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In Kolkata’s Rajabazar, an NGO is transforming the lives of young girls through football

In Kolkata’s Rajabazar, an NGO is transforming the lives of young girls through football

Sayan Chatterjee

Published: 5 Feb 2021 8:28 AM GMT

The area of Rajabazar in north Kolkata is a universe of its own. A majorly Muslim-dominated neighbourhood, the locality is rife with issues related to child marriage, dowry and other notorieties which have for long denied female residents here a life of dignity and equality. Out of this seemingly impregnable darkness, a young lady named Shahina Javed has carved out an identity for herself and others like her with the help of football amongst other things.

Shahina grew up with social injustices as an indispensable part of her childhood. Her experiences made her collaborate with other like-minded individuals who wanted to improve the quality of life for women in the area and in 2008, she started Roshni Youth Group. The non-governmental organization (NGO) works with lawyers, activists and educationalists to fight for women’s rights and social reform. Their workshops have since helped hundreds of young girls, counselling them on matters such as education, freedom of choice and fundamental rights.


Then, in 2017, she founded an all-women football team of five girls from her own locality. Although this attracted a lot of hate from locals who were averse to the idea of girls playing in the open, their performances in several tournaments all over the city have somewhat helped in bringing them around. Their biggest achievement was when they were invited to participate in the 2018 National Inclusion Cup in Mumbai. Today, close to 50 girls undergo regular training and want to continue playing the sport despite what their family members might have to say about it.

The fact that Shahina and her co-workers were attacked and threatened by locals when they organised a tournament for the first time says a lot about how systemic the oppression of women has become in pockets such as these. With sports in India gradually moving towards being equally represented by both genders, it is important that we educate people about important topics like gender discrimination and other such vices. Till the time that the general public shies away from conversations surrounding such topics, the next generation of young girls who don’t have the privilege that a Sania Mirza or PV Sindhu had will keep giving up on their dreams. And that would be a collective failure for all of us.

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