8 AM on a Monday morning, stuffed in a DTC bus I started my first day journey to reach Centre for Social Research (CSR). Today is the first day of my internship; I have been assigned to work under the research department on “Sports for Girls” under the ”Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” scheme in five districts of Haryana. I recently completed my masters in development studies with a major in Economics of Development and this is my first big step towards working in the social sector. CSR is the platform which will give me an in depth understanding of the functioning of a Non Government Organization (NGO). I believe that this experience will help me learn and gain knowledge about the grass root level work done by CSR for the implementation and continuous assessments of various government initiatives focused on empowering women.
To be honest, when I was first told about the project I am suppose to work; all I could think was about the Phogat sisters from Haryana. However, the sad part was that, I only got to know about them after the movie “Dangal” was released. Well, isn’t that the case with most women sports players in India? We all knew who Dhoni was even before a movie was made, but some of us had to Google who is Mary Kom! Nevertheless, after reading the blog by CSR titled, “Gender Matters” I got familiarized about the scheme and the steps taken by CSR so far, to improve the role of sports in the lives of girls in the state of Haryana. It made me realize the intensity of the problem and the need for change.
Personally, I was never really fond of sports, but I was always given the freedom and facility if I ever wanted to play a sport or pursue a career in one. Maybe, that is why I never understood the importance of sports in terms of freedom of choice. However, most of the girls in India are not as lucky as me, and when it comes to Haryana, the girls are firstly victims of being born in an environment where a girl child is not accepted at birth. Hence, the freedom of playing sports is out of question. People in these regions think that investing money on a girl child will not give them any returns as a girl is supposed to married and move to a new family, but on the other hand, investing on a boy will give them insurance and social security for their old age.
Additionally, if a boy dreams of being a sportsman, he will be encouraged to fulfill his dreams but this criterion is not even applicable for a girl. Sports have been described with words like strength, courage and sometimes even masculinity. These adjectives are hard to associate to a girl for many in our Indian society. Our societal and cultural values have influenced our mentality to believe that a girl is suppose to be delicate, soft spoken and do home chores. It is time to change our mentality and provide equal opportunity to girls in every field. Sports are equally important; it signifies confidence, courage, and it is source of empowerment. Moreover, until a girl is not given the choice or freedom to participate in sports, she will accept the so called norm of the society which discourages a girl to take part in athletic activities.
I agree that it will take time to reach the ultimate goal of equality but I believe through the initiative of “sports for girls” it will encourage girls from villages and towns to participate in sports activities without fear or hesitation.
Poushali pursued a masters degree in Development Studies with a Major in Economics of Development from The International Institute of Social Studies(ISS), The Hague, The Netherlands and is currently an intern at CSR.