Daily Archives: July 8, 2019

#PlayMatters: The Boys Of Team North India Who Bring Street Children To The Mainstream Through Cricket

“I am very glad to be here today as a street child who got the opportunity to come to Lord’s to play cricket and to have my voice heard on behalf of other street children. We do not have the right to identity and gender equality and do not have access to education and healthcare. No child should work to earn for his or her food. We call on the government to act on these issues and to ensure that all children have these rights,” said a member of Team North India as they represented their country and its street children in England this year.  

While their counterparts from South India, took home the cup, this team of 8, 4 boys and 4 girls from Kolkata, with support from Hope Foundation and Save the Children., had a life-changing experience at the Street Child World Cup Cricket.

Here’s a conversation with the Boys Of Team North India on their experience, learnings and love for cricket.  

Team North India is a mixed-gender team comprising 4 girls and 4 boys from Kolkata, supported by Hope Foundation and Save the Children

Q) Tell us your names, what do you like doing in your free time?

A: We are Tarak, Anupam, Irfan and Jabir, and we were part of team North India and some of us also play county cricket. Tarak here wants to become a businessman and the rest of us want to pursue cricket or football. We love football too!

Q) Congratulations on reaching the semi-finals! How was your experience?

A: It was such a great experience! We travelled to another country for the first time and played cricket at Lord’s! We couldn’t believe we played cricket at the same ground as Dada (Saurav Ganguly) played cricket. We felt very fortunate. We also felt bad that we lost the match in the semi-final. Infact, we even played a match against Team South India! While playing against our own country, we realised we can’t have sympathy against the opponent. In any sport, one just plays to win and that is all that really matters! That apart, for us, this match was beyond a cricket match, it was representing the voice of all the street children of India as we got a platform to ensure our voice was heard. For us, that was a big responsibility!

Q) Tell us about your travel to England. How was it meeting different boys and girls from across the world? Did you make friends with them? Tell us about it.

A: It was our first international trip and we all were really excited. We were in the airplane for almost 12 hours and that was a long time. From the airport, we went to Cambridge and from there; everything was beautiful and well planned. We met people from diverse cultures and spoke to them in sign-language and yet became friends! We made friends with people from Bangladesh as we were able to speak with them in Bengali. We were surprised to hear that the team from England could understand a little bit of Hindi! They had seen many Hindi movies! They had seen Bahubali and knew so much about Shah Rukh Khan. We also made friends from the team from Tanzania, Nepal and Mauritius!

Q) Who is your favourite cricketer? Why?

A: Dinesh Kartik! We think his wicket keeping is great. Shikhar Dhawan is good too! He is an opening batsman and also does good fielding! David Warner is amazing… Hardik Pandya too!

Q) Dhoni or Virat? Who is the better captain? Why? Tell us about your team captain too.

A: Dhoni! Dhoni, for sure! He has much more experience and is a senior player and I think he knows how to manage the team! Jabir here thinks that Virat is a better captain. Tarak was our team captain and he gave us an equal chance to play and motivated us. Actually, the format of the street child world cup was such that everyone got an opportunity to play equally so it all worked out well for us.

Q) Sachin or Virat? Who is the better batsman? Harbhajan or Bhumra? Who is the better bowler?

 A: We all think Sachin is the best. He is so experienced and skilled. I mean he is like God! and we all love Bhumra!

Q) Are you watching the World Cup this year? Which country do you believe has the best chances of winning? Why?

A: India! India! India will win for sure! They have hardly lost many matches and their performance has been consistent. We think the finals will either be between India or England or India and Australia.

Q) What do you aspire to be when you grow up? A cricketer or something else? Why? What is it about cricket that you prefer over other sports?

A: I think we all like cricket and football equally and would want to pursue one of the sports. But apart from that, I, Tarak want to become a businessman! I will trade and earn money by selling water. It is one resource that everyone needs. Cricket will always remain my passion.

Q) Cricket as a sport unites our nation. How so?

A: When you play for India you play for the team and the country. During this time, nobody talks about whether you belong to east, west, north or south. You can be a south Indian, but you are first an Indian, right? A team’s end goal is to win a match! We think even the nation then looks at the team as one!

Q) If you were captain and you had to pick the World Cup Team, who would you pick?

A: We shall obviously have all our friends in the team. But apart from that, we would pick Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russel, Bhumra, Kuldeep Yadav, Dhoni, David Warner, Ben Stokes, Joe root, Kohli, Jonny Bairstow, Chahal and Shikhar Dhawan in our team!

Q) You must’ve grown up watching only men and boys playing international cricket. How was your experience in playing in mixed-gender teams? What are your thoughts on it? Why do you think (or not) that girls and boys playing together is important?

A: We all belong to the streets and the format of the Street Child World Cup was such that there were 4 boys and 4 girls in one team. Every girl and boy got an equal opportunity to bat and bowl and this was a really nice thing.

You know, the girls are equally hard working and talented. Earlier, we never saw girls come out like this and play and we had a different opinion about them. But now, when they played with us, we realised they can sometimes play even better than us! Girls Rock!

Q) Are you going to be watching the Women’s World Cup Cricket? Why/ Why not?

A: Yes, we want to observe the match and see their skills on how they bowl, bat and understand their strategies. We want to learn from watching the Women’s World Cup and would definitely watch the match!

Q) Tell us the best thing about playing cricket? What is the most fun part about it? What have you learnt from playing cricket?

A: Hard Work, Discipline, Courage, Dedication, Coordination, Consistency, Equality and Team Work. There is so much one can learn from the game of cricket you know.

We think we were skilled and were practicing really well and hence, we reached till the semi-finals. However, we realised that co-ordination is really important within the team. This is what we learnt about playing cricket!

Q) Is cricket compulsory in schools? Should it be? Why so?

A: Yes! We all think cricket should be made compulsory in schools. But the thing is, in our school, there is no cricket ground or a playground. So even if it is made compulsory, how will all children play cricket? If the government can help us, it will be nice as it will give us a space to practice and get better at our game. We went to England and visited a school and they had a swimming pool, football ground and even a place to play cricket! Why can’t we have access to such places in India?

Q) How has your life changed after going for the Street World Cup?

A: Nobody knew us before the match and now, once we came back, everyone knows us, they treat us with love and respect. We have an identity now. We now take our lives more seriously and know that we want to study more, get educated and have a career for ourselves. Today, everyone is asking us how it was going to England, meeting different people and reaching so far. We were featured in the media and in newspapers and suddenly, we got importance. This is all good and we are happy for this opportunity. However, we were able to participate in this match, because we lived on the streets, and then started to stay in the institution run by Hope foundation. What about the children who are still living on the streets? I think more and more children should get such a platform. We are just a handful of them…

You can read what the Girls Team of North India had to share with us here

#PlayMatters – The Girls Of Team North India & Their Experience With A Gender-Equal Cricket Team

“Our captain too was really good. Just because we were girls, he did not treat us any differently. He gave as an equal chance to play on the field and kept motivating us! The format of the Street Child World Cup is such that it had 4 balls in one over and everyone got an equal chance. We feel, that really helped us participate equally.” said the girls of Team North India on discussing mixed-gender cricket at the Street Child World Cup Cricket.   

