This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Debanjana Choudhuri. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Smashing Taboos, These Girls Are Playing Rugby With Boys And Making India Proud

More from Debanjana Choudhuri

Story cover photo

Touch Rugby is a game derived from rugby football in which players do not tackle each other but instead touch their opponents using their hands on any part of the body, clothing or the ball. In Plan India’s ‘Safer Cities for Girls’ programme, the sport is used to enhance gender equality, encourage girls’ participation and more importantly, claim back and have equal access to public spaces.

In Mongolpuri, New Delhi, Plan India and its NGO partners have worked together to hone the skills of adolescents and youth. Of the 70 players currently enrolled, four have been selected for the National Touch Rugby team and will represent India at the Youth Touch Rugby Championship in Malaysia. Girls now comprise 40% of the national squad which is an impressive feat!

Many players shared that earlier, their parents were not supportive of them playing. They did not want their daughters to step out of their houses and play alongside boys; they feared stigma and taboo. But now, with a considerable number of girls representing India, gender stereotypes are gradually being smashed. Nisha, a player shares, “Our friend Nidhi was an excellent player, she was a natural, but after six months, her parents refused to let her play. They want to get her married off and think playing with boys will hamper her chances of finding a ‘good groom’.”

This emotion resonates not only among girls but also among boys. Kushal shares,“Our coach goes to the home of every player and tries to convince their parents to let their children play. At times, parents are convinced and at times they refuse. We want our team to be strong and losing good players is always heartbreaking!”

Touch Rugby is a non-aggressive game in which players have to communicate via sign language and touch
Touch Rugby is a non-aggressive game in which players have to communicate via sign language and touch

The game has also taught players to be mindful of their nutrition. During the first few days of enrollment, many girls and boys complained of tiredness and fatigue. After various consultations, the coach drew up a nutritional and dietary plan for every player. Now, the players understand the value of a healthy lifestyle. Nisha remarks, “Earlier, we used to eat one roti or junk food like momos throughout the day, but now we know the importance of healthy food. Our stamina and on-field performance are directly linked to our diet. During the first few weeks of practice, all of us, including boys could hardly complete a one kilometre lap, now we can easily take 4-5 laps during warm up.”

It is a very good feeling to be able to represent India at the international level. More girls are willing to participate in the game now.
It is a very good feeling to be able to represent India at the international level. More girls are willing to participate in the game now.

Apart from convincing and bringing attitudinal changes in their families, the girls and boys had to also negotiate with the local government to get access to a community stadium for practice. They got a field after much advocacy with the local body and now they are tasked with maintaining the grounds. The stadium which was once inhabited by drug peddlers and cattle, and had foot-long weeds, is now clean, marked by touch rugby players. Each one of them took up the task to clean the field, right from de-weeding to covering potholes and most importantly, sensitising the community to not misuse the ground – they have come a long way.

Players forming a defense strategy.
Players forming a defence strategy.
Coach initiates a real life discussion for players to share how they need to play the role of champions towards making their city safer.
A coach initiates real-life discussion for players to share how they need to play the role of champions towards making their city safer.
Players share how in real lives they need to apply 'safeguarding' techniques for those in danger and sensitise the community.
Players share how in real lives they need to apply ‘safeguarding’ techniques for those in danger and sensitise the community.

Teamwork, mutual respect and equal opportunity for girls is what these players want. With more girls having access to equal opportunities, the project is ensuring that girls are empowered to make life decisions and become skilled enough to pursue a career in sports or in any other field.

Players form a line up before commencing the game.
Players form a line up before commencing the game.
Defending a fellow player.
Defending a fellow player.
Girls and boys as young as 7 can be enrolled in Touch Rugby.
Girls and boys as young as 7 can be enrolled in Touch Rugby.

Images are the property of Plan International (India Chapter) Photos by Debanjana Choudhuri for Plan India

Plan India is a nationally registered not for profit organisation striving to advance children’s rights and equality for girls, thus creating a lasting impact in the lives of vulnerable and excluded children and their communities.

You must be to comment.

More from Debanjana Choudhuri

Similar Posts

By Room to Read

By Shreya

By Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below