Hutup village in the state of Jharkhand is infamous for child marriage and human trafficking. Tribal women, not only do all the housework here, but also work as labourers to earn a livelihood. It is difficult for them to think they could have an alternative future.. But an idealistic American man believed and proved otherwise.
Franz Gastler, a social science graduate from Boston University, came to India after completing his education. He lived in a mud house in the village and taught English to the local tribal youth and also introduced them to the game of football, through his organization, Yuwa.
The programme, which had started with just 15 girls, now has over 600 girls who come for training. But it was not easy to get the parents to agree to girls coming out to play. While Mr Gastler persevered, the girls did not give up so easily either. “The neighbours used to taunt us by saying that we wear shorts like the boys do, but we didn't pay attention to them, we would come to play without telling anyone!” says one of the girls cheekily.
The girls developed such skills that they even represented India in the Donosti Cup in Spain. But here too, there was a challenge. The girls were treated disrespectfully by the Panchayat authorities who had to sign their documents. “First they asked us to sweep the floors, when we denied they asked for money for the signatures and when we said we did not have the money, they slapped us,” says another player in the team which went to Spain. Despite the challenges, their performance was sterling. “They did incredibly well and took a lot of pride in coming home with the bronze from Spain,” says Mr Gastler.