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.
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.
As 12-year-old Monica puts it, “Football gives us a way to express our freedom.”
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.
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.
“What a joy it is to see girls shed their veils and don shorts and jerseys and run around with abandon, kicking the ball.”
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.”
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.