FYI 17th February, 2022

“Didi, Khel Matlab Ghar ka Kaam”.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

I am not sure about Jack or dullness but yes, constant work without rest or relaxation is harmful to one’s personal life and well-being. I agree with this version of the meaning I found while surfing the internet.

When my colleague Shweta had asked one of the adolescent girls of her intervention field what she did for recreation, the girl said, ‘’दीदी खेल मतलब घर का काम’’. I had felt a stab of pain. An age when desires of all hues are there in your heart, an age when you are filled with energy and have a strong desire to socialize with friends and peers, at such an age there are innumerable girls from rural households who are burdened with domestic responsibilities and restrained all the time to the four walls of the house. They bear this burden either because they are married early or because they are made to sit at home and be trained in domesticity because they are thought to be of an age fit to be married.

A situational analysis study at the beginning of IKEA Foundation supported the Adolescent Empowerment programme of Breakthrough reported: “Leisure time or the ‘time to rest’ was aspirational for all the girls. Besides household chores, many of the girls reported going to work on the farms (the household’s farm or as agriculture labourers) thereby contributing to the family income. Such work, while giving girls an opportunity to go out of the house, also increased their workload as they had to attend to household chores as well as work in the fields’’. The study also added, “Many adolescent girls wished they had the time to rest when they came back, ‘like the boys, or the adults’. Reiterating the absolutely low position of the bhabhi or sister-in-law in the household, some girls even blamed the latter for not adequately ‘working hard enough’ to take the load off them (the daughters). Thus the daughter-in-law of the household was invariably placed at the lowest end of the pyramid in the family hierarchy having no control over work distribution and her own time.”

Most of us are aware of this sad reality. Childhood or adolescence comes to an end as the underage daughter-in-law enters her marital home and so does her right to recreation and play. She can only fondly reminiscence the bygone school days when she could play in open school ground under the free skies.

However, the bhabhis my colleague Jyoti met in one of her intervention villages are a little different. They not only fondly reminiscence the sports and games of bygone school days, but they also seize the opportunity to compete with daughters of their village in ‘kabaddi match’. However, with stealth and cleverness, they dodge the glances of males and elders who happen to pass by. As these elders and husbands pass, they stand straight and the game is paused. When they are out of sight, their kabaddi game resumes.

One of the bhabhis even asked Jyoti, “Didi, take us somewhere outside the village where we can play with a carefree attitude. We used to play and have such fun when we were at school.”

Their plea once again proved how deeply the young married females miss their childhood and adolescence, carefree play, energetic games, fun-filled moments and laughter with peers on open grounds under the free blue skies.

Until now, we have been raising the issue of freedom for adolescent girls to play in open village ground. During the IKEA Foundation supported Adolescent Empowerment programme there was a marked increase in negotiations by girls for their leisure time. The End Line Evaluation of the programme reported that for the girls, leisure time has increased from 2.97 hours in baseline to 4.16 hours in the end line (a 40% increase!).

Hence, now I often wonder: Has the time come for an announced village sports meet for Nari Sangh members as well? I wish we could do something of this sort soon!



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