Thane Municipal Corporation to demarcate 1.5-acre ground exclusively for women

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Over the past year, the aspiring women footballers of Mumbra, high on enthusiasm and training support, have been beset by a key hurdle; all the grounds in the area are generally occupied by men playing cricket.

Now, the Thane Municipal Corporation has decided to demarcate a 1.5-acre ground in Mumbra, a Muslim suburb on the outskirts of Mumbai, exclusively for women. The municipality move follows an awareness drive launched by the team in January, in which 900 signatures were collected in a petition for a separate ground for girls sent to Maharashtra Cabinet Minister Jitendra Awhad.

The Minister, who helped shortlist available grounds on the Development Plan, said: “I was taken in by their conviction and decided to help them.”

Thane Municipal Commissioner Aseem Gupta, who was approached next said: “I saw no reason not to give a green signal to the demarcation. I only asked them to commit to me that the ground would be used to its fullest. We will install security guards, toilets, lighting and changing room facilities.”

The gender-based reservation is especially laudable in a ghetto like Mumbra where 24 per cent women are illiterate, 92 per cent are unemployed and 28 per cent married before the age of 17 (TISS’ 2001 study titled ‘Mumbra — a status report’). The suburb, which houses riot-affected refugees, was home to Ishrat Jahan, who was killed in a fake encounter in 2004. “This victory is not just about reclaiming space. This initiative will help break the stereotype of Mumbra being a regressive, fundamentalist haven,” said Sabah, who runs NGO Parcham in the locality.

In 2013, when The Hindu wrote about the team soon after it was formed, the girls reported having to invent alibis to tell their parents before slipping away to attend coaching every Sunday. “Things have changed since then. Our team won two football tournaments. That’s when many of us plucked up the courage to tell our parents. Now, they are proud of us,” says Muskaan Sayad, who secured an impressive 80 per cent in her SSC examination this year.

The girls’ excitement is palpable. “We have decided to start training little boys up to a certain age. This is because gender stereotypes get perpetuated from a very young age. Our idea is to nip them in the bud by asking boys to get along with them, at least one girl for training,” says Muskaan.

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