While their counterparts from South India, took home the cup, this team of 8, 4 boys and 4 girls from Kolkata, with support from Hope Foundation and Save the Children., had a life-changing experience at the Street Child World Cup Cricket.

Here’s a conversation with the Girls of Team North India on their experience, learnings and love for cricket.

Team North India is a mixed-gender team comprising 4 girls and 4 boys from Kolkata, supported by Hope Foundation and Save the Children

Q) Tell us your names, what do you like doing in your free time?       

A: We are Anjali, Mille, Rabia, and Rinky. I am Rinky and love to dance on Hip Hop beats. Apna Time Aayega is a song I am currently listening on loop. I am Anjali and I love to draw and paint. I am Mille and I am learning Kathak. I am Rabia and I love both cricket and football equally!

Q) Congratulations on reaching till the semi-finals! How was your experience?

A: Thank you! We were really happy that we played the semi-final match against Nepal. We had never even thought in our wildest dreams that one day, we would travel to England and represent India! It was a great feeling to participate in the first ever Street Child Cricket World Cup and play a match at Lord’s! We met people from diverse countries, cultures and made new friends. We learnt that to play a game we all need to be united, and put our best foot forward. For us, winning or losing became secondary.

Q) Tell us about your travel to England. How was it meeting different boys and girls from across the world? Did you make friends with them? Tell us about it.

A:It was fascinating for us to travel to England for a cricket match. But we found the airplane to be a boring place to be in for so long.  In a train, one can move freely at least! But we played many games and watched movies and it was fun to just watch the clouds move.

Upon reaching England, we saw how everything was so well organized and we felt street children finally had found a voice. We went sight-seeing and observed that England does not have people living on the streets! There were no injured people lying on the street as we have in India. They have good healthcare facilities. It is always so clean! England is beautiful and we saw the London Eye, Big Ben, Parliament, and Buckingham Palace amongst other things.

But you know, we did not go to just play cricket. We were representing all the street children in our country. There was a General Assembly that was held and we emphasized that the voice of street children mattered! We spoke about the need for right to education, gender equality, nutrition, right to have an identity, the right to have children attend school and not work to get to school- speaking about these issues, making our voices heard, being taken seriously became equally important to us! We believe that all children should get their rights.  We shall appeal to the government that the “Right to identity” is the most important right for street children. We realised this when getting our passports was a difficult task as we did not have all the documents in place. If street children do not have any documents, it will be difficult to get admission even to a school; we don’t have a formal record to say we exist. We will appeal to the government to ease this process for all street children.

Q) Who is your favourite cricketer? Why?

A: Dhoni, Malinga, Shikhar Dhawan, Dinesh Kartik, Andre Russel, Harbhajan these are some of the cricketers we love! We think all of these are focused, know their game and are good players to get inspired from.

Q) Dhoni or Virat? Who is the better captain? Why? Tell us about your team captain too.

A: We all think Dhoni is the best captain!  Dhoni is level-headed, patient, has good leadership qualities and he knows the strength of each player. We have never seen Dhoni come in the limelight as he does not seek too much media attention. This helps in the game as he is focused.

Our captain too was really good. Just because we were girls, he did not treat us any differently. He gave as an equal chance to play on the field and kept motivating us! The format of the Street Child World Cup is such that it had 4 balls in one over and everyone got an equal chance. We feel, that really helped us participate equally.

Q) Sachin or Virat? Who is the better batsman? Harbhajan or Bhumra? Who is the better bowler?

A: Sachin, any day! Harbhajan any day!

Q) Are you watching the World Cup this year? Which country do you believe has the best chances of winning? Why?

A: India! India is a strong team and they have worked hard and have won most of the matches. We think the World Cup Final will be between Indian and England, much like our Street Child World Cup match where Team South Indian and Team England went to the finals.

Q) What do you aspire to be when you grow up? A cricketer or something else? Why? What is it about cricket that you prefer over other sports?

A: I am Anjali and I want to become a nurse as I want to serve people and help them. I am Mille and I want to become a lawyer, I want to work for justice and reduce crime in our country. I am Rabia and I would love to play football. I am Rinky and I will become a fashion designer. I like to wear new clothes and I will stitch my own clothes!  We think that cricket gave us an opportunity to go ahead in England and we shall cherish this opportunity forever.

Q) Cricket as a sport unites our nation. How so?

A: In the game, the team has only one goal- To win against the opponent. This is the reason why people from diverse places, religions, languages and skills come together to form a team and make this happen. We feel that the team spirit in itself unities our nation when everyone wants India to win!  This is exactly why rich and poor, both alike come together on a television set to watch the cricket match!

Q) If you were captain and you had to pick the World Cup Team, who would you pick?

A: We shall have all our friends in the team! Anjali, Mille, Rabia, Rinky, Muskan, Jabir, Tarak, Irfan and Amit. If we had to choose outside of our friend circle we would pick Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Virat Kholi, Dinesh Kartik, Russel and Gautam Gambhir in our team!

Q) You must’ve grown up watching only men and boys playing international cricket. How was your experience in playing in mixed-gender teams? What are your thoughts on it? Why do you think (or not) that girls and boys playing together is important?

A: Yes! We have seen more boys and men play international cricket. Playing in a mixed gender team was actually the best thing that happened to us! We used to wake up at the same time as the boys and get into practice and routine. We did the same amount of push-ups the boys did and nobody stopped us from playing just because we were girls. There was a sense of equality and respect with the way boys treated us. We were on par with boys and so, we think it is important to have a mixed gender team. We realised girls are strong and no less than boys! Before this, we did not get an opportunity to explore our physical strength and speak up. We were equally part of the decision-making process and we felt that our voice mattered.

Q) Are you going to be watching the Women’s World Cup Cricket? Why/ Why not?

A: Yes! We will support the Indian women’s team! We anyway love Mithali Raj and admire her game. I think when we support the Women’s World Cup Cricket, it will only encourage more and more girls to participate and take sports seriously. More than that, we feel girls should just enjoy playing a game.

Q) Tell us the best thing about playing cricket? What is the most fun part about it? What have you learnt from playing cricket?

A: We learnt the importance of how a routine can help us become better at what we do.

We learnt why discipline matters to work towards a goal.

We learnt that team spirit is important to win a game!

We learnt why it is important to be punctual and have self-discipline.

We learnt how eating a healthy balanced diet can help build stamina.

We learnt that our voice matters!

Q) Is cricket compulsory in schools? Should it be? Why so?

A: We think sports should be made compulsory in school. Cricket can be one of the optional sports so that children can choose what sport they want to pick. Some children may like football more than cricket. Not everyone has access to a cricket stadium and the equipment is expensive. If schools can have that fees waived off and talk to the government, cricket can become an affordable game that is accessible to street children. This will ensure that no child is denied playing a sport due to lack of funds.

 Q) How has your life changed after going for the Street World Cup?

A: Earlier, street children were not taken seriously and we never got a platform or a voice to speak about our issues and rights. We all had great difficulty to get our passports made because we did not have all the documents needed to create a passport. You only tell us, what about the children who were raised on the streets? How will they get documents for proof of address or even a birth certificate?

