Who says girls can’t play football?

Girls from villages around Patna are breaking new ground by playing football, a traditionally boys sport without parental or social interference. They are playing the game, breaking taboo and making it a weapon to fight for their rights in a state notorious for human trafficking and child marriage.

All this because, Pratima had been married at a tender age and had to face several hardships in her marriage. Then she’d made a promise to herself – to try and save as many girls as she can from the atrocities of child marriage. In 2008, she initiated Gaurav Gramin Vikas Manch and went from village to village in order to educate parents and young girls about how difficult child marriages can be. She’s been able to stop numerous child marriages with her relentless efforts.

PratimaKumari, the brain behind introducing football among village girls said, “We have started an initiative called ‘It’s My Body’ amongst girls to promote football in order to create awareness against child marriage. It was not only difficult, but impossible to get sufficient time and free space to talk to these girls and inform them about bad the ill effects of child marriage on their health, education and lives. So, we decided to bring them to the field to play football to boost their confidence, increase their willpower and fill them with awareness to take their own decision in life.”At the club, girls meet, communicate, interact and create awareness. Perhaps most innovative is that they are using the game of football to build confidence and stand up on their own to say no to marriages before the age of 18.

Nearly 500 girls in 25 villages have been successfully trained to play football. Thanks to the game, these girls have got incredible self-assurance to move ahead in life. It is something that provided them with acceptance and invigorated them to say no to child marriage. PratimaKumari, a Krritikaunder the helm of Kutchina Foundation has been promoting football through her organization, Gauraav Gramin Mahila Vikas Manch.

Pratima Kumari, a Dalit admits that child marriage is a massive social problem among Dalits, Other Backward Classes and Muslims due to low literacy rate. Keeping education as the main agenda in mind, when Pratimastarted working among Dalits and other marginalized sections, she requested and convinced parents during meetings in villages to let their daughters complete higher education. She and her associates have used football as a tool to reach out to the root of the problem.

Gaurav Gramin Manch gives them power, both physically and mentally, a feeling of accomplishment and a platform for social development as they challenge the widely held idea that girls belong at home. Pratima’swork has been recognized by CREA, a feminist human rights organization based in New Delhi which also helped her organize regular training for the girls. She’s been able to stop 100+ child marriages with her relentless efforts. Way to go girl!