Imagine if IPL’s most expensive player Smriti Mandhana, India’s Under-19 Women’s World Cup winning captain Shefali Verma and her team, all Indian women players like Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, and Mary Kom had not got a playground to play, what would have happened?
Even today many girls in India want to make career in sports, but the narrow thinking of society is trying to drive them out of the field. Girls face discrimination in the playground in Bageshwar, 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.
The girls of Pinglo village like to play sports very much, but they are not getting equal opportunities in their schools. Pooja Piswad says “I have started distancing myself from the playground since class VIII, we do not get the facilities which are given to boys in the school. When it comes to sports kit, it is given to the boys, girls get only 15 minutes to play while boys get 2 hours of sports break. If there is any interschool sports competition outside the district, school administration never allows girls to participate, they give the excuse that terrain is not safe for girls.”
“You are a girl, sports is not for you, dance, sing, do sewing and embroidery, take part in cultural activities, leave sports for boys….”
Pooja says, “Our teachers tell us the same, they think sports are for boys and cultural activities for girls.”
Chandni of Pinglo village says that she has stopped playing now, there are no sports facilities available in the school and only boys play with the few that are available. Even the teachers of the school do not support us.
Yashoda says that she wanted to be an athlete, before marriage she used to wake up at 4 in the morning and go for a run. Her teachers also use accompanied. She says “the economic condition of my house was not good, so I had to get married, not only sports my studies were also left incomplete. Now I want to study further, but my mother-in-law says, what will you do after studying, you have to take care of the house.”
Although 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 before the tournaments, whereas the boys have all the liberty to practice for 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.
It is not easy for girls to make a future in sports, the girls who fight against society and family to stand tall in playgrounds face many types of criticism every day.
Pooja says that when she goes to the playground wearing shorts, boys and even the teachers comment. They say ‘Don’t wear such short clothes’. “If you don’t wear comfortable clothes in the playground, how will you play? why doesn’t anyone say anything to the boys?” asks Pooja. “When we go to ask boys for sports equipment, they don’t even refrain from questioning our character, they say we know what kind of girl you are.”
Chandni’s mother says that she does not discriminate between her son and daughter, “I tell Chandni that you also go running, play, do whatever you want, don’t be like us, you can do what we could not do. You might get selected for police recruitment. If I had got a chance, I would have run a lot.”
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.
It is necessary that girls should come forward to do everything from which the male-dominated society has erased their names, from the playground to the battlefield, girls will have to stand with courage, this is the only rule of this game.
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