It is for the first time we realised why having a document is important and is linked to Right to Identity. When we went to England, we participated in the General Assembly where all children were given three days to discuss the pressing issues that we faced. For us, Right to Identity came out strongly. Moving ahead, we’d like to urge the government to ease the documentation process for street children.

Apart from that, we went to England; we were treated with respect and dignity. We played a match at Lord’s and went all the way to England for the first time! Sometimes, we still can’t believe that all of this actually happened!  But beyond the game, we met important dignitaries and had breakfast with them, they showered their love and spoke to us and we felt we mattered.

Earlier, people used to think that street children are not talented but we never got a platform to show our talent. It is only when we came back from England, now everyone knows us. We have developed our personality and are confident!

We are also more disciplined, are punctual and are on time. I think this is what learning a sport did to us. We are thankful and proud to get this opportunity.

You can read what the Boys Team of North India had to share with us here.

#PlayMatters – “More Girls Should Play Cricket!” Say Boys At Azad Maidan

Q) Who do you think is going to win the Cricket World Cup?

A: India! (in unison)

Q) Why?

A: Aryan – Because India has got Virat Kohli!

Durvesh – And even Hardik Pandya!

Sarthak – Everyone is training hard and playing well… so I feel India is going to win.

Q) Who are your favourite players?

A: Virat Kohli! (in unison)

Durvesh – Hardik Pandya!

Q) Why Kohli?

A: Aryan – I really love his batting.

Q) And why Pandya?

Durvesh – Because Pandya hits helicopter shot. He can keep hitting fours and sixes non-stop.

Q) Do you also watch women’s cricket matches?

A: Sarthak – Yes! But I do not know any of the players’ name.

Q) What do you feel about boys and girls playing cricket together?

A: Aryan – Cricket is a game which can be easily played by boys and girls together.

Durvesh – More girls should play cricket.

Sarthak – And it’ll be more fun.

Q) And what other games/sports do you play apart from cricket?

A: Football! (in unison)

Durvesh – I love playing football more than cricket. I came today to play cricket because he asked me to. (giggles)

Sarthak – Even I love football. Pogba is my favourite.

Aryan – I also play Kabaddi.

Durvesh – And I like to swim as well. I love playing everything. I am an all-rounder just like Pandya.

Q) Why do you like playing Cricket more than any other sports?

A: Aryan – Cricket has so many things… batting, fielding, bowling.

Sarthak – I enjoy hitting sixes.

Durvesh – And I love bowling and fielding. But at times, I misfield and drop catches.

Q) So you all come to play cricket here every Sunday? Do you also play cricket at school?

A: Yes! (in unison)

Sarthak – Sometimes, we also play at Cooperage ground.

Durvesh – We three are from different schools.

Q) Then how did you become friends?

A: Aryan – We stay in the same building and I guess we became fast friends while playing cricket only.

Q) So do you play in your building premises?

A: Sarthak – Sometimes. But we don’t like playing cricket there.

Aryan – We are scared of playing there… what if we break someone windows glass.

Durvesh – That is why we all come here. And I especially love this ground as I can hit very long sixes like Pandya. (everyone laughs)

#PlayMatters – Where Children Play Cricket

Every child in India will have remnants of their childhood linked to the game of cricket. Along the banks of the ganges, during the shutdowns in Kashmir, across the open fields in Bihar, in the narrow bastis of Dharavi and Chandni Chowk, and during monsoon in Mumbai, the culture of cricket is inherent in every corner of India. In a game, almost synonymous to a religion in our country, there are no boundaries of gender, age or caste… the only boundaries that matter are the sixes and fours. 

For the children of India, this Sunday morning ritual calls for – dividing players into teams, setting up make-shift wickets at the batting end, segregating the colony or basti into boundaries for the ‘sixers’, using local lingo picked up from the older players, tossing with a one-rupee coin and finally, playing a long, passion-filled game of cricket. 

This World Cup Cricket, don’t miss this photo-essay, that exuberates in every frame, the joy children find in playing their favourite game despite no place to play.

Any empty space is a cricket pitch…

Picture Credits : Mahesh Kumar

Be it in narrow alleys

Picture Credits : Unknown

Across railway tracks…

Picture Credits : Danish Siddiqui

Or on sandy beaches..

Picture Credits : Unknown

Perfectly acceptable substitutes for stumps are…

Picture Credits : Unknown

Bamboo sticks, tires, bricks, stones or even firecracker boxes..

Picture Credits : Getty Images

Tin pieces from demolished rooftops

Picture Credits : Mukhtar Khan

Police shields …

Picture Credits : Basit Zargar

And empty liquor bottles..

Picture Credits : Unknown

Discarded chairs or Chalk drawings on walls… 

Picture Credits : Unknown

Card board boxes, leaves and cloth pieces act well as knee pads…

Picture Credits : Reddit

Boundary walls are…

Picture Credits : Vivek Prakash

Entrances to temples…

Picture Credits : Sanjay Austa

Rocky Mountains sides…

Picture Credits : Matthew Lewis

The insides of a truck

Picture Credits : Unknown

Thatched roofs and mud walls…

Picture Credits : Unknown

Or even riversides and lakes

Picture Credits : Anupam Nath

But nothing stops children from finding ways to play their favourite game

Picture Credits : Unknown

#PlayMatters – In Conversation With Sudeshna Chatterjee, On Promoting A Child’s Right To Play

Urbanist, researcher, and planning and development professional who uses her knowledge and expertise to work with diverse stakeholders and institutions to create safe urban communities, and inclusive and resilient cities, Sudeshna Chatterjee has also been on the 14-member panel that drafted the General Comment on the right to play, and worked determinedly to build a more cohesive and coherent voice on every child’s right to play.

As CEO of Action for Children’s Environments and Board Member at International Play Association, her unique contribution to advocating for safe and friendly spaces for children to play and thrive, has played a significant role in India and across the world.

In conversation with the power-lady whose vision and ambition are gaining momentum in addressing a huge challenge in the child rights agenda – play.

Q) Tell us about your extensive work in research, urban design and planning and in promoting a child’s right to play.

A: I vividly remember 8-year-old Soham with his droopy, dreamy eyes. The year was 1998 and I was doing fieldwork in Calcutta for my master’s dissertation in Urban Design at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi on the topic of “Child in the City”. I had asked children from different neighbourhoods to draw and describe their favourite places in their local environment and Soham had drawn the upper floors of a high-rise building, the crowns of coconut palms, and a young boy in an upper balcony staring at the floating clouds above. It was such a poignant portrayal of an urban child, trapped in an apartment high above the noisy, traffic filled streets, with no permission to play outside, no one to play with and no safe space to play in the neighbourhood. My master’s dissertation was the starting point of a twenty-year journey in which I have explored with children and many organizations different aspects of what makes cities, neighbourhoods, schools and open spaces child-friendly. The saying “It is a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together,” is definitely true in my case. I am the founder and CEO of the non-profit Action for Children’s Environments (ACE) based in New Delhi, India. ACE seeks to fill a vital gap in development practice by offering cross-sectoral urban expertise including policy, planning, and design expertise to make cities more safe, inclusive, resilient and livable for all

I was trained as an architect and urban designer, and finished a PhD in Community and Environmental Design under Robin Moore, a pioneer in the research and design of children’s environments, from North Carolina State University, USA. My PhD dissertation deconstructed the idea of the child friendly city and had the central hypothesis that from an Environment-Behaviour perspective, a child friendly city can only be studied as a disaggregation, made up of numerous and interlocking child friendly places with which children engage and develop emotional and affective bonds through exploration in the everyday environments of neighbourhoods and cities. The primary vehicle of children’s exploration of and engagement with places is play in its many forms.

