My name is Kusum. I am 15 years old.
My oldest sister got married when she was about 15 years old. When she was in 7th grade, my parents wanted her to marry because the men are prominent in the family. My sister was scared. Her husband was a bad man. Once my sister came home with a mark on her neck because her husband hit her.
In my village many girls like my sister get married young. If she says she doesn’t want to get married, they abuse her. They believe girls should stay at home, cut grass for the cows, make food. A girl will only become a wife and move into her husband’s house.
Before I started to play football I didn’t think about what would happen in my future. I didn’t think school would make any difference in my life. Sometimes I would see girls study hard. But they would do the same as girls who did housework. So why should I study?
At my school teachers were rude. They would hit the students when they did not understand. At the school we didn’t like to study.
I liked my English teachers because they asked if I understood. I thought they knew everything. I wanted to learn everything. So I started asking questions.
My parents earn money for us. When I see my parents doing construction work in the sun, I feel bad. …But when I see my parents come home drunk I feel I cannot move ahead in my life. Sometimes I think my dream is still a dream and is not real life.
Photo: Kusum shares her story at the Girl Power in Play Symposium where she met Moya Dodd (right), former vice-captain of the Australia women's team. Credit: Yuwa.
I started playing football in 2009 when it was organized in our village. I learned so many things, we had fun at practice. We practice every day. At first my teammates would have fights with one another. We learned that if we were always fighting we would always lose our matches.
When I was 13, a group of students raised money to bring my team to Spain to play in a big tournament. …We went to the local office to get our bus certificates. The officer wanted us to pay him money. But we knew they were free. He hit my friends. After three months we got our bus certificate.
My teammates and I are the only people in our village who have travelled by airplane.
Many good things have happened because of my team’s trip. I have met many different people who do different things with their lives. I have met girls and women who work hard for their dreams to come true. They don’t care about what people think. I have met a girl who climbed Mt. Everest.
I learn all these things from football. Sometimes I think I'm small in size but not in mind. If so many people can solve so many things, then I think so can I. Now my teammates are coaches for a new little girls team in our village. We make fun practices so they come back every day.
“How can we dribble like you? We want to be like you" they tell me.
Sometimes my mom says I should get married now. I get angry and I tell her ‘I do not want to get married now.’
But my sister says, “I have not travelled where you have, keep working hard, keep playing football and make us feel proud.”
Kusum is a young footballer and youth leader with Yuwa, an organization that uses girls’ team sports as a platform for social development in rural India.
*Feature photo of this article, credit: Yuwa.
"Play makes me smile and confident." - Kusum. Credit: One World Play Project
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