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Move Over Cricketers, These Are 5 Kickass Sportspersons You Should Know!

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From the rice fields of rural India, to the first gold medalist from India in a global sporting event, an 18-year-old  A woman’s performance made us proud. She proved that cricket is the not the only game in India. But it wasn’t enough to satisfy people. That was the case with the Athletics Federation of India, which made fun of Assamese sprinter Hima Das.

The young woman who won the first ever gold medal (for her spring) for India did not reach where she is by accident. Like many people from underprivileged families, it took a lot of hard work. She did something big that no one ever imagined. Even though her parents were reluctant about her attending training, her coach was in no mood waste her talent. But she is not the only sports personality who went beyond cricket. Here is a list of sports people who made the nation proud without any external support.

Sania Mirza

The tennis player made it big in a cricket-loving nation (where people still have to Google the name of the Indian hockey team’s captain). Her silent battle against the popularity of cricket started two decades ago, when the yet-unknown 16-year-old Sania Mirza won the 2003 Wimbledon Championships Girls’ Doubles title with Alisa Kleybanova. And let’s not forget she reached the semi-finals of the 2003 US Open Girls’ Doubles, and quarterfinals of the 2002 US Open Girls’ Doubles. Her back-to-back stellar performances made her an overnight sensation. She surely deserved the praise, and a time came when she ranked as the top player in the tennis world! Need we say more?

Abhinav Bindra


2008 was probably the first time when India got to know more about two sports personalities who had already been in the field for a significant time. At 15, Abhinav Bindra was the youngest player to represent India at an international platform. Though he continued with his best performances by winning accolades at various international events, it was just before the Beijing Olympic in 2008 that he suffered a back injury. His condition became so bad that he was unable to lift his own rifle.  But due to his determination, he went ahead and won the first ever gold medal in shooting for India. Even though he alleged that someone had tampered with his gunsight during a break, he did his best and made the nation proud.

Saina Nehwal

18-year-old Saina Nehwal gave her all against the world’s fourth and fifth top badminton players, defeated them both, and reached the quarterfinals as the first Indian woman by defeating them. In the finals, she lost to Maria Kristin Yulianti (world rank 16), but had by then won the hearts of Indians, and that’s how we got to know more about her. Her achievements did not start there. She had already made a name for herself in Indian badminton by winning the World Junior Badminton Championships, the first Indian to win it. And she never looked back. Today she is a prominent face in badminton, and has even become ranked No 1. It’s pure coincidence (and a happy one at that) that both Sania and Saina earned the rank of No. 1 in April 2015.

Sushil Kumar

We would never know anything about wrestling after Dara Singh, if Sushil Kumar had not arrived on the scene. As a sports person, he suffered a lot, partly due to poverty, but also for the sport he chose. His brother quit wrestling as their family was unable to support both their careers at the same time. As a wrestler, Kumar had to take great care of his nutrition, but it was difficult in a family where there was no guarantee that there would even be food at the end of the month. Despite all this, Kumar defeated all odds and won the 2010 World Wrestling Championship in Moscow. At the event, he was offered a huge sum of money from a fixer to lose the match. The fixer even tried to lure them by saying that he already reached the final so no need to worry about a medal. But he refused, instead choosing to make the nation proud. He ended up winning the gold. His achievements don’t end here. He went on to win silver at Olympics too. Even after injuries and some other controversies he never gives up, and he has won gold three consecutive times in the Commonwealth Games.

Suni Chhetri

One of India’s most talented, Suni Chettri has unfortunately not played in any major international events.  This is despite earning the 2nd rank in football, surpassing Lionel Messi. His bad luck didn’t end here. He had already signed a contract with the Queens Park Rangers in 2009, but was denied a work permit by the British government because India’s FIFA ranking was below 70. But he never shows a negative attitude,and that makes him one of the finest footballers of India, till now, after Bhaichung Bhutia.

The son of an Indian Army officer, Chhetri also wanted to become the cricketer but the expensive game forced to change his mind, and we could not be happier with his decision. Despite his stellar performance, we hardly knew anything about football.

Images source: Wikimedia Commons.
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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.

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.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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