January 12, 2014 4:04:15 am
After an intense session of football practice, 18-year-old Sakina takes a break to discuss the moves of the next match with her teammates. Mumbra-based Sakina and her friends are not professional footballers. They are a part of a-year-old parcham, an informal group under the banner of Awaaz-e-Niswaan (Voice of Women) — a group working for the improvement of the condition of Muslim women through education and extracurricular activities.
A library with over 2,500 books, computers and space where English classes are held and theatre workshops, are all a part of personality development for these women. The group, along with an NGO, organises football tournaments for these women in the city.
“We have an all-girls team and participate in football tournaments,” says Sakina.
Kausar Ansari, 33, who has been a member of Awaaz-e-Niswaan for 10 years, says it is difficult to play under the glare of the opposite sex. “Men have an issue with us playing in the field. They feel we are encroaching on their space,” says Kausar.
Sakina too had a tough time dealing with her family. “My mother still doesn’t know that I play football. If she knew, she would have insisted that I only concentrate on my studies,” she says.
Kausar says women in the locality face other issues as well. “Men do not allow women to travel in buses. Women cannot even sit on seats reserved for them between Mumbra and Panvel. We are going to write a letter to the depot-in-charge on Monday,” she says.
“Even the bus conductors know these things. However, they refuse to tell these men to get up from seats reserved for women,” Sakina says. On one such occasion Sakina and her friends refused to budge. “We stood our ground and refused to allow the bus to start for almost an hour. For a couple of days the situation improved. Now, it is back to square one,” she adds.
Nuzhat, 24, says how difficult it is for girls here to pursue education as their families feel studying till Class IX is enough. Educating sons, she says, is still a priority.
However, Kausar is optimistic that the situation in Mumbra will improve with increasing women’s participation. “In a male-dominated society, girls from Mumbra have always shown great potential. They won three back-to-back matches in a tournament held in Andheri in November, last year. Married women with children are also coming forward and showing the willingness to learn. Girls who dropped out of school have completed their education through SNDT Women’s University and Delhi board,” Kausar says.
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