Youth involved in Kadam Badhate Chalo tell us that girls and boys are seldom seen playing sports together in public spaces; in fact, it is uncommon to see girls playing any game outside their homes."We want to play. We want the same freedom as boys have to play games outside," the girls wish.
Insecurity resulting from persistent eve teasing and sexual harassment that girls face from boys and men in their communities restrict their lives. But wouldn’t it be great if the girls got some opportunities to fulfil their wishes in a secure environment?
The Martha Farrell Foundation collaborated with PRIA and Pro Sport Development to give one such opportunity to 215 adolescent boys and girls (85 girls and 130 boys) in Jaipur, India. The youth from 5 urban wards participated in a four-day sports camp (between 29 October and 1 November 2015). Interactive non-competitive sports such as “Dragon's Tail”, “Catch Me If You Can”, “Act Like” and “Simon Says” proved to be excellent ice breakers for both girls and boys. They were soon playing a game of continuous cricket together.
The program was conceived and led by the youth. They decided the venues and timings. They chose to play behind the anganwadi, because it is dark and lonely; at the chowk (crossing of two major roads) and in the garden, because it is always filled with men and boys who stare and pass comments; and in the local park, because it is a place where “dirty things” happen. These were all sites that had been marked as unsafe during the participatory safety audit of each ward which the youth had undertaken. They played between 4:00 and 6:00 in the evening, because as dusk approached and it gets dark, it becomes unsafe for girls to be outside their homes.
After playing, the boys and girls reflected on their experiences. Girls ecstatically shared their involvement in a game of cricket. Most importantly, they were engaging, perhaps for the first time, in an activity with boys and not feeling threatened by their presence. The boys too enjoyed playing games together with girls, learning through sports to be respectful of all players and “should be careful and not harass girls with our actions and words”.
A secure environment is created when boys and girls, women and men work together to build one.