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In Pictures: Girls in Rajasthan’s Villages Are Kicking Their Shackles Using Football

If you hear a sound like birds’ chirping in Ajmer district’s Sakariya village on a glowing evening, you will witness an unusual sight for these parts of the country  —  girls whizzing around with footballs, practicing kicking and dribbling.

Similar sights can be witnessed in the nearby villages of Meeno Ka Naya Gaon and Hasiyawas.

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In a place where girls are not able to see their life beyond the fringes of their veil, and are married off as minors, a not- for- profit initiative has been training them to play football.

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14 - year- old student of class 9 Manisha juggles the ball while her friends stop to watch her.

As 12-year-old Monica puts it, “Football gives us a way to express our freedom.”

12 year old Monica patting the ball while Nisha and Sonia go to fetch water from a nearby well, in Sakariya village.
12-year-old Monica dribbles the ball while Nisha and Sonia go to fetch water from a nearby well in Sakariya village.
Girls walk past to fetch water from a nearby well, in Sakariya.
Girls walk to fetch water from a nearby well in Sakariya.
Students of 9th class; Sunita and Pooja play around on the way to ground, in Sakariya.
Students of class 9, Sunita and Pooja, play around on the way to the ground.
12 — year — old and Students of 6th class, Monica and Pratibha along with others chasing the ball on the way to ground, in Sakariya.
Students of class 6 Monica and Pratibha, along with others, chase the ball on the way to the ground in the village.
Smita juggle the ball during practice, in Sakariya.
Smita handles the ball during football practice in Sakariya.

Initially it was a challenge to wear shorts for these girls. Smita, a student of class 8, said it was the “first time ever in our lives that we had to wear shorts.” Sakariya and Meeno Ka Naya Gaon fall in the Kekri block of Ajmer district, the same block in which a village, Mankhand, does not allow women to travel by motorcycle.

15 — year — old Pooja chase the ball during a evening practice, in Sakariya.
15 -year- old Pooja chases the ball during evening practice in Sakariya.
15 — year — old Bhagwati kicks the ball during evening practice, in Sakariya.
Bhagwati at an evening practice session at the grounds in Sakariya.
Girls during evening practice, in Sakariya.
Girls during evening practice at the village grounds.

Recently married 17 — year - old Gora seeing her village girls playing also wants to play football. But she won’t be able to play as she will have to go to her in-laws’ house soon, in Sakariya.

Recently married, 17 - year-old Gora, on seeing village girls playing, also wants to join in. But she won’t be able to play as she will have to go to her in-laws’ house soon, in Sakariya.

 16 — year — old Seema during practice, in Hasiyawas.
16 -year - old Seema during practice in Hasiyawas.

“What a joy it is to see girls shed their veils and don shorts and jerseys and run around with abandon, kicking the ball.”

Girls do warm up during practice, in Hasiyawas.
Girls do warm up during practice, in Hasiyawas.
12 — year — old Reeta gets training from coach during a football camp, in Meeno Ka Naya Gaon.
12 -year- old Reeta gets training from a coach during a football camp in Meeno Ka Naya Gaon.
14 year old Beena came from Sakariya village for a football camp in Meeno Ka Naya Gaon, said ‘I have never felt such freedom and happiness’.
14-year-old Beena came from Sakariya village for a football camp in Meeno Ka Naya Gaon, and said, “I have never felt such freedom and happiness.”

What is the appeal of football? “Football is a team sport. Here girls are playing not as individuals but as a team to target the common goal.”

Girls play a friendly match during football camp, in Meeno Ka Naya Gaon.
Girls play a friendly match during a football camp in Meeno Ka Naya Gaon.
Girls play a friendly match during football camp, in Meeno Ka Naya Gaon.
Girls play a friendly match during a football camp in Meeno Ka Naya Gaon.
Girls takes break during a friendly football match, in Meeno Ka Naya Gaon. Water fetched by girls themselves before the match.
Girls take a break during a friendly football match in Meeno Ka Naya Gaon. The water has been fetched by girls themselves before the match.
12 — year — old and student of class 6th Aarti found an opportunity to grab the ball during break time, in Meeno Ka Naya Gaon.
12- year- old Aarti finds an opportunity to grab the ball during break time in Meeno Ka Naya Gaon.
Girls instantly started playing as they got a ball during school lunch break, in Meeno Ka Naya Gaon.
Girls instantly start playing as they get a ball during school lunch break in Meeno Ka Naya Gaon.
Anjali (yellow dress) along with other friends play during school lunch break, in Meeno Ka Naya Gaon.
Anjali (yellow dress), along with other friends, plays during a school lunch break in Meeno Ka Naya Gaon.

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Watch the photos in motion, as the girls talk about their experience of playing football.

(By Rohit Jain)

About the author: Rohit Jain is a Delhi-based freelance photographer whose work focus on Human and Life Development related stories. He was a photo sub-editor at the Hindustan Times from 2012- 2015.

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