girls sports in tea garden

(This week we are sharing about our sports initiatives that brought new confidence to girls in a tea garden in Assam and shaped their will power to go back to their education.Admin).

Purva Bharati Educational Trust (PBET) is working to promote education in the tea gardens of Assam since 2012. To attract the students, sports and outdoor activities are important. Such activities not only add to the fitness of the students but also provide space and opportunity to build confidence and shape personality of the young generation. Sports and outdoor activities also play an important role in development of essential social skills, bonding and community development. It is observed that there is no dearth of talents in the tea garden areas of Assam. What lacking are opportunities, resources, leadership and enabling environment to engage youths in sports specially sports for girls. Due to social norms and cultural discrimination, women are not encouraged to take part in sports and outdoor activities.

To overcome these hurdles and to create space for women and girls in sports, in 2018, PBET undertook a campaign and made arrangements by introducing the game of football and hockey in the tea garden Tongana gaon TE in Tinsukia district of Assam. The initial response was very encouraging. For the first time after a gap of fifteen years, a football tournament was organized in the area and it was a huge success. Two teams of women footballers also participated in this tournament. An all women hockey team was formed for the first time. Veteran sportswomen namely Sumitra Sanowal and Shiva Tanti played an active role, trained the team and established an organization called Tongana Kakopathar Hockey Academy. Through this organization, they participated in state level events in Tinsukia and Nagaon.

Despite the enthusiasm and interest in sports like Hockey, lack of equipment became a hurdle. It is to be noted that many women couldnot afford the sports gear required for this game. There were acute shortage of shoes, socks, sticks, guard and other requirements. None of them could afford even to buy a pair of shoes. Shiva Tanti collected old sticks from District Sports office. Purva Bhrati Educational Trust came into rescue and provided 6000 rupees as support to buy gear for 16 girls. This enabled them to participate in the state level event in Nagaon. Their participation and exposure added another layer of encouragement to carry on the game. Those 16 participants who played in Nagaon were over excited to come out and play outside their home. They called it an achievement because it was the first time they went outside of Tinsukia to play. They travelled by train for the first time in life. On return hockey became popular among the girls and created a very encouraging environment. They started training themselves in spare space available in the garden. The management of tea gardens too expressed interest and supported such enthusiasm. Following this, in February 2020, a sports event was organized by Chamong TE Company in Darjeeling, West Bengal. The women football team participated and secured runner up position. It turned into a huge pride for the whole tea garden.

In 2019, the game of Frisbee was introduced. The positive effect of this was beyond expectation. During a meeting of Advocacy Forum on girls education in tea gardens, Jaynee Liang, a social activist from an organization called The Ant made a presentation and showed a video on how this game is becoming popular in Bodo Territorial Districts. PBET is currently working in three tea gardens on a project on education and these projects focuses on sports as an integral part of education. Introduction of Frisbee was a part of this protect plan. The word Frisbee itself was attractive for the girls. That year, three trainers from The Ant trained a group of 40 girls in Beesakoupi tea garden. Out of them, four including one boy were selected for an advanced training in Chirang. In the third level, a group of three sports inspectors visited the Beesakoupi Tea garden and provided tips to improve their skills. Gotonga tea garden also introduced Frisbee game among the girls. This has become the glorious history of the sports in tea gardens.

Experiences of few girls are presented below.

  1. Jaya Lakra, 22 years old is from Tongana gaon TE. Mother of three kids, Jaya’s parents are also working in the tea garden as permanent employees. Her parents were taking care of the education of their two kids including Jaya. Jaya completed her education till class 12. However the family suffered highly after the untimely death of the father due to an illness. They started facing financial constrains. So Jaya dropped her studies. In 2015, Jaya joined Purva Bharati Educational Trust and became a master trainer in football, hockey and Frisbee. It was she who led the team to achieve runner up position in the Inter Chamong tournament in Darjeeling. She also led the team in Nagaon. Jaya said, ‘ I never thought that I could go out like this and achieve so much;. Jaya is now a confident person sports as well as in life.
  2. Swapna Munda, a 16 years old girl from Beesakoupi tea garden turned into a devoted player of Frisbee and as well an expert trainer. She is now studying in class XI. Her parents are supportive of her education. She is also a good painter. Because of her extra ordinary performance in Frisbee during an event organized by PBET, she was selected for the master training. Right now she is a regular student and also she trains the children in her locality 3-4 times a week. She is practicing hard to improve her performance. Swapna wants to make Frisbee more popular in the tea garden area.
  3. Deepa Tanti is 16 years old girl from the same tea garden. Deepa dropped out from school after completing education up to class VIII due to financial constrains at home. Her mother’s illness became a hurdle for her to continue study. She is also a good painter. Despite this she has no opportunity to improve her skill. With support from PBET, Deepa has enrolled in class IX and has enormous interest in sports. She is a good player as well. She performed well during the annual sports event in the tea garden. Her interest in studies increased ever since she is trained in Frisbee. Her dreams have no boundary now. She wants to prove her ability and be a sports person in future.