Saturday, October 5, 2019

Announcing Our New Young Women's Forum!

We're delighted to announce a new series that will be appearing on our UNESCO/UNITWIN blog!

In an effort to amplify grassroots voices in this phase of our UNITWIN, Founding Member Chandana Dey from West Bengal, India proposed having a young women's forum. Chandana states "This initial idea came from my interest in a young all-girls' football team. The co-coach is Mousumi Murmu. I thought that it would be interesting to have dialogues with these young women- and perhaps this might lead to some gender awareness and skill building work. Mousumi has been taking computer programming classes, and she will soon be working with a Santal professor in Jadavpur University who works on discrimination. I thought Mousumi's 'WhatsApp diary' (would be translated by me) would make interesting blog entries. And I also thought that the other UNITWIN partners might have similar stories they could share."

Here is the first entry in this young women's forum series, by Mousumi Murmu!

Mousumi's football team with coach and Chandana Dey
Courtesy: Mousumi Murmu

From the Diary of Mousumi Murmu 

(September 2019)

My name is Mousumi Murmu and I live in the village of Phooldanga. On 15 March, 2018, I joined work on a survey on the socio-economic conditions of Adivasi girls in the villages of West Bengal. There were many other students from different districts of Bengal on the survey and this was a chance to meet them. There were two other girls from Birbhum on this survey- Anjali Soren and Bahamoni Tudu. I met two other girls from Rajnagar Block, and along with them, made the acquaintance of one of their teachers, Mr. Tapan Kumar Ray. He was a retired school-teacher. He told me that he had formed a girls’ football team in a village in the Rajnagar block (Suri district). Besides football, he was trying to make these girls self-reliant, trying to prevent child-marriage, through an organization he founded called Jeevak Herb Welfare Society.
In October 2018, after my survey work got over, Tapan Sir got in touch with me and told me he needed my help in forming a girls’ football team in the Bolpur area. He asked me to think over his offer. I thought it over and said I would try because I was fond of games. He informed me that the project would start in December.

 On 8 December, 2018, Tapan Sir and I went to the village of Ballavpurdanga to ask school-going girls whether they wanted to learn to play football and whether they would be able to come and play on the football field near the village of Bidyadharpur. We got a list of 25 girls who were interested. Among them were some girls who had given up on school. Then we went to the villages of Bidyadharpur, Banshpukur, and Kayetpukur. Here I had the help of my mother. We found many enthusiastic girls. On another day, Sir and I visited the villages of Uttar Sehala and Kutipara. In the meantime, Tapan Sir visited the village committee head and other notable individuals in Bidyadharpur village to get permission to train the girls on the Bidyadharpur football field. 

Tapan Sir then informed the girls that the football training would start in the first week of January. We had got around 80-85 names of girls from seven villages. On the first day, around 50 girls came to the Bidyadharpur field. Gradually the numbers reduced as the training progressed. Tapan Sir told us that a coach, Mr. Tarun Manna, from Kolkata would come to train us twice weekly-he had also coached the girls’ team in the Rajnagar block. Some girls dropped out because they had not played before and did not have the stamina to play on the football field as well as do all the work at home they were expected to do.    

Tapan Sir gave a name to the Bidyadharpur football team- ‘LAHANTI’- this is a Santal word that means ‘Go forward’. Tapan Sir has asked for help in funding our Lahanti team through his organization. The Panrui police station got to know of the girls’ football team and has paid for the uniforms of the team. At the back of each shirt is the name of the football player and a number, and embossed is the name: Panrui P.S. Tapan Sir also got together funds to buy socks and shoes for the team players.   

In addition, the girls get a snack after each game; sometimes, soaked chickpeas; sometimes boiled eggs, and at other times, bread and banana. The girls’ team is now playing with other teams and sometimes winning matches. The girls appreciate greatly the help from their coach. There has been appreciation of our football team from surrounding villages. At present, there are 45 girls on the football team.  

 Football team in Bidyadharpur village with Chandana's friends from abroad
Courtesy: Chandana Dey

Lahanti football team, shouting out their name
Courtesy: Chandana Dey