With maturing age and abilities children seek out places further and further away from their home base and seek out opportunities for play, fun and freedom typically in the company of friends. Free play which is the only self-structured spontaneous behaviour in childhood allows children to make sense of the world around them and define their place in the world. As experts have pointed out play enables children to move from dependence to independence, competence and in many cases, resilience. This is now an important thread of my work on child friendly cities and we at Action for Children’s Environments (ACE) through a consortium of partners are hosting a major international conference on the theme of Play and Resilience in India next year: the 21st IPA Triennial World Conference in Jaipur, November 4-7, 2020.

Q) How do you believe the right to play is intrinsically linked to creating safe urban communities, that are inclusive and resilient cities for children?

A: In 2016, the International Play Association (IPA) developed a concept paper for the Day of General Discussion, UNCRC on the topic of children’s right to play in relation to the right to a healthy environment. I had contributed to that paper along with many international experts and I will draw from it here. As a board member of IPA let me first introduce IPA’s position on play: Play is a vital and fundamental part of the human experience; it is important to the lives of children in that it gives them pleasure, is essential to their healthy physical and mental growth, and enhances their ability to function in the culture and society in which they are born (IPA Declaration, 2014). We know that children play anywhere and everywhere as opportunities present themselves. These could be in a well-designed play space in the neighbourhood park or a railway track next to their squatters. Children’s play and indeed children’s well-being are closely related to and dependent on the quality of spaces and places they inhabit and the social relationships they enjoy in them. The nature of play is very much shaped by the context in which play happens.

The New Urban agenda makes clear the need to create a mutually reinforcing relationship between urbanization and development as parallel vehicles for sustainable development. With 70 per cent of the world’s populations living in cities by 2050, the development of this relationship in the short term is critical if we are to be adequately prepared for meeting the demands that will be placed on future urban populations. Over 1 billion people globally are living in slums and informal settlements. Children growing up in these settlements are at a disadvantage due to the inadequacies in their physical and often social environments. Promoting the child’s right to play by making available space, time, resources and permission to play in public places will help to fulfil one important SDG target (#11.7: By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities) for children everywhere and especially for those living in inadequate housing.

Planning, designing and providing safe yet thrilling play spaces that promote and protect children’s rights, is a challenge. The tendency is often to over design and sanitize, to take away all risks from children’s play. Yet children seek out risks to manage and create challenges through play. In the higher-income countries there is a growing awareness today to take a risk-benefit approach to play provisions which recognizes the benefits of certain manageable risks and incorporating them in play space design. Unless we respect the abilities of children to negotiate manageable risk, we will rob them of the vital benefits of free play. However, in low-income countries including in India, the risks that children face in the places they play due to lack of formal provisions for play are often not manageable at an individual level without support of the adult duty bearers of children’s rights. While provision of safe space to play does not fully address the right to play, it is an important compensatory factor when children would otherwise be forced to play in hostile, unhealthy and or hazardous environments as in the case of slum dwelling children.  Creating safe, inclusive and resilient cities would involve providing safe but fun, thrilling and child-friendly, age and culturally appropriate play spaces for children. It is also important to take into account access conditions to promote independent mobility and free play of children in the planning and management of the public realm of the city. Such an approach is fundamental to both inclusive urbanization and child-centred development.

Q) Your report “Access to Play for Children in Situations of Crisis” is the first of its kind. Do share with us some of the key insights from the report.

A: It was a real privilege to lead IPA’s Access to Play in Crisis projects as it for the first time allowed us to dive deep and understand play or the lack of it in situations of natural and man-made disasters, humanitarian and everyday crisis. The case studies in six countries (India, Japan, Lebanon, Nepal, Thailand and Turkey) show that children were able to transact with their environments and develop meaningful relationships with peers and places when they had access to play, typically in very unsafe places, whether after natural disasters, humanitarian crisis or in the context of everyday crisis of poverty and marginalization. In almost all the contexts, when children were asked what play meant to them, the overwhelming theme appeared to be that play allowed them to have “fun, friendships and freedom”. The myriad forms of play that was witnessed in these many different situations of crisis across the world speak to the capacity of children to ‘overcome adversity, survive stress and rise above disadvantage’ (the very definition of resilient children by Rutter, 1979) while partaking of the pleasure of childhood. In the situations where we saw the most access to play in the wider geographic area had supportive adults (not saying don’t play was also a big support in most contexts). Other factors that contributed to play included numerous spaces with rich environmental affordances with varying degrees of risk which children learned to manage, and less restrictions on children’s time. Under these conditions play emerged as a living resource for children that allowed them to bond with places and create parallel worlds for escaping the harsh and scary real one. Play prepared children to bounce forward from the crisis.

A word of caution when we talk about play as a resilience building tool. Even as the children who played freely and creatively in the most challenging of environments emerge as resilient beings, as Luthar and Goldstein (2004) noted, “If children are faced with continuing and severe assaults from the external environment, then they simply cannot sustain resilience adaptation over time—regardless of how much they are helped to believe in themselves, how intelligent they are, or how well they learn to regulate their emotions”. Risk reduction and management cannot be the sole responsibility of individuals and communities, the state has a significant role to play in this. The General Comment 17 emphasized on this and recommended that States should take active measures to restore and protect the rights under article 31 in post-conflict and disaster situations, including, inter alia:

  • Encouraging play and creative expression to promote resilience and psychological healing;
  • Creating or restoring safe spaces, including schools, where children from diverse backgrounds can participate in play and recreation as part of the normalization of their lives (Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2013: 19)

To know more about the report, please read here.

Q) You were part of the 14-member international committee that drafted the General Comment on Article 31 of the UNCRC, referred to as the ‘Play’ Article. How has (or not) the Government of India incorporated the spirit of this article in addressing this as a right for all children?

A: The recent development in this space is encouraging. There is now recognition of play for the first time in plans and policies for children in India. ACE had reviewed the draft National Policy for Children 2013 as well as the National Plan of Action for Children 2016 and given substantial inputs on the right to play. It is great to see that reflected in the new policies and plans.

For example: National Policy for Children (2013), under “Education and Development” has the Clause xii: Review, develop and sustain age-specific initiatives, services and programmes for safe spaces for play, sports, recreation, leisure, cultural and scientific activities for children in neighbourhoods, schools and other institutions.

And the National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Policy (2013) says: The Government shall ensure the provision of safe, child-friendly and developmentally appropriate play and learning materials and appropriate play spaces by appropriate instruments and instructions in ECCE settings.

