Sonagachi to launch women football team ‘Amra Padatik’

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Juggling through the lanes of Sonagachi, Kolkata’s biggest red light area came small pockets of hope and admiration. The rain might have damped the streets, but the enthusiasm of the girls has certainly lifted the mood of the area. These girls have turned the bylanes of the city’s red-light area into their playground. But who are these girls? They are the daughters of sex workers of Sonagachi.

Prostitution is always associated with shame, desperateness, and despair. Globally, sex workers have a 45 to 75% chance of experiencing sexual violence at some point in their careers and a 32 to 55% chance of experiencing sexual violence in a given year. In England and Wales – while the sale and purchase of sexual services between consenting adults are legal – many activities connected with selling sex, such as brothel-keeping and soliciting, are illegal. And in India, the situation of sex workers is even bitter; they are often ineligible for rape victim compensation funds or receive reduced amounts. Not only this the stigma associated with their profession affects their families especially their girl child. And just to break this stigma, these young packets of motivation are all set to launch their first women’s football team- AMRA PADATIK.

Amra Padatik- Sonagachi’s All-Women Football Team

The combo of sports and women doesn’t go well with the thin sick mentality of India’s self-proclaimed intellectuals. For them, women’s job is raising kids and looking after the household, anything apart from it doesn’t fall into the spectrum of a so-called ‘Good woman’. But very few we hear stories where females have taken control over life their own way, and rarer are the stories of young girls. One such story came from the lanes of Sonagachi, where the daughters of sex workers are all set to launch their own women’s football team known as Amra Padatik.

The Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) has been helping the sex workers of Sonagachi and nearby areas, and they are focusing on building an all-women football team including the daughters of prostitutes of the area. Starting from August, these kids of the sex workers will get their chance of changing their fate as the training will kick off next month. It’s their opportunity of flaunting their football skills, shattering stereotypes, and declaring it loud and clear that girls can be anything they wish to be. Currently, there are about eight to nine girls to start coaching but the members of DMSC hope that more girls will join them with time. According to them, these young girls are very enthusiastic about football and some of them often play with boys but getting their own team can build their confidence much greater than just playing gully football.

“We will show them [boys], we are no less. Although they are very supportive and encouraging, they sometimes challenge us by saying let’s see what you can do,” says a 14 years old young girl from Sonagachi in an interview with The Indian Express.

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Many sex workers want their daughters to join the team but are afraid of what society would say. Their daughters are already stigmatized and wearing western clothes would make them even more stereotyped than before. The DMSC workers are trying to educate them that a sports jersey is just a jersey and there’s nothing to be afraid of. Instead, their daughters would be making the country proud and so their families. Smarajit Jana, chief adviser of Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee said that the basic idea of forming the team came from the girls themselves. They have heard many girls excitingly chatting about football and how much they wanted to be like their favorite players.

Dr. Pratim Roy, a former team doctor with Mohan Bagan Sporting Club, has come forward to mentor these girls owing to his association with the NGO. According to him many of these girls wanted to play football and have seen the boy’s team of ‘Amra Padatik’ and already played in several countries including Poland and Denmark. Thus, they too wanted to give a chance but have always been hesitant of the society. With the help of DMSC, they finally have an opportunity to chase their dreams. DMSC has planned to hold coaching once a week and if they are successful in finding regular players, they will extend the classes thrice a week.

The Bottom Line

Right now, the girl team of Amra Padatik has no sponsors but soon they hope that people will come forward in support. The team of The Indianness, also requests everyone to come forward in support of these young enthusiasts and help them in chasing their dreams. Most of these girls are school dropouts and suffers from societal stigma almost every day in their life. They are deprived of basic rights and it’s almost impossible for them to escape such stigma attached to them since birth. Though several NGOs are working for the betterment of such kids, not many offer them a chance to shine bright in life. By forming their own football team, these girls finally have a chance to prove themselves.

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