Forty women from three wards of South Dum Dum Municipality have taken to kabaddi — a sport that has changed their lives and helped them change the lives of others.
Pollution to alcoholism, and dengue to illiteracy, the women have addressed several issues around them.
Champa Mallick, 31, of the Pramodnagar Market area in South Dum Dum was too shy to step out of her home. The wife of an auto driver, she stitched nightdresses in her free time to help sustain the family. All that changed in 2017, when she started training for kabaddi. Soon, she was confident enough to form a support group with other women from the locality.
The women, all above 30, were introduced to kabaddi as part of a project initiated by NGOs CRY and Praajak, with the support of Genius Foundation. Four kabaddi teams were formed with women from wards 3, 5 and 6 of South Dum Dum Municipality.
“We wanted to use sports as a tool to liberate women. Kabaddi seemed an obvious choice as it is not an expensive sport and is a team game. Since many of the women who enrolled were in their 40s and had never played a sport before, we thought kabaddi would be a safer option than football,” said Anisha Chandra, a project facilitator.
From starting to practise in saris and salwar kurtas, these women now proudly don their purple-and-yellow jerseys over tights for interward matches. They are also slowly coming round to removing their ornaments and marital symbols — shankha and pola — while playing.
“Kabaddi was initially a recreation for me after household chores. Slowly, it gave me wings,” smiled Champa. The high point of her life has been a visit to the Book Fair at Milan Mela and the zoo with her teammates.
The camaraderie over kabaddi has slowly turned the women into locality watchdogs and role models for their children, who now have five teams of their own.
Every Wednesday, the women meet in a room next to a police outpost near Belgharia Expressway. “This is our me time when we broaden our horizons,” said Kalpana Naskar, 42, who cooks midday meals at a nearby school.
The players get educated on child rights, health issues and important laws such as the POCSO Act through sharing of stories and experiences and dance.
“Pollution, child mar- riage, illiteracy, dengue and alcoholism are some of the problems in our neighbourhood. Earlier, we would stay cooped up in our homes, trying to keep our daughters safe. Now we try to face the problem, counsel our neighbours and solve issues ourselves,” said Mamata Mitra, who makes hair accessories for children.
“Slowly, they are going beyond playing matches to making their voices heard. They are stepping out of their homes to build a rapport with the local councillor and making their area a better one,” said Subhra Roy Chowdhury, another project facilitator.
The women’s brigade has already stopped a child marriage in the area and taken a molester to the cops. Their awareness drives have also brought down the number of dengue and malaria cases in the locality..
Source: Telegraph India