TBI Blogs: This Handball Champion Who Battles Poverty & Gender Stereotypes Every Day Is Proof of Girl Power

CRY - Child Rights and You is an Indian NGO that believes in every child’s right to a childhood - to live, learn, grow and play. For over 30 years, CRY and its 200 partner NGOs have worked with parents and communities to ensure Lasting Change in the lives of more than 2,000,000 underprivileged children, across 23 states in India. For more information please visit us at www.cry.org

While the world gears up to celebrate ‘The International Day of the Girl Child’ on 11th October, this young Jamshedpur girl will be busy preparing for her exams and her upcoming handball tournament, while battling poverty and gender stereotypes.

Every day, as dawn breaks over the small settlement of Beldih basti in Jamshedpur, a puffy-eyed Nisha hurriedly leaves her bed, still half asleep. It takes some time to get ready and then she’s off to the JRD Sports Complex, a training unit of Tata Steel in the steel city of Jharkhand.

Clad in her usual red jersey and a pair of half-torn white sneakers, she trains till the clock strikes nine and runs back home to get ready for school. After school, she rushes off for training again, playing till late into the evening.

This has been her routine everyday, for the last five years. And that’s not all. Now that she is preparing for her board exams, scheduled for the end of this year, she has to spend her evenings with her books. This means  she only manages to go to sleep in the dead of the night.

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Nisha’s day starts with the break of dawn, everyday

When asked how she manages sports and studies together, Nisha smiles back knowingly and says:

“Education is the most important, whether you are in sports or in any other field, because education teaches us discipline which is essential to becoming a successful sportsperson. Moreover, I do want to make sports my career, but not at the cost of my studies. And you know what, sports careers are often short-lived. So, what if I want to get into a regular, decent job once I’m done with my stint with sports? I want to get that on my own merit, not only as an ex-sports-person.”

Born to Saurabh and Savita Karuwan, Nisha is the third daughter of the family, the youngest of three sisters and followed by a younger brother who is studying in the local primary school. Nisha herself is currently studying in the Class 10, at Sakchi High School. Her father is a daily wage labourer and her mother works as a part-time sweeper in a local office.

Nisha has grand dreams for herself, but her feet are strongly grounded in reality. Her eldest sister had to drop out of school given the financial struggles of the family. She had started working, and from the money she earned, she funded her own education. Today, she has not only successfully cleared her secondary examinations, but also funds the education of her siblings. She even funds costs of Nisha’s budding sporting career too!

Her sister’s hard work and resilience has made Nisha all the more determined to ensure a better quality of life for her family, especially her sister.

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Making things work despite the numerous obstacles

Back in 2011, when Nisha first started playing handball, she was just 10 years old. Her talent did not go unnoticed and the school management gave her the space and opportunity to showcase her abilities, and even selected her in the school team.

Initially her father was a little apprehensive and hesitant, as pursuing sports in a poor family like theirs was quite a challenge:“Hamare jaise parivaaro mein khelkud ko itna samay dene ke baare mein koi sochta hi nahi hai. Bohot mushkil se bachchon ko padha rahe hai. Usske upar se yeh bhi jab jud gaya, toh pehle samajhne mein, maan ne mein bohot dikkat hui thi (In families like ours, where everyday is a struggle for survival, the thought of someone dedicating time, effort and money to sports, was inconceivable. After all, we are barely able to educate our children, let alone foot their expenses for sports)” he explains.

But there was no looking back for the family after Nisha’s performance in an inter-school tournament was highly appreciated by all. It was then that she started training at the JRD Sports Complex.

Gradually, her skills improved and she got a chance to play at the district and state level tournaments. She represented her state thrice in the handball championships. Her team secured the fourth position in one tournament, second in another and won the third one!

In the year 2015, she also participated in the Sub Junior Girl’s National Handball Championship as the Vice-Captain, and in the Senior Girl’s National Handball Championship.

“My dream is to represent India at the international level,” says Nisha, with a sparkling confidence evident on her face. One cannot miss the unmistakable maturity in her voice, as she says, “I know how difficult it is to secure a place in the national squad, but I know that I’ll make it someday. That’s a promise I’ve made to Papa, and I’ll have to keep it.

An immensely mature and talented girl for her age, Nisha is drawn to overcoming challenges and tasks that demand perseverance and grit.

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This love for adventure and an urge to conquer the impossible is what led her to develop an interest in rock-climbing too. She has even participated in a rock-climbing course held at Mount Abu, and wants to do more challenging climbs.

The story is the same when it comes to Nisha’s involvement in the local Bal Sangathan (Children’s Group), run by ASES (Adarsh Seva Sansthan), a project supported by CRY – Child Rights and You.

A born-leader, Nisha soon became very popular among the children and led them in spreading awareness about the education of the girl child.

“I am witness to situations where girls have dropped out of school as soon as the reach adolescence, and many of them are married off before theyare 18. In Jharkhand, where child marriage is rampant, isn’t it our duty to make them understand why it’s not desirable, and why they should get back to school?” Nisha says with unwavering conviction.

In a country where, according to the Census of 2011, there are only 908 girls for every 1000 boys, Nisha is a path breaker. And here’s hoping that someday, she too makes headlines!

To learn more about child rights and education in India, click here

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