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Meet Shahina Javed, Who Set Up A Women’s Football Team And Refused To Bow Down To Patriarchal Norms

  • IWB Post
  •  October 5, 2019

India is traditionally a patriarchal society where male domination is immense and women are under social control from the time of their birth. Due to social, cultural, and economic beliefs, women are considered subordinates to men and this percolates to the children within the family consciously and subconsciously.

Among the many areas where traditional mindsets hamper the growth of women, Kolkata’s Rajabazar stands as an example of this reality. While progress has been made by society to abolish the practices of child marriage, dowry, and domestic abuse, Rajabazar is an area which has not been free from the clutches of these age-old norms.

Falling prey to discrimination meted out to girls, Shahina Javed’s story was not different from many others. Though she was not consciously treated different from her three brothers, she did face inequitable treatment. Recalling an incident, she shared, “While I was growing up, I saw how my mother served food to my brothers first, how she let them play late in the night and how they received more numbers of toys. Whenever I questioned such behaviour, my parents shut me up.”

While growing up, Shahina observed her neighbours and friends being subjected to violence from the male members of the family until one day an incident shook her up and she decided to address the issue.

“I saw a man brutally hitting his wife on the road. No one from the colony tried to intervene or even offered the woman any help. I took her to the hospital but she refused to lodge a complaint, fearing the future of her children. That incident gave me several sleepless nights and inspired me to act against the existing situation,” Shahina recalled.

In the year 2008, she collaborated with like-minded people and started Roshni Youth Group to work for gender equality and empowerment of women. Despite facing a negative response from her family and the community, Shahina decided not to give up. Along with her friends, she attended many conferences on gender quality to meet like-minded people fighting for the cause, through which she formed a network of lawyers, activists, and educationists.

“Lack of awareness is the main reason why girls and women cannot fight for themselves. They don’t know their basic rights and as a result, they continue to suffer. Thus, it was very important for me to gather knowledge. Once I was educated, I started conducting awareness workshops,” she shared.

As time went on, a number of girls started attending the workshops conducted by Shahina and, interestingly, it was found out that it was the mothers who underwent years of suffering who sent their daughters to attend the sessions.

With Shahina’s remarkable initiative, a couple of city-based organizations joined hands with her and since the last 10 years, she has been working to empower women by inviting experts on self-defense classes, career counseling,  public speaking etc.

Shahina Javed

All-girls soccer team formed by Shahina

Taking it to the next level, Shahina also founded an all-women soccer team of five girls from the basti two years back but her move angered many people to the extent that she started getting threat calls.

However, unfazed by the opposition, Shahina kept working towards her goal and today she has managed to get around 40 girls who are undertaking training in football.

“The men’s soccer team did not allow us to use the ground and parents advised their daughters against playing sports. But when we won a couple of local matches, people came around.”

While Shahina has been instrumental in changing the lives of about 200 girls in the community who are daring to pursue their dreams now, her journey was not free from challenges. Apart from the threat calls she received, her NGO was also attacked when she along with her team stopped a child marriage by informing the police.

Sending a clear message to girls and women, Shahina says, “Do not wait for a fairy tale where a Prince Charming will rescue you from the clutches of unjust societal norms. Instead, write your own story and make sure you are the Hero in it.”

H/T: The Better India

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