The small state of Haryana has the worst sex
ratio in India at 879 females per 1,000 males, one of the lowest in the world.
Haryana is also known for caste and sexual violence against women and female
foeticide, rape, trafficking and domestic violence are common. But a small and
scattered community of girls are breaking stereotypes and winning international
laurels in sports ranging from hockey to boxing, wrestling to football and
rifle shooting. However, the path to pursuing a sport of their choice comes
with great struggle. Most of the girls belong to poor families and cannot
afford the equipment, diet and upkeep required to play professionally. Most
can’t even dream of access to psychologists or medical facilities that their
western counterparts take for granted. Facilities have a long way to go and
bureaucracy makes it harder for some players to get access to meal schemes,
prize money, etc. Besides obstacles on the playing field, the girls battle
patriarchy and gender-based discrimination. Most girls realise they may have to
give up their careers when their parents decide that they have to get married.
But success brings financial freedom and fame, which allows girls to negotiate
marriage at a later stage and helps them support their families. The stories of
Sakshi Malik and the Phogat sisters have inspired more families to encourage
their daughters. These young sportswomen are leading the way in empowering
women and helping bring about gender equality in the state.