Posted 1 years ago

Soccer General

Football’s role in ending child marriage in Rajasthan

Football’s role in ending child marriage in Rajasthan
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Football has been helping break gender norms in Rajasthan’s Ajmer district, by providing girls who have been victims to child marriage, an opportunity to express themselves and develop self-belief. Some of these girls were married at such an early age that they had no recollection about it till they were reminded while in school.

The chance to attend football sessions has motivated these students to pursue careers such as being in the IAS. As part of the initiative to popularize football, the state football association organized a “Football Samvad”, where around 200 students could interact with administrative heads of the district and the football association.

According to Indira Pancholi, Secretary of the Mahila Jan Adhikar Samiti (MJAS) of Ajmer, there is a prevailing problem of young girls becoming pregnant at a young age, sometimes as early as 15, and football is a means for them to enjoy some freedom of expression. This has come under fire from local villagers who feel this may reduce the girls’ willingness to visit their in-laws’ houses.

 

MJAS and UNICEF(Rajasthan) have so far arranged for football coaching for 270 students as part of the ‘Football for Unity and Solidarity’ projects, with 35 students who further participated in state-level competitions, and 50 who represented their school.

They have been coached by MamtaJangid, who has been certified by the All-India Football Federation, to train students at the grassroots level. Among those inspired by her efforts is 18-year-old Payal Prajapati, who dreams of becoming a professional football player and is currently participating in a district level competition.

 Prajapati started attending football sessions under the pretense of attending theatre andhopes to become financially independent soon. Child marriage is a widespread problem in the state, where in 2020-21, 25.4% of the women between 20 and 24 years of age were married before they turned 18. However, this is an improvement from 2015-16 when this was 35.4%.

 According to Isabelle Bardem, who is head of UNICEF Rajasthan, sports in general promotes social inclusion by bridging gender equality, and this is the primary objective of the football camps.

The girls were also sent a video message by Baichung Bhutia, who is a former captain of the Indian men’s football team. According to Bhutia, this initiative will go a long way in ensuring equal representation of men and women in the sport, and parents should support daughters interested in the football.

Manvendra Singh, former MP and president of the Rajasthan Football Association, has also pledged his support for these young girls who are taking on orthodoxy, one football kick at a time.

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