Barriers to girls’ participation in sports in remote villages of Uttarakhand

Garima Upadhyaya | Kapkot, Uttarakhand | “Not much attention is given here to girls’ participation in sports. There are many girls in the village, who can bring laurels to the name of Uttarakhand in national and international tournaments given the chance and the facility,” expressed Mamta and Pooja, a duo from Dhurkot Village in Bageshwar district in Uttarakhand.

The lack of a proper playground with adequate facilities is a major problem in several places in Bageshwar. As a result, youth, especially girls, face a lot of difficulties in practicing and making their career in sports. Moreover, even with the presence of ground, girls are exempt from using the ground, as playgrounds predominantly become spaces for boys in villages.

Dhurkot Village, which is situated on the banks of the river Saryu, is 25 km from Bageshwar in Uttarakhand. The population of this village is about five thousand. But being in a hilly area, there is a lack of playgrounds in the village. Although it affects both boys and girls in developing their skills, boys have the option to travel and access a proper field. whereas the girls are not allowed to travel far from their villages to play. “There is a ground available about three km away from the village, where boys easily go to practice, but it is not easy for girls to go there every day. The locals do not take this issue very seriously. Since the boys are managing fine and girls are hardly allowed to play sports, the absence of a playground is ignored,” shared Deepa Devi, an Asha worker from the village.

Echoing similar sentiments, Sita Devi, the village head, said, “The absence of a playground in the village is a big drawback. It has the most negative effect on girls. Not only their physical development is curbed, but their talents are also suppressed. Despite taking this issue to the local administration several times, our effort has not been successful, but we will not stop.”

Although the schools provide grounds for sports, the girls are not encouraged to play or given sufficient time to hone their skills. “We don’t have playgrounds in our villages. The only place where we can practice is our school. But even that right has been seized from us. We are given the chance to practice only one day prior to the tournaments, whereas the boys have all the liberty to practice from months to years. How do you think we will win any tournament like this?” rued Prema Gariya, a 16-year-old adolescent girl from the village.

“Even after complaining about the difficulties to the school authority, no steps are taken. We have just accepted the circumstances. Even though we want to practice every day and are interested in building our career in sports, we just cannot,” added Prema.

In India, 29 percent of women engage in sports in comparison to 42 percent of men according to a report. A little more than 33 percent of respondents consider sports like boxing, kabaddi, and weightlifting inappropriate for girls and women. They believe sports are unsafe for girls and that women cannot play at all times, increasing gender equality in sports. So far, the southern states of India, such as Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu, have shown the highest participation of women in sports and physical activities.

Supporting how women are restricted from playing due to gender inequality, Neelam Grundy, a social worker from Bageshwar, reflected on the effect it has on the holistic development of children. “Sports are imperative in building qualities like leadership, decision-making skills, and teamwork. But without any space to build these qualities or support from families, how can girls inculcate these qualities,” expressed Neelam.

The notion that sports are more “appropriate” for men results in all the discrimination girls and women face to access the basic prerequisites in sports. Although we have come a long way in terms of women’s participation in sports globally, there is a need to focus on the remote villages where a lies horde of talent is.  

The article was first published in Daily Pioneer. The writer is a student of class 12 from Kapkot, Bageshwar. Share your feedback on connect@charkha.org (Charkha Features)

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