Anand Prasad Gope empowering women in the best way possible
While girls around the world continue to fight for their rights, not many of them are supported by opportunities to achieve their dreams. In India, especially the women of the rural population bears the burden of patriarchy like no one else. They are deprived of the basic right to study and are forced to stay at home supporting household chores. These household works consume most of their time and from morning to night, they have one or another task to complete. In such a tight schedule, one could only imagine how tough it could be for them to follow their dreams.
But as it is said, where there’s a will there is a way. Anand Prasad Gope, a former football player, is helping these girls to grow beyond the orthodox society and find a way to fight male chauvinism.
Anand Prasad Gope Transforming Lives of Rural Women
The 30-year-old from Karma, a village in Jharkhand’s Ormanjhi, Anand Prasad Gope is a former football player and a licensed coach, who is helping girls chase their dreams and write their own stories. Jharkhand’s Karma village, located near Ranchi belongs to a tribal community, where women still live under the marginalized boundaries of socialism. They are unallowed to educate, earn or have a voice. In such a village, Gope is inspiring young girls to break out of their shells and lead a life of empowerment.
Anand Prasad played football since childhood and is very passionate about the same, he had even played at the Ranchi league and district levels in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Despite his talent, he couldn’t play at the national level because of his family’s financial condition. He sacrificed his dreams to earn living for his family. This unfulfilled dream inspired him to train poor kids and help them play at the national and international levels. He decided to put his skills in the best interest of the poor kids, especially the girls.
He realized that girls belonging to Ranchi’s tribal community can never thrive because they belong to marginalized communities and their families barely meet end needs. Also, the culture of their tribe doesn’t allow them to wear short clothes or play sports. They are married at an early age in exchange for dowry and thus, in such a condition, Prasad realizes that the most vulnerable part of the community are girls who need to be educated in order to live an independent life.
Driven by the motivation to change the fate of these girls, Anand decided to train them in football. For more than six months, he worked on persuading parents to allow their daughters to play football. At first, many of them were hesitant, and they questioned his intentions as never before in their tribe has any girl ever played a sport. And playing sports won’t help them pay their bills. But despite the challenges, he never stopped and continued persuading the elders and also the girls to take up the sport.
Finally, his efforts paid, and in 2013, he managed to persuade 15 girls and their parents to allow them to play football. But this was just the beginning of a journey worth inspiring. In the beginning, people didn’t appreciate girls playing sport wearing short clothes, they objected to Anand’s motive and even passed comments about the girls playing football. It was very hard for their community to accept the fact that girls can be equal to boys.
But these mere comments and tantrums couldn’t break the motivation of these girls who were confident enough to write their own stories. Apart from from training, Anand also helped them enroll in schools and complete basic education under the sports quota. Around 25 of his students played football on the national level, 8 girls have represented India in England, and 6 girls have played under-17 in Denmark. Not only this, two of his students named Anita Kumari and Soni Munda, were recently shortlisted for the FIFA World Cup camp scheduled for 2022. Today, he gives free football coaching to approximately 300 students, among whom 250 are girls.
His Quest Against Child Marriage
This way Anand Prasad Gope helped numerous girls from the small tribe of Ranchi to secure their dreams and live a life they always wanted to. But training isn’t all that Anand does. He is also very passionate about banning child marriages. Whenever he hears about any girl getting married below the age of 18, he barges in to stop it and help their parents understand that what they are doing is wrong. Many of them listen and understand while the rest do not. One such girl that Anand saved from child marriage, recently played for the Indian team in Tajikistan.
During their training days, as Anand recalls, many people would often restrict these girls from playing and even vandalize their grounds. Many girls faced a lack of nutritionists and adequate diet during their training. They were underweight and do not have the means to have a proper diet. Anand recognized this and sent various letters to the state sport’s department for help, but they never responded.
Till now, the training of these girls is organized by Anand Prasad himself and they do not receive any recognition from the state’s government. Though, some people have donated money to Gope’s effort which he has been using to buy sports equipment for his students, such as football kits, jerseys, and boots.
He had spent eight years helping girls play at national and international levels without external support. And he hopes that the state would soon recognize them so that the region can become an international training center for football.