Q) With increasing urbanization, cramped living spaces, and complex city governance structures, especially in big cities, what ideas would you recommend to address a child’s right to play? 

A: The solutions have to come from first understanding that our cities are failing children and then being proactive about participatory visioning and dialogue including all stakeholders: children, adolescents, youth parents, teachers, government, urban planners, designers and the civil society organizations. Promoting child friendly cities which enables outdoor play of children fulfils many SDG goals and targets for governments including most notably healthy lives and well-being for all at all ages; inclusive and equitable quality education; resilient infrastructure; inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities; peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.

Many cities across the world are committing to making child friendly cities such as the “My City Too” initiative by Earth Day Canada and 8 80 Cities to develop a strategy that advances outdoor free play and independent mobility for children across the city of Toronto. Canada ranks 25th out of 41 countries in overall child and youth well-being. According to UNICEF, lack of child-led, outdoor play and independent mobility contribute significantly to these rankings. Over the course of 2019, both organizations will convene Toronto families and children, municipal leaders, and child advocates to gain insight into the opportunities and challenges in providing children with access to outdoor free play and independent mobility. These conversations will inform a strategy for Toronto to establish itself as a child-friendly city that actively supports outdoor free play and independent mobility.

Q) Tell us about new innovative approaches to promote the right to play in India and across the world.

A: One of the innovative approaches that I am very excited about is the global Outdoor Classroom Day campaign by Semble (formerly Project Dirt) and backed by Unilever. ACE works on this campaign in India as we believe that the school offers a vital opportunity for play in children’s everyday lives by providing access to safe spaces, peers, and resources for play. This is especially important for girls and vulnerable children who often do not have parental permission to play in the neighbourhood outdoors. This global campaign advocates for celebrating and inspiring play and learning outside the classroom and to inspire schools everywhere to make outdoor learning and play part of every day. It shows that outdoor play at school helps develop healthy, curious and active kids who are better connected to their environment. It brings together evidence that shows that time outdoors is particularly important for children’s mental health – reducing stress, giving a sense of calm and simply making them happier.

Over 2 million children around the world went outdoors in 2018 on Outdoor Classroom Day! On November 7, 2019 thousands of schools across the world including in India will be celebrating outdoor learning and play. Schools who participate in OC Day talk about the positive impact it has on both students and teachers. It helps to develop a culture of learning without walls and outdoor play and physical activities of children every day.

Unilever is part of the Real Play Coalition that was formed at Davos in 2018 by four corporates: Lego Foundation, Unilever’s Dirt is Good brand, IKEA and National Geographic. Their mission is to create a movement that prioritises the importance of play as not something that only lets children be children, but as something that sparks the fire for a child’s development and learning.

Sign up here to participate in Outdoor Classroom Day!

Q) What advocacy efforts are underway in India to acknowledge and act on a child’s right to play? Give us ideas that need to be advocated for in order to change attitudes towards the importance of play in childhood.

A: Government and civil society, with these new policies, want to promote play both in the context of education as well as in all everyday settings of children involving parents and communities including for most vulnerable children across India. Some excellent projects have been piloted by civil society groups in diverse geographies but they need scale up.

The Smart Cities Initiative is committing to making cities child friendly in India. A very welcome initiative. Providing adequate parks and playgrounds is an important component of that. But how do we advocate for meaningful contextually relevant play opportunities for say slum children within high-density low-quality environments? If we make more playgrounds, how do we make them inclusive where all children irrespective of class, caste and ethnicity can play freely? How do we make these play spaces climate resilient and culturally appropriate? How do we replicate best practices of promoting community based indigenous play even for the most vulnerable children and reach scale? How do we sensitize adults and society to the value and need for play in childhood so that parents and communities become champions of play and protect, preserve and promote children’s free play? These are some of the questions that we are grappling with. In order to find answers to some of these questions and chart new pathways to solutions we are hosting the 21st IPA Triennial World Conference in Jaipur (Nov 4-7, 2020) to provide the right momentum to seriously promote play and provide access to play for all children in India. This conference will bring together government, civil society and private sector actors from across the world for four wonderful days to share knowledge and best practices, advocate, demonstrate and champion children’s play.

#PlayMatters – 5 Young Sportspersons In India You Must Follow

The current generation of young Indian sportspersons have not only helped India make a mark in the global sports arena, but also set inspiring examples for the next generation, reiterating the growing importance of a sports and play culture across the country.

From the introduction of Khelo India, a clear sign of support from the Government to push a sports culture, advocacy for a sports curriculum across schools, sports linked education scholarships, to mixed-gender teams and the sudden wave of sporting leagues, all are indicators that a sporting revolution of sorts is sweeping through India.

Sports and play when introduced at a young age, are hugely impactful in shaping lives of children, teaching them valuable life lessons, providing opportunity to learn and grow, promoting equality and team work, and providing a sense of freedom, much needed in developing into well-rounded adults.

Many children and youth have been positively impacted by their chosen sport, some have excelled at it, others have found their passion and still others a means of expression. As we are gear up for the World Cup Cricket finals, here’s a look at the youth sports icons who inspire us everyday.

1. JEMIMAH RODRIGUES, 18 – CRICKET

Picture Courtesy : AFP

“As the Indian team is playing right now, it will inspire Indian girls to take up the bat and there shall be many more academies for women’s cricket in India. There are many girls who come on the ground and tell us they want to start playing cricket. So things are definitely changing and it is only going to get better over the coming years.”

Mumbai based Jemimah Rodrigues became news when she scored a double century only when she was a 16-year-old. Under her father’s guidance, she started practicing at Shivaji Park when she was only 4 years old. Jemimah was denied access to a cricket academy in Bandra because it considered an ‘only boys sport’, but today no one can stop her. With 5 years of national level experience under her belt, she made her international debut in February 2018, at the age of 17 years. Known for her explosive batting style, she was awarded the best Woman Cricketer in Junior Domestic cricket by BCCI. When cricket tires her, she picks up the hockey stick or goes to her guitar, her companion on every tour.

2.  MANU BHAKER, 17 – SHOOTING

Picture Courtesy : PTI

“This medal will motivate me to reach greater heights in the future, and I dedicate this to my family and coaches who have been supportive throughout,” said Manu Baker, on becoming the youngest Indian shooter to win World Cup gold. 

Focused, uncluttered and courageous is how one can describes the Haryana girl Manu Bhaker, an Indian shooter who represented India at the 2018 ISSF World Cup and won two gold medals becoming the youngest Indian to win a gold medal at the World Cup. At the age of 16, she also won a gold medal in the Women’s 10 m air pistol event at 2018 Commonwealth Games. Manu got a push when India’s interest in youth-driven games rose with the government’s Khelo India, a national programme for the development of sports. Manu spoke fearlessly on the shooting prize money that was promised to her by the Haryana Sports Minister, as she felt the government was playing “games” with her.

Being a shooter was not accidental for Manu, as she was inspired by her grandfather, a soldier in the Indian Regiment military who had witnessed the 1962 Indo- China war. Manu was naturally drawn to sports and until the age of 14, she excelled in Thang Ta or Huyen langlon, a Manipuri martial art. She was also good at boxing, tennis and skating, winning medals at the national games in these events. Manu has recently applied to Delhi University for her college education.

