Household chores over the right to play

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Household chores over the right to play

Wednesday, 25 October 2023 | Simran Sahni

Household chores over the right to play

While the country is making remarkable strides in development, antiquated attitudes toward girls still remain prevalent in the society

Recently, India celebrated a significant milestone at the Asian Games, with the country achieving a century of medals for the first time. This historic success isn't solely attributed to male athletes but underlines the invaluable contributions of India's female athletes. By excelling in traditionally male-dominated sports such as horse riding, the country's women athletes have defied traditional norms and emerged as fresh role models for the younger generation. However, a bitter reality persists, revealing a deep-seated gender bias in our society, particularly towards women and girls. Despite progress in various fields, there's a reluctance to change traditional gender norms and expectations, which often confine women to household duties and limit their overall development.

India is making remarkable strides in development, yet antiquated attitudes toward girls remain prevalent. Initiatives like "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao" and "Kanya Uthan Yojana" have been introduced to empower girls, but regressive mindsets persist. As we explore space and technological advancements, we must simultaneously confront the deeply ingrained prejudices that persist against girls and women. Girls are frequently denied the freedom to play and enjoy their childhood, burdened instead with household chores from a very young age, a practice especially pronounced in rural regions.

This mindset prevails both in urban and rural areas, with even more pronounced gender disparities in the latter. In Paroo and Sahebganj block, 65 kilometres from Muzaffarpur district in Bihar, girls from economically disadvantaged farming and labour families bear the brunt of household responsibilities. They shoulder tasks like sweeping, grinding flour, tending to livestock, cleaning the courtyard, and working in others' fields from a young age. This inequality persists as their brothers remain untouched by such obligations. The implicit message is clear: if you're a girl, you have no right to play, and even when girls seek to play, they are often denied this opportunity.

Chanda (name changed), a 10-year-old girl from Husepur village in Sahebganj block, is among those affected by these gendered biases. She is the only girl among her two older brothers. While her brothers are exempt from household chores, she is burdened with tasks like sweeping, grinding flour, and cutting vegetables. "When I ask my mother to share household chores equally among us, she says, 'They are boys, let them play.' I really want to play too, but I can't play much." Sanjay Kumar, a science teacher at Dharphari High School, says that sports contribute to the mental and physical development of children. He says that society must challenge deep-rooted prejudices that deprive girls of these opportunities. It is crucial for parents to encourage their daughters to play freely and embrace the physical and mental development it offers, fostering teamwork, leadership skills, and decision-making abilities. Childhood games contribute to balanced muscular and bone development, and girls should have the same opportunities as boys to engage in them.

While progress has been made, there's still a long road ahead to address the gender disparities prevalent in many rural areas. Despite government initiatives and efforts to promote sports, these deeply entrenched gender biases must be actively challenged. The transformation of societal perspectives and the empowerment of girls are essential steps to ensure their equitable participation in all aspects of life. Rural girls deserve a childhood filled with play and equal opportunities, free from the fear of societal backlash.

(The author is a young writer from Bihar. Views are personal. Charkha Features)

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