Bindu Meena, a 9-year-old girl from Zawar is a regular at the Zinc Football School in Newatalai. So are Kanchan Meena and several other girls who have taken this initiative to the next level with their enthusiastic participation in large numbers across all our Zinc Football Schools.
Little Bindu smiles before admitting: “I love running with the ball but every time someone takes it away from me. I come here to have fun with my friends and Monika Ma’am (her coach).”
However, everything wasn’t as smooth, to begin with.
When HZL flagged off the 64 community centres, now called Zinc Football Schools across six epicentres last year, we wanted to have as many girls as possible to come out, train and express themselves through football.
As things turned out, many fathers believed girls are not meant to play a game, in which you need to run after a ball while quite a few mothers had the mental picture that girls should stop outdoor activities once they attain a certain age. Not to mention reasons like social stigma, lack of time due to household chores, among others. As a result, the girls remained miles away from the grounds.
Sometimes the best that we can do is to start over.
After a month or so, a few of our Zinc Football coaches in Zawar decided to visit the families of girls under the age of 14. After constantly appealing for the cause to an extent of even giving an assurance of bringing the girl safely back home from play, a ray of hope transpired as a handful of parents agreed to let their girls play.
It started back then and a year down the line, it is now a sight to behold to see large participation of girls on the field, running after the ball, making smart fleeting passes to a teammate, scoring goals, and even celebrating it in their own way.
Kanchan Meena proudly says, “My father now asks me about the things I learn in the training sessions as soon as I reach back home. Nirmala Ma’am (her coach) has made us run with the ball, make passes and then shoot.”
When asked how difficult was it to convince the parents of these children, 23-years-old Zinc Football School coach Monika Mahla says, “Not one family was convinced at the first meeting. Regular visits to their homes with my fellow coaches and making them understand that there are more pros than cons in letting their girl play is how we convinced them. Being a woman myself, I often shared the example of my journey to becoming a football coach, and thankfully, they were inspired.”
The impacts of our initiative have been amazing at the ground level so far and we at Zinc Football, are fortunate to have coaches like Monika, Nirmala and others who are continuously leading the charge to empower the girl child.