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Playing Against Patriarchy: Muslim Girls own the ‘Male Space’ by Playing Football

In Kolkata’s Rajabazar, Muslim girls have formed a football team to fight against patriarchal norms.

A group of young Muslim girls harbor dreams of becoming footballers one day. They have turned out to practice in a government playground in Rajabazar slum area in Kolkata. They dream of dribbling and playing in bigger grounds, before bigger crowds. Although Indian women have been suppressed in sports and have made it a ‘male space’, these Muslim girls are breaking barriers and have goals of their own.

“We used to think a boys can play football, but girls cannot, but then we realised that both of them can play. They are equal. If the boy can study more, a girl can also study more. If a boy can participate, a girl can also participate”, said Mehvi Shira.

Shahina Javed  is a woman behind setting up this all-girl football team. Founder of Non-profit Organisation, Roshini which fights against domestic abuse, dowry, child marriage, Shahina is breaking societal norms for the past ten years. Besides empowering adolescent girls, the NGO also conducts awareness workshops on the rights and education of girls.  

In India, where patriarchy reigns, it is not easy for girls to excel in sports. Gender discrimination in sports can be witnessed in various forms. Gender pay gaps, biased attitude towards female sports person, and not to forget the frequent sexual remarks and harassment incidents. “Our society is very bad. When we go to play in the playground, the boys are flying kites because if they are flying kites, the girls cannot play football”, adds Mehvi.

As controversial as it can get, the current situation of women in sports is something we should contemplate upon, reflecting on ‘Gender Discrimination’. This disparity talks a lot about the problems which are deeply rooted in the sports system or society per se. Lack of facilities, opportunity, and support of the government is also an added factor as to why young girls are giving up on their dreams. “The ground does not belong only to them. It’s for all of us. It is our right to go there and play. They stop us from playing. We do not have the proper space to play which is affecting our game”, said Tani Fatima. She further adds, that if given an opportunity she will never stop playing football.

While many think that gender equality in sport is utopian, there has been a growing movement where people are coming forward to talk and fix the problem of patriarchy. Our network of video- activists,  men, and women alike, are committed towards equality and work around breaking patriarchal norms under the Khel Badal Campaign. This is an example of how we want to portray stories on how women, face, negotiate and challenge patriarchy.

Video by Community Correspondent, Debgopal Mondal.

Article by Grace Jolliffe, a member of VV Editorial Team. 

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