3.  ARYAN JOSHI,16 – CHESS 

Picture Courtesy : Unknown

“It is mostly about imagination. With the modifications, we identify better. I want to pursue a career in chess. I am training hard under coach Raghunandan Gokhale, I take his classes on Skype mostly. I want more coaching and want to participate in more international tournaments to improve ratings.”

16-year-old Aryan never let challenges come in the way of pursuing his passion for chess. Being partially blind was something he took in his stride. Despite his partial vision, he says he does everything like any other child, just that his approach may differ. Aryan’s interest in the game began when he sat with his brother and father who were playing. It was a special board, that allows visually impaired persons to touch individual sockets that he learnt his game.

Aryan’s ambition is to become an International Master in chess and a Grand Master, a feat that no visually challenged Indian as ever achieved. Aryan feels chess is the only game where blind people are at the same level as others. He has represented India in the World Team Championship for Indian blind chess.

As advised by doctors, for stimulation, Aryan pursues swimming and won 4 gold medals at the Maharashtra Paralympic Swimming Association and won 1 gold and 2 silver at the National Paralympic Swimming Championship. For Aryan, swimming is his passion and he wants to pursue chess internationally.

4.  SWASTIKA GHOSH, 16 – TABLE TENNIS 

Picture Courtesy : ITTF

“My dream is to win an Olympic Gold medal for India.”

Mumbai based paddler; Swastika Ghosh was part of team India that won gold at the South Asian Table Tennis Championship. Receiving a scholarship from Virat Kohli Foundation, it helped her progress and get better at her game at an International level. She also captained the Indian sub-junior team for the South Asian Federation Games held in Pakistan. Swastika first received the All India Rank-1 in the under-12 table tennis category, after winning the National Ranking Central Zone Table Tennis Championship in Gandhidham, Gujarat in 2013

Swastika’s father, Sandeep Ghosh is also her coach and mentor. Last year, Swastika was not included in the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) and this made both of them upset. Swastika sought an an explanation, for not being considered for the league.

5.  AADIL BEDI, 18 – GOLF

Picture Courtesy : Aadil Bedi Twitter Handle

“No matter where you get admission, IIT, UPENN or DU, no matter how fit your muscles are, it all comes down to how you treat others,” said Aadil in his High school graduation speech at his school in Chandigarh.

Chandigarh based Aadil Bedi developed a passion for golf when he was four-years-old. It was in Kuwait when Aadil visited his maternal uncle that he got acquainted with the sport. At an early age, Aadil was certain that he wanted to become a golfer and envisaged designing good golf courses.

Aadil became the youngest player to make the cut for the Indian golf team for the Asian Games that were held in Indonesia in 2018. Aiming to qualify for the 2020 Olympics, he is focused on his game and is grateful to the support received by Virat Kohli Foundation in mentoring and training him.

#PlayMatters – Cricket In The Time Of Conflict

In a situation of perpetual conflict, children are held hostage within the four walls of their homes, exposed to prolonged periods of violence and curfew. They suffer the loss of loved ones – family members and friends who never make it back home. Homebound due to indefinite shutdown of schools and colleges, hartals, disengaged internet services, closed shops and playgrounds, they have little outlet for expression.

Children carry a fair load of the struggles in a conflict region, with not much to look forward to. Yet, the myriad forms of play that children can invent in situations of conflict, reflect a child’s resilience to deal with adversity, survive stress and rise above difficult times, if given the chance. “Children have a spontaneous urge to play and participate in recreational activities and will seek out opportunities to do so in the most unfavourable environments. However, certain conditions need to be assured, in accordance with children’s evolving capacities, if they are to realize their rights under Article 31 to the optimum extent.” (Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2013:10)

World Cup Cricket fever is gripping the agitated Kashmir Valley too, providing momentary refuge from reality, especially for its youth and children.

Here’s a photo-essay that underscores why play matters in reviving childhoods, when violence and conflict are gnawing away at the lives of children, every day, proving that the sun never sets on cricket season.

In the deep lanes of Safa Kadal a neighbourhood in the old city of Srinagar, boys play cricket, away from the crosshairs of the troops…

Photo : AP

In refugee camps in Muzaffarabad…

Photo : Roohan Ahmed/SAMAA Digital

During frequent shutdowns and curfews across the region…

Photo : Faisal Khan/Anadolu Agency

They rush to the nearest playground for a game of cricket…

Photo : AFP

Or at the Idgah in Tral, when school remains shut for months on end, and their right to education is hindered by the ongoing violence…

Photo : Sonia Sarkar

Under the shadow of Kashmir’s Zabarwan mountain range…

Photo : Saqib Majeed

On roofs top of old homes in the war-torn city…

Photo : Unknown

In sprawling fields on the outskirts of Srinagar…

Photo : Sportskeeda

Across the saffron fields of Pampore…

Photo : Sajad Rafeeq

And in the Lidderwath Valley of Pahalgam…

Photo : The Citizen

Together, with the jawans and policemen…

Photo : Unknown

And young girls in headscarves..

Photo : Associated Press

And boys in pherans…

Photo : Unknown

Even on a rainy day in Kashmir, with the military as an ever-present backdrop for their game, children find a way to play cricket.

Photo : Getty Images

Be it playing on the frozen interiors of the Dal lake..

Photo : Excelsior/Shakeel

On a slippery pitch on the hill roads of snow-capped Pahalgam, with make shift bats, an open road and players in coats…

Photo : Sportskeeda

On snow-fields at Heerpora along Mughal Road…

Photo : Excelsior/Younis Khaliq

At sub-zero temperatures with heavy snowfall…

Photo : Muneeb Ul Islam/The Quint

Nothing dissuades children from playing cricket across Kashmir…

Photo : Unknown

#PlayMatters – Monisha Finds An Equal Footing In Her Community Through The Game Of Cricket

“If you respect us, you will listen to us and if you listen to us, you will protect us. So please protect us!” said Monisha as a representative of her team at the Street Child Cricket World Cup, held in England in May 2019.

Born and raised on the street, 14-year-old Monisha knew the everyday challenge of living on the street… from encountering drunk men who hovered around during the night as she made her way to the toilet, or always being worried about her safety, Monisha’s life was not easy. In 2016, when her father passed away, her mother started working as house help to support her two children. With no choice but to leave her children unsupervised, she constantly worried about them. Monisha and her sibling has no alternative but to look after themselves.

Karunalaya, a non profit organization working for the protection and development of street children, used sports and play as an intervention tool for vulnerable children, providing them opportunity to play and hone their skills. Being a street child herself, Monisha was identified by Karunalaya and thus began her journey from the street to the Street Child Cricket World Cup.

For a girl who didn’t have much hope for a bright future, participating in the Street Child Cricket World Cup, was a life changing experience. A potent voice at this gathering, Monisha shared her thoughts and concerns for children like herself, demanding global attention and action for the same.

