Rajasthan village girls struggle for sports opportunities

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Rajasthan village girls struggle for sports opportunities

Wednesday, 05 June 2024 | Meera Nayak

Rajasthan village girls struggle for sports opportunities

Girls in rural India face challenges accessing sports and education due to limited spaces, family restrictions and gender disparity

In our village, there is no field for girls to play on. The entire village has only one school with a usable field, but it’s dominated by boys, forcing us to practice in a corner, said 16-year-old Sonu from Ghadsisar village in Churu district in Rajasthan, who practices kho-kho daily with her teammates in a corner of the village’s only high school ground.

17-year-old Aarti, who practices kho-kho with Sonu, said, “Our team has only traveled once to Sardarshahar tehsil and once to Foga village to participate in the game. After that, we haven’t gone anywhere. We don’t get the chance because our performance isn’t good enough. How can we perform well without proper practice opportunities? Having a field for practice is essential, but we don’t have one.” Girls do not receive support from their families to go outside the village to practice.

Ghadsisar village, located about 254 km from Jaipur in Churu district, has a population of around 3,900. Within this small population, there is a significant disparity in literacy rates between men (62.73%) and women (38.8%). This reflects the discrimination that girls face in terms of education. Within this smaller group, girls who are challenging the social norms, are further discriminated against due to a lack of a dedicated sports field for girls. Consequently, their practice sessions are disrupted, negatively affecting their performance.

“This village has about 800 houses. The girls who study at the village school still get practice opportunities during school days, but where should the girls who no longer study here go for practice?” said Kanta, another young girl from the village. “The boys can play anywhere or in fields in other villages, but our families don’t allow us to go far from home for practice. Therefore, our village needs a dedicated field for girls to play,” she added.

With years of negotiations, they did manage a corner space in the field but even that becomes unavailable during vacations. “The boys often climb over the school wall to play on the field, but we girls can’t do that,” informed Kanta.

Regarding this issue, the village sarpanch, Manoj Kumar, acknowledged that there is no separate field for girls in the village, which causes difficulties for them in practice. He mentioned that the gram panchayat had submitted a proposal to the tehsil headquarters, but the tehsil authorities indicated that while there is vacant land in Ghadsisar, it belongs to the johad paytan (water reservoir) and the mining department. Allocating this land for a sports field is beyond the tehsil’s jurisdiction.

Understanding the situation, the panchayat selected a different site and submitted a new proposal to the tehsil. However, due to the code of conduct imposed for the Lok Sabha elections, no action has been taken. The panchayat will make another attempt after the election process is completed to ensure a sports field is available for the girls.

Social worker Heera Sharma emphasized the importance of sports for all children, stating, “Whether it’s a boy or a girl, playing sports is crucial for physical and mental development. It not only keeps the body healthy but also enhances mental well-being. Denying girls the opportunity to play would be unjust. Playing sports boosts girls’ confidence, allowing them to run freely on the field and contributing significantly to their physical development.”

She added, “Sports are excellent for fitness and can also provide a career path, with athletes bringing honor to the country. This is why the government is promoting sports and athletes through initiatives like ‘Khelo India.’ Many girls from rural areas have emerged to represent India at district, state, Olympic and Commonwealth games, winning medals for the country.”

This year, at the sixth Khelo India Youth Games held in Tamil Nadu, athletes from Rajasthan delivered outstanding performances across various events, earning the state a place in the top 5. Both girls and boys excelled. Yet despite these successes, many rural areas in the country continue to deprive girls of the chance to participate in sports, even though access to sports fields is essential for all adolescents, regardless of gender.

(The writer is a grassroots writer from Lunkaransar, Rajasthan; views are personal. Charkha Features)

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