On the April 13, 2016, 35 girls from the community of Indira Nagar occupied a space generally used by boys to play a few matches of Kabaddi.
During our campaign with Vacha, several girls of Indira Nagar spoke about feeling unsafe in Karkare Garden- an open space located near their community. When discussed further, girls opened up about how they do not feel welcome there, and how it is mostly populated by boys. After dark, many girls also spoke about experiencing harassment in the area.
One way of creating safe spaces for girls and woman is to increase access to these spaces. The moment it stops being a space only for men and boys, women and girls will start to feel more comfortable there. This is especially in the case of public spaces, where even though girls have a right to occupy these spaces, they often don’t have access to them due to fear of sexual violence or societal pressures.
Keeping this in mind, we used the girl’s love for the sport of Kabaddi to occupy Karkare Garden in large numbers. Since most of the girls have just finished their exams, they looked forward to some much deserved fun in the sun.
Before going to the garden, we had a short orientation of the reason of this activity. Most of the girls spoke of the importance of sport for health and to build confidence. The discussion lead to how girls are not encouraged to play outside- they are often limited to school grounds or at the most the lanes near their house. Formal sports are also many a times out of reach for girls. The reasons they gave ranged from not having enough time from housework, to it not being allowed by family. During this discussion we also talked about how men playing sports are given much more importance than women playing the same sport (citing examples of the lack of attention given to the women’s cricket world cup that happened recently) and save for a few many sports women do not get the recognition they deserve.
After reaching the garden, we noticed that besides the girls we were with, there were no other girls in the area. The girls picked a nice spot where there was shade and we requested the boys playing nearby to give us some space- which they readily obliged.
We divided the girls into two groups- the older girls and the younger girls. Each group then had their match of Kabaddi. During the match, a few young boys gathered to cheer on the girls and watched them with great admiration.
After four high energy rounds, the girls insisted on playing a game of Kho-Kho before we called it a day.
After the game we talked to the girls some more, and asked them how they felt about today. One girl spoke about an increase in confidence- she didn’t think she could play Kabaddi before, but after playing she sees herself as a pretty decent player. Other girls spoke about how fun it was to be playing in a large group. We then asked the girls if they would come here again, on their own, to play a game- to which all the girls gave a loud and confident yes!
They all promised that, at least once a week, they would make time to come here and play.