What the opportunity to play and win a game (mixed-gender) of cricket did for Monisha might never find the appropriate words, but it gave her wings, a new perspective to life and the courage to dream, not a luxury afforded by many street children across India.

Team South India is a mixed-gender team comprising 4 girls and 4 boys from Chennai and Mumbai, supported by Magic Bus and Karunalaya.

Q) Tell us about yourself, what do you like doing in your free time?

A: I am Monisha I love playing games with children in my neighbourhood and interacting with them.

Q) Congratulations on winning the first ever Street Child World Cup! How was your experience?

A: I was happy to win the final match over every other team! You know, I also got an opportunity to represent the voice of all the street children in India when I spoke at the General Assembly organised for all of us! I suddenly felt so responsible for myself and every other child and person living on the streets. I got a voice, was appreciated for putting my thoughts before so many people, I felt responsible for myself and all children and people living on the streets. I think street children should be given respect and taken seriously.

Q) Tell us about your travel to England. How was it meeting different boys and girls from across the world? Did you make friends with them?

A: Everything was just so perfect in England! I became good friends with the team from England. It was so cold in there, and the team gave me extra blankets to ensure I stayed warm. I also fell ill in England and was worried about my health and performance. A friend from the England team gave me medicines and took care of me. It was nice to see someone I do not even know to reach out and help me in another country.

Q) Who is your favourite cricketer? Why?

A: My all-time favourite cricketer is Ganguly! Under his captaincy, India achieved great heights. He also gave Dhoni a chance to flourish.

Q) Dhoni or Virat? Who is the better captain? Why? Tell us about your team captain too.

A: Dhoni! I think if any cricketer made a mistake, he did not get aggressive, instead he would motivate the team. He worked silently, never tried to hog the media limelight and was patient. Under his captaincy, I think India won two World Cups!  He even worked hard as the captain of Chennai Super Kings and took them through many victories. I love Dhoni! Our captain is also like Dhoni, patient and constantly motivating us.

Q) Sachin or Virat? Who is the better batsman? Harbhajan or Bhumra? Who is the better bowler?

A: Sachin! Bhumra is the best bowler!

Q) Are you watching the World Cup this year? Which country do you believe has the best chances of winning? Why?

A: Yes! I think Australia is a great team and skilled in their game! England is good too!

Q) What do you aspire to be when you grow up? A cricketer or something else? Why? What is it about cricket that you prefer over other sports?

A: I will become an IPS officer so that I can work at the policy level to help street children and people from my community. I will continue playing cricket and shall keep the passion of the game alive! I like playing football too….but it will always be cricket first.

Q) If you were captain and you had to pick the World Cup Team, who all would you pick?

A: I will have my friends Nagalakshmi, Paulraj, Surya and Guna in the team. Along with them, I would like to pick Ganguly, Hardik Pandya, Sehwag, too!

Q) You must’ve grown up watching only men and boys playing international cricket. How was your experience in playing in mixed-gender teams? What are your thoughts on it? Why do you think (or not) that girls and boys playing together is important?

A: Yes! I have never seen girls and boys play a match together. It shows the equality of gender and how girls are capable of doing what they want to. You know, in India I feel, girls are highly discriminated towards. But while playing a game of cricket, both are equal as we have only one common goal- To win the match!

Q) Are you going to be watching the Women’s World Cup Cricket? Why/ Why not?

A: Yes! Of course, I will be watching the Women’s World Cup Cricket. In my community, we all watch the matches together on one television set. Last time too, my brothers saw the match and told me about women cricketers such as Mithali Raj. I got inspired by watching women sportsperson achieving great heights and it motivated me to focus on my game.

Q) Tell us the best thing about playing cricket? What is the most fun part about it? What have you learnt from playing cricket?

A: I never knew I was a good bowler. I thought I couldn’t play with any other competitive team and maybe this would just remain a hobby. But now, I am so much more confident. It was a great experience for me to speak on the stage without fear. I am happy to have played on the Lord’s ground!

Q) Is cricket compulsory in schools? Should it be? Why so?

A: It should definitely be made compulsory. I have studied at a girl’s school and we do have several sports and games available other than cricket. If we have cricket, it will help me practice and it will also benefit other children.

Q) How has your life changed after going for the Street World Cup?

A: I have immense self-respect for myself and now, I know my real worth! Earlier, a few people discouraged me, discriminated towards me because I was a girl, but now, they are supportive and encouraging of my wish to play cricket! I am proud to have come this far. Now, even the police talks to us with respect and we finally have an identity.

#PlayMatters – Nagalaxmi Finds Inspiration In Mitali Raj To Represent India In Mixed-Gender Cricket

Raised in a shelter home run by Karunalaya, a nonprofit organization working for the protection and development of street children, Nagalaxmi never let her circumstances come in the way of picking up the bat and ball to excel in the sport of cricket.

Being born in Madurai, Nagalaxmi’s mother abandoned her and three siblings, leaving them with her grandmother, who in turn grandmother sent two of the girls to shelter home, keeping the boys under her care.

Ever since, the shelter home has been Nagalaxmi’s only home. Here is where she prepared to participate in the first Street Child World Cup held in England earlier this year. Being a part of Team South India, her consistency, practice, focus and rigorous training for almost a year made her an asset to the team.

Today, Nagalaxmi is proud to have the power of choice to make her own decisions, something she realised when she played a match in a mixed-gender team. She aspires to become a social worker and help children and people from her community to fulfil their rights and find an identity.

Team South India is a mixed-gender team comprising 4 girls and 4 boys from Chennai and Mumbai, supported by Magic Bus and Karunalaya.

Q) Tell us your name, what do you like doing in your free time?

A: I am Nagalaxmi. I love playing football in my free time!

Q) Congratulations on winning the first ever Street Child World Cup! How was your experience?

A: I am so proud and happy to be winning the first ever Street Child World Cup. I never thought I would represent India and go this far; this is such a beautiful feeling.

Q) Tell us about your travel to England. How was it meeting different boys and girls from across the world? Did you make friends with them? Tell us about it.

A: I was fascinated to meet people from different countries, cultures and have conversations with people from diverse backgrounds. The team from Tanzania was the best as they were extremely friendly. You know, everyone was nice to us.

Q) Who is your favourite cricketer? Why? 

A: Mithali Raj! She plays so well and I can resonate with her journey, her struggle to be the best at her game. For me, she is on par with Virat Kohli and I look up to her because she followed her passion to become a cricketer. It is my dream to become a cricketer like her.

Q) Dhoni or Virat? Who is the better captain? Why? Tell us about your team captain too.

A: Dhoni! I think he treats each player with respect and holds the team together. Our team captain too was just like him, he lead the team well and always supported us. Even our vice-captain was nice, he would never scold us, was patient and we learnt a lot from him.

Q) Sachin or Virat? Who is the better batsman? Harbhajan or Bhumra? Who is the better bowler?

A: Sachin, for sure! He is like God! Bhumra is a better bowler!

Q) Are you watching the World Cup this year? Which country do you believe has the best chances of winning? Why?

A: I do not have access to a TV to follow the World Cup this year…

Q) What do you aspire to be when you grow up? A cricketer or something else? Why? What is it about cricket that you prefer over other sports?

