Researchers to explore Tamil women’s experiences in GTA sport communities

When PhD candidate Gobi Sriranganathan’s supervisor Dr. Yuka Nakamura suggested she attend the E-Alliance’s virtual launch last November, the York PhD candidate was instantly intrigued.

Sriranganathan is an active leader in the Tamil sport community, which has informed her path as a researcher. Her goal is to fill the gaps in Canadian sport research to better represent leadership and experiences of this population in the GTA specifically, which aligns well with E-Alliance’s intersectional approach.

After she learned in more detail about E-Alliance priorities and approach, the York University researcher was inspired. “I strongly believe in E-Alliance’s mission and commitments and knew that I wanted to be part of this hub.”

When E-Alliance put out its first RFP, the emerging scholar submitted an application to receive funding for her project, “Sport leadership in the Greater Toronto Area Tamil diaspora: Exploring the lived experiences of sport leaders in Tamil grassroots sport organizations.” The panel was impressed by the submission as the work clearly supports E-Alliance’s key research priority to examine the nature of gendered experiences in sport – especially in sport leadership and among populations for whom there exists a gap in research.

“There is a lot of work still left to be done to decolonize Canadian sporting culture,” Sriranganathan explains. “An intersectional lens, which acknowledges the multiplicity of lived experiences and needs of individuals, is essential to ensure that in pursuit of true gender+ equity in Canadian sport, inequitable power dynamics are not reproduced, even if unintentionally.”

Her study investigates the nature of experiences of sport leaders in the GTA Tamil diasporic community – specifically leaders of community-based sport organizations that serve women. The project will:

  • document the experiences of sport leaders (many of whom are women) in the GTA Tamil community;
  • Explore and understand the gendered and gendering nature of sport leadership in the GTA Tamil sport community;
  • identify potential barriers that Tamils, in particular Tamil women, experience in sport leadership and strategies to overcome these barriers;
  • understand the impact of sport leadership on these sport leaders and their effectiveness in sport

As of 2008 Canada was home to 250,000 Tamils with the majority living in the GTA (Jones, 2014; Sriskandarajah, 2008). There has been a growing number of Tamil grassroots sports organizations, so the work is especially timely.

Sriranganathan has been a leader within the Women’s Ontario Tamil Sport League (WOTSL) for the past three years, providing the impetus to focus her work within her own community. “There is a lot of physical and emotional labour involved in running a sports league but creating opportunity, and a safe space, for Tamil girls and women to play sport and build social connections makes it worth it. I was also initially surprised at how for some women, including myself, WOTSL has been a space for them to reconnect with their Tamilness. I’ve also learned the importance of collaborative approaches to leadership and decision-making within this space.”