The game changer

Payel Thakur
Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Kolkata’s Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) has launched an all-girls’ football team comprising children of sex workers

Life of a sex worker is scarred and erasing the stigma is hard. Although their pain and suffering cannot be described in words, often their children too lead a life of darkness and uncertainty. Apart from health risks and deprivation, children of sex workers face humiliation and are not easily accepted by society. There is also the danger of them getting trapped in the flesh trade. 

To tackle the stigmatisation that children of sex workers experience due to their mother’s occupation, and also to bring some light and hope in the lives of these children, Kolkata’s Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) — a collective of 65,000 sex workers — has formed an all-girls’ football team.

The team, comprising daughters of sex workers, was launched last month under DMSC’s initiative Amra Padatik. Dr Smarajit Jana, chief advisor, DMSC, initiated the idea. The aim is to shatter stereotypes associated with these children and also help them gain recognition in the world of football, both nationally and internationally. 

The football team gives the young girls, who find inspiration in Christiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, a chance to flaunt their soccer skills and chase their dreams. 

DMSC has been relentlessly fighting for the rights of sex workers since 1992. The origin of Durbar happened in the red light district of Sonagachi, the largest brothel in Asia. Since then it has been helping sex workers and their children in the area and elsewhere in the state. 

Bharati Dey, secretary and mentor, DMSC, says that they always wanted an exclusive team for the girls. “This programme was in the pipeline for many years.  Our boys’ team from Amra Padatik has played in Manchester, Poland, and Denmark. Now, the girls too are eager to achieve fame. This platform will boost their self confidence and help them stand tall against the discrimination, and eventually will push them forward to beat the odds and defy the conventions and prejudices,” explains Dey. 

Presently, DMSC is organising coaching once a week for the all-girls’ team. However, as soon as they start getting regular players from nearby villages, they will be conducting classes thrice a week in the field in their backyard. Dey believes that while it is good for the girls to play with the boys, if all these girls have their own team, it will only encourage and empower them in the long run.  

When asked, why football among all other team sports, she advocated that it is a sport which is played with a lot of passion and requires an effective balance of team effort. It can also help break gender stereotypes and erase the stigma against sex workers’ children. 

Lipika Sikdar, a 14-year-old ninth grader, is positive about making a mark on the globe along with her team and sees herself playing in World Cup Football someday. “Please help my team to grow like the boys!” she requests. 

Just like Sikdar, 16-year-old Sapna Halder, who has been practising for the past six months, says, “I participated in three tournaments, however, I’m yet to taste a win. Our opponent team was far more experienced and well trained. But I am confident that this ongoing process will bring out a lot of positive change in the girls’ team as well.”

While the girls are happy that they are getting an opportunity to hone their soccer skills, the members of the organisation are still struggling to fund the training of these girls. Dey says, “Till now, the organisation has not received any kind of sponsors or additional funds for the girls’ team. We are hoping to get some help. This will enable us to facilitate better training facilities for the girls and eventually help them fulfill their dreams.”

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Those willing to donate for the upliftment of the girls’ football team can do so through their website www.durbar.org

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