club's strategic goals of wellbeing, development and community.
"We wanted to work at a grassroots level, and we were very lucky that Bruce's contact in Kolkata, Pastor Kaushik was able to connect with both a village south of the city, as well as a slum" Ms Goudie said.
The workshops catered for all ages, with multiple generations of family members – both male and female – taking part.
"We were lucky that we were able to make the workshops into community events," Mrs Bear said.
"Half of our group would play AFL footy with the boys and young men and then the girls would have fun playing netball.
"The mums of the girls would watch and then they would also take part. Some of the older men also joined in."
The trip doubled as the chance to determine whether there is scope to develop a program, which proved to be the case following the successful sessions held as part of the visit.
Mr Claridge and his wife, Jan are planning to lead a second trip in mid-January 2019, with Mrs Bear, Ms Goudie and potentially up to three netball club representatives to attend.
"Our focus will be on using netball as a way to provide self confidence and empowerment to women at a grassroots level," Mrs Bear said.
The group will also seek guidance from Netball Australia and the Netball Federation of India to build on the expedition, with plans to develop leaders in the places the group visited to run future workshops.
"What we would like to see is the leaders in the communities become the netball coaches to get the sport growing," Mrs Bear said.
"There is little equipment needed to play netball. All you need is a ball, and you can be resourceful when it comes to goals, using either a bucket or a mark on the ground."