St Xavier’s College of Management and Technology (Patna) played host to some 30 spirited teenage girls who played soccer on the football field for a ‘Football Match for Women’s Equality’. These girls were here for one purpose, to say ‘Look here everybody, we can!’ On the occasion of the first day of the FIFA World Cup, these ladies were her to draw attention to women’s football.
Caritas Switzerland and Gaurav Gramin Mahila Vikas Manch came together to bring us together for this ‘football for women’s equality event. The NGO, supported by CREA (Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action ) has so far introduced over a thousand girls to football in Bihar.
While St Xavier’s provided the use of the grounds, Tarumitra provided space, meals and rooms for the girls’ stay even though their calendar was overflowing with their own summer ecological activities.
What is so important about girls playing football? You may not have thought of it, but all over the world, the majority of men don’t think it right that women play soccer! Women have broken into cricket, tennis, martial arts, volleyball, baseball, and even boxing. All those are sort of okay with men, but when it comes to football, you will be surprised at how much opposition there is to women playing the beautiful game.
Fr Jose, our rector at St. Xavier’s College – he pointed out that St Xavier’s aspiring to become a university, has two St Xavier’s Colleges on the campus – firmly believes in the rights of women and gender equality and hoped that more girls would come forward to play football on the college grounds.
Keerti, the India country head of Caritas Suisse feels that more should be done to encourage girls playing soccer because the game can be used to demolish gender stereotypes. ‘The Football for Women’s Empowerment’ campaign is another attempt to get us to discuss important issues that concern women and their rights,’ she says.
Protima, whose GGMVM has cajoled, recruited, inspired and encouraged almost a thousand girls from the most backward communities and impoverished villages to come out and play – thirty of those girls from villages nearby Patna took the field today- says, “The feudal and patriarchal society refuses to allow girls the freedom of their bodies: they want women to remain tied to the home, they tell girls that it is not right to run, jump, climb trees, shout, or enjoy themselves. Football which is a vigorous and a contact sport, smashes their myths. Girls who are trained to play football have far greater confidence, knowledge about their bodies, and agility. Football is a tool for empowerment, it teaches team spirit and unity.”
Padmashree Sudha Verghese, the noted campaigner for women’s rights and the rights of the downtrodden, while endorsing the campaign, pointed out that the challenge was to enlist government support to promote women’s football. Patriarchal thinking and the attitude of maintaining the status quo within governments is what hinders progress in women’s sports. Sudha Verghese and her Nari Gunjan have been at the forefront of liberative action for women. Her band of women drummers started off the event, leading the footballers to the field.
The girls were energetic, excited, and extremely noisy, and they played a spirited game that had to be decided with a penalty shoot-out. “It was really exciting to play on this ground. We haven’t had a chance to play on such a nice football field. The playgrounds in our village and school aren’t this nice. All of us really thank Caritas for giving us the new kits and stuff,” said 15-year-old Anshu, who aspires to be a goalkeeper. Anshu was able to convince the headmaster to have a space cleared in her village school so that girls could play football.
The girls all had determination, “We really love playing football, and we want to be able to train better.”
The students from our department of BMC [Mass Communication] actively supported the effort, as volunteers. Aman from the first year was asked to do the running commentary. “I have never done a running commentary in my life, and I know so little about football, but it was great fun. Ayush said, “I had no idea about the reality of girls in our villages, and I do believe that we should do something more for this campaign.” It goes without saying that the girls from the BMC department are totally inspired by these schoolgirl footballers from the villages!
We hope that our united efforts to advocate for better sports facilities for women will bear fruit.
[This piece is a Joint effort by the Newsnet Interns from BMC Dept. of SXCM&T]