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Talent, Ambition And Belief: The Rise Of Talented Female Cricketers In Anantapur

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Since the Indian women’s team reached the finals of the Cricket World Cup in 2017 (the most televised and watched women’s Cricket World Cup in history), girls in India are now more motivated than ever to play the sport, knowing they have a pathway to reach the highest level.

In Anantapur, like the rest of the country, the sport is developing at a fast pace. Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA), an initiative by the Rural Development Trust (RDT), is a development program that reaches out to around 9,000 children on a weekly basis and provides them with infrastructure, education, coaching and nutrition.

ASA has been working for years to increase the participation of girls in sports and cricket is one of the biggest sports in the region. Two local players, P. Manisha and K. Mamta, epitomize the growth of talented women cricketers in Anantapur. The duo, from a town called Penukonda, have been playing cricket since they were 12 years old.

P. Manisha and K. Mamta

Coming from an impoverished background, the idea of being a professional athlete can seem like a faraway dream. There is usually pressure to find work quickly or get married. Sadly, this can be even more challenging for a girl who holds ambitions of becoming a sportsperson. They also face barriers like stereotypes, cultural norms and a general lack of facilities.

For Manisha, becoming a cricket player was in her blood since her father is a former cricketer from the district. Both the girls’  parents currently run very small businesses in the community but are extremely supportive of their daughters and fully back their ambition to be professional cricketers. This is very important for the growth and development of any young girl, let alone a cricketer. While this is not the case in the entire district, it is certainly encouraging to see families in rural communities starting to see a future in sports for their children, especially their daughters.

“They both come from poor families. However, these girls are aware that they have the potential to play for the state team and beyond. After seeing girls like B. Anusha (another ASA player) succeed, they believe that cricket can be an opportunity to make a living, be successful and give back to the community they grew up in,” says Yugandhar Reddy, a senior cricket coach at ASA.

The two all-rounders are extremely passionate about the sport and have seen it consume their lives. Mamta recounts that her favourite memory when she took a 6-wicket haul in a practice game a few years ago. For Manisha, a 5-wicket haul in a match against Kadapa stands out above everything else!

They’re both avid cricket fans and regularly watch international matches on TV. In fact, Manisha even got to meet Manish Pandey at a recent training session in Bangalore. Seeing role models like Mithali Raj and Smriti Mandhana succeed has truly inspired these young cricketers. It led to them working on their game every day, which resulted in brilliant performances at the district level.

Tahir, a cricket coach at the residential academy says, “I believe that these girls have huge potential. Their fantastic performances at the inter-district tournament earlier this year simply couldn’t be ignored and we believe that they have what it takes to qualify for the Andhra Pradesh state team.”

Getting selected for the ASA residential program is a big achievement, but for Mamta and Manisha, it is simply a stepping-stone towards much greater things. Their ambitions, as they should be, are set high. They are determined to play for the Indian national team and for that, the hard work starts now.

“I love the facilities and equipment at ASA. I believe it can help me develop as a player and achieve all my goals,” says K. Mamta, when asked about her thoughts on joining the academy.

Mamta and Manisha are both making massive progress, not just as cricketers but also as people. Currently studying at a junior college in Anantapur town, they are well aware of the importance of school and studies. Though they both say that cricket is and always has been priority, they believe that through focus and strict time management, finding the right balance between sports and academics is far from difficult

They are also very self-aware and understand that cricket is not simply a sport but something that has shaped their outlooks on life. It has helped them learn values such as teamwork, friendship and always having a positive attitude. The sport has helped them realise the importance of being fit and these are habits and values that they will keep for the rest of their lives.

The two of them are excited for their time at ASA and hope to learn and develop further in their two years at the academy.

“I have already made a lot of good friends here at ASA, especially with some of the Hockey players. I am looking forward to developing my game, especially my batting,” says Manisha.

These girls are ambitious, confident and perhaps most importantly, believe in their ability to succeed. Their sights are set on much bigger things and you may be hearing their names for years to come!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)’.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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