India ad sparks debate on recognising sportswomen

Saina Nehwal Image copyright AFP
Image caption There has been appreciation for the decision to showcase India's female athletes, most of whom live lives of relative obscurity

A new sportswear advert that celebrates India's female athletes has promoted a debate on how few Indians recognise their own sportswomen.

The online video made by Nike features 10 Indian sportswomen, as well as actress Deepika Padukone, who has spoken out against gender inequality.

In a widely shared Facebook post, she spoke of how sport helped in her struggle with depression.

Women's sport draws few Indian crowds or sponsors and gets little coverage.

Some of the Indian sportswomen featured in the ad include hockey player Rani Rampal, cricketers Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandana and Shubhlakshi Sharma, and footballer Jyoti Ann Burrett.

But many people felt they were unable to name many of the sportswomen featured.

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Many people have said they appreciate Nike's decision to showcase India's female athletes, most of whom are little known.

Those that do have a public profile often owe it to reasons that have little to do with their sporting prowess.

Tennis player Sania Mirza has won a number of mixed doubles grand slams, but made bigger headlines when she married Pakistan cricketer Shoaib Malik.

For that, many Indians called her a "traitor". On one occasion, a state political leader even used her marriage to object to her being appointed as a brand ambassador for the south Indian state of Telangana.

A lot of the social media reaction was also focused on the presence of Deepika Padukone.

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Ms Padukone shared the video in her Facebook post which explained how sport helped her when she had depression. It has been shared almost 100,000 times and the video has close to two million views.

"Two years ago I struggled with depression. I was sinking. I almost gave up. But it was the athlete in me that gave me the strength to fight and never ever give up!

"Sport has taught me how to handle failure. It has also taught me how to handle success. It has kept me grounded. It has taught me humility," she wrote.

However even here, some questioned the need to feature a Bollywood actress in an ad that was supposed to highlight female athletes.

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The ad comes soon after the remake of the Spice Girls hit song Wannabe, which was given a makeover to highlight inequality for women across the world.

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