Over the past six months we have written a series of blogs on the rapid rise in the incomes & aspirations of India’s women (here’s the most recent blog: The Rapid Rise of Female Entrepreneurs in India – Marcellus). Kautilya Singh’s article explores a different side of this phenomenon – how women living tough lives in the villages of Uttarakhand are relaxing and bonding with each other:
“Women in Pharsani, Bironkhal block, Pauri district walk miles to collect wood and fodder. Now, they are walking to play an and watch cricket. For six years, Kunjeshwar Mahadev Samiti – a social organisation – had been hosting a  tournament for men. But large-scale migration to cities meant this year there were not enough men to man the teams. When KMS decided to host a women’s cricket tournament, says Mukesh Rawat, an office-bearer, the response was overwhelming – 45 teams applied, 32 were picked.

Locals are all for it. KMS’s prize money for winner and runners-up is Rs 3,000 and Rs 1,500, respectively. But locals announced cash rewards of Rs 3.5 lakh for standout players. Players’ ages range from 14 to 50, Rawat says, and most had never played before. But enthusiasm was undimmed. The tournament started on January 7. Finals are later this month. Teams are playing 5-over, tennis ball matches.”

Looking beyond cricket, the broader significance of such changes in remote rural areas is immense: “Women are also present in numbers among spectators…Women from many remote villages like Timli, Nainssyun, Bainro, Punjoli and Gureedsheelthala have come to play in the tournament. It has been a great way for them to bond with each other,” Rawat said…

Many local observers say the tournament is a big break for hill women who have tough lives and little time of their own. Punjoli resident Karishma Devi, who represented her village team, says not only did cricket get them out of their homes and their tiring routine, it also allowed them to raise issues like poor road connectivity. Only one team will win the tournament. But every woman in Pauri, playing or watching, has already won.”

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