Stadiums Without Washrooms A Dampener For Sports-Loving Girls

Srinagar—Aneesa Jaan doesn’t plan her weekends. They have always remained planned and unchanged ever since she was seven-year-old. Come any holiday or weekend, Aneesa religiously spends it on her one and the only passion-sports

“Sports run with my blood, especially handball. No matter what I do and where I am, handball is always in my mind. If it was not my passion, I wouldn’t have come so far to this place for practice. One can’t even find a decent washroom here,” Aneesa said.

The “place” that Aneesa refers to is valley’s only indoor stadium where sports lovers from all across the valley come for practice and training. On any normal day, more than 1500 youngsters visit indoor stadium to enhance their skills and participate in diverse sports activities, “I am sure much more would come especially girls but the lack of washrooms discourages them,” Aneesa added.

The ladies’ washrooms inside the stadium are visibly defunct. By a mere glimpse one could tell that they have not been used for anything from many months except for dumping garbage. The rusted taps have been running dry. Doors and flushes are broken, so are the bolts, basins and mirrors.

“If I tell my parents about this they may never allow me to come here. These dumps which are not even fit for using as washrooms are the places where we change our clothes. On one side the authorities will talk big about girl empowerment and equality but on the other hand they do nothing to make environment favorable for us,” Aneesa further added.

Like Aneesa, Ruheela Bashir of Pulwama too is a handball freak and comes every Sunday with her father to practice in indoor stadium. Although her father many times insisted to come inside and see her perform and practice, Ruheela says, she always made an excuse to stop him at the gate.

“My father has a very positive approach. He thinks government has kept all the facilities for girls and they have no reason to lag behind in anything. I don’t want him to see the truth and change his mind because he will not send me here then and it is my dreams that will perish in the whole process,” said Ruheela.

Last time when Ruheela was on her periods and her father brought her to Srinagar for routine practice, she couldn’t tell him her “problem” that there is no place where she can change her sanitary pad and clean herself. For hours, Ruheela sat in the lawns of stadium and when she needed to use washroom she went to a nearby café and did the needful.

“Because this stadium is located close to commercial hub lalchowk, it is difficult to find a residential house in the vicinity. One has to unnecessary order something at a café or restaurant to use their washroom.”

In Kashmir, where peace is fragile and an unrest a spark away, the authorities have always laid emphasis on developing sports culture among youth to distance them from politics. Hundreds of crores have been given to the state government as special packages to develop sports infrastructure in the state. However, any visible improvement is far from the sight.

“I recently participated in Women T20 Championship at Bakshi Stadium and trust me it was disgusting,” said 23-year-old Sumaya Jan. Sumaya’s excitement knew no bounds when State Cricket Academy organized the championship and she got her long awaited chance of showing her talent.

“But soon my enthusiasm came down to zero when I saw girls from Jammu and other regions frantically searching for toilets and getting disgusted at the sight of existing toilets in Bakshi stadium. I wonder whether our chief minister, who happens to be a woman herself, knew the condition of the toilets in the stadium when she was talking big at the inaugural function,”Sumaya added.

With everyday more and more youngsters in Kashmir are making it big in sports and bringing laurels to the state and girls in no way lag behind. It was just last year that the 8-year-old Tajamul Islam shot to fame by winning gold in sub-junior category of the World Kickboxing Championship in Italy. With success of Tajamul many Kashmiri girls got inspired to work hard and chase their dreams in sports but the lack of support and poor infrastructure plays a spoilsport for them.



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