While I was at university, I used to volunteer at a school near Vellore, in rural Tamil Nadu. A 12-year old girl once came up to me and told me that all she wanted to do was to play football after school but she knew that “girls don’t play football, only boys can.” I asked her who told her that, but she shook her head and firmly insisted that only boys were “allowed” to play. I was with a friend, a female athlete, who was so surprised and taken aback by this comment that she immediately gathered a group of girls, went to the playground, and arranged a game in the mud. I will never forget the look on the girls’ faces as they yelled and shrieked and laughed and played. Pure, unadulterated joy.
Girls all over India face a huge variety of challenges. Being made to drop out of school, lack of access to menstrual hygiene, child marriage, the list goes on. I’ve always advocated for education, but it never struck me how powerful play can be. I truly believe in the power of sport to change a girl child’s future. I was surprised to find that even girls from educated or wealthy families were discouraged from sports because of stereotyping or the fear of not being socially accepted or, in some cases, simply because, “You’ll become dark if you play in the sun.”
This is a super simple comic but I hope it inspires you to leave a comment about organizations you know who are working to encourage girls to be more involved in sports. The most obvious one I can think of is the wonderful Magic Bus, but I’d love to hear of more.