A: I will either become a cricketer or a social worker. I want to help people so that they get their rights and a platform to showcase their talent. If I become a social worker, I will be able to help children from the streets and communities. I hope more children like me get an opportunity to go to England and get the exposure I did.

Q) If you were captain and you had to pick the World Cup Team, who would you pick? 

A: My team will have a mix of my friends, male and female cricketers, retired cricketers and some talented cricketers who play in the league matches. Apart from me in the team, my friend Paulraj will also be in the team. I will have Mithali Raj, Smriti Mandhana, Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kholi, Dada (Saurav Ganguly), Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mani Kumar.

Q) You must’ve grown up watching only men and boys playing international cricket. How was your experience in playing in mixed-gender teams? What are your thoughts on it? Why do you think (or not) that girls and boys playing together is important?

A: Yes, I have only known about men and boys playing cricket. Playing in a mixed gender team made me realise that both men and women are equal. As a girl, I was given power and had full control over my decisions. It shows that both, men and women are equal. I was at par with all players including the boys and that made my performance better and it boosted my confidence.

Q) Are you going to be watching the Women’s World Cup Cricket? Why/ Why not?

A: I do not have access to a TV to watch the match regularly… I do want to watch the Women’s World Cup, but I do not think I can watch it.

Q) Tell us the best thing about playing cricket? What is the most fun part about it? What have you learnt from playing cricket? 

A: Everything was so good about playing the match! I never knew I was a good bowler. Even in the final match, I bowled well and we were able to win the match! One thing I learnt while playing cricket was to never give up and that anything can happen till the end of the game. Many people appreciated me because I won the Street Child World Cup Trophy. It developed confidence in me.

Q) Is cricket compulsory in schools? Should it be? Why so?

A: I think cricket should be made compulsory in schools. In my school, there are many games available to us, but not cricket. If that happens, I will get time to practice and get better at my game…

Q) How has your life changed after going for the Street World Cup?

A: You know, more than me, my sister was happier to see me reach this far. I am proud to see her happy. I do not have parents and so, going to England, playing the match and winning the first ever Street Child World Cup was a big thing in my life. It also helped me get admission in college under the sports quota. Now, if I study well and get an even better education, it will help me go a long way in my life.

#PlayMatters – From Child Labourer To Cricket Star, Surya’s Determined Journey Off The Streets

Surya had to drop out from school when he was just 11 years. It was also the same year his father passed away and his mother started working as a cook in a hotel. His unfortunate circumstances forced him to work as a child labourer in Chennai and Punjab, where he faced grave exploitation from his employers despite working 15 hours in a day. Surya learnt early on in life, that if he continued as a labourer, we wouldn’t have much of a future. It is why he ran away from his workplace and reached the railway station in Chennai.

Surya’s rescue by Karunalaya, a nonprofit organization working for the protection and development of street children, helped him with find a shelter home to live in. His interface with sports and play through the organizations program, helped him bring discipline, focus and routine into his life, key takeaways and skills during his cricket practice sessions over a year. Despite a difficult childhood, 14-year-old Surya Prakash was a key player in the South India Team that represented the country at the Street Child Cricket World Cup in England earlier this year. 

Winning the cup was one of the happiest moments in his life.

Team South India is a mixed-gender team comprising 4 girls and 4 boys from Chennai and Mumbai, supported by Magic Bus and Karunalaya.

Q) Tell us your name, what do you like doing in your free time?

A: I am Suryaprakash but you can call me Surya. I like playing cricket and football. I love to draw too.

Q) Congratulations on winning the first ever Street Child World Cup! How was your experience?

A: I learnt a lot and this was a great experience. It was tough for me to get up early in the morning, exercise and practice every day. However, winning the match was an amazing feeling and the hard work paid off!

Q) Tell us about your travel to England. How was it meeting different boys and girls from across the world? Did you make friends with them? Tell us about it.

A: I was happy to make friends from so many countries! I understand and can speak in Hindi. (Being in Chennai, most people speak Tamil) and that helped me to interact with many people. That apart, it was a great experience to travel by air for the first time in my life.

Q) Who is your favourite cricketer? Why?

A: Bhumra! I think he is the world’s best bowler!

Q) Dhoni or Virat? Who is the better captain? Why? Tell us about your team captain too.

A: Dhoni, any day! He is the best. Our team captain gave everyone an equal chance and he treated all of us equally.

Q) Sachin or Virat? Who is the better batsman? Harbhajan or Bhumra? Who is the better bowler?

A: Sachin is just the best! Bhumra is the best!

Q) Are you watching the World Cup this year? Which country do you believe has the best chances of winning? Why?

A: Yes, I am watching the match! I think India will win the match. They have been consistent and there is no stopping from them from taking the World Cup!

Q) What do you aspire to be when you grow up? A cricketer or something else? Why? What is it about cricket that you prefer over other sports?

A: I want to get enrolled in the Indian Army or Police force. I like Cricket, but you know it is not an easy game. One needs a lot of hard work and dedication to be consistent at it!

Q) If you were captain and you had to pick the World Cup Team, who all would you pick?

A: I would have my friends Paulraj, Monisha, Nagalakshmi, Ifran, Mani and along with them, I would also have cricketers such as Dhoni, Bhumra and Hardik Pandya in my team. I think this will be a fun team!

Q) You must’ve grown up watching only men and boys playing international cricket. How was your experience in playing in mixed-gender teams? What are your thoughts on it? Why do you think (or not) that girls and boys playing together is important?

A: Yes! I have always grown up watching men and boys play cricket. I think the best thing about playing mixed-gender cricket was the realisation that girls are on par with boys! Everyone is equal and there is no basis for gender discrimination. Girls in our team were so good at bowling!

Q) Are you going to be watching the Women’s World Cup Cricket? Why/ Why not?

A: I know of Indian women cricketer’s but I was not aware that the Women’s World Cup is broadcasted on television. But now that I know and have got myself into the game, I will definitely try and watch the Women’s World Cup!

Q) Tell us the best thing about playing cricket? What is the most fun part about it? What have you learnt from playing cricket?

A: It was a new experience for me to learn the game of cricket. I realised I am a strong bowler in the field and I need to focus on that. But along with that, I learnt why consistency and hard work is important in life. I have gained both physical and mental strength in the game.

Q) Is cricket compulsory in schools? Should it be? Why so?

A: It should be made compulsory in schools! Almost everyone plays cricket in India be it in the gully or with friends. So why should it not be part of a subject taught in school?

Q) How has your life changed after going for the Street World Cup?

A: I felt happy that our team photos were all over the media! I felt we and all street children finally got the attention we deserved. For me, the biggest take away was the practice sessions that helped me to get the discipline into my life. But now, I have to keep working on my skills and get better with each passing day. Only then will I be able to say that the game brought a real difference to my life.

#PlayMatters – Team Captain, Paulraj Finds An Identity Beyond Being A Street Child

17- year-old Paulraj was born and raised on the streets of Chennai. His parents run a tiffin shop and have a roadside stall in the city. To make ends meet, Paulraj would do loading and unloading of goods, in Chennai by waking up at 4 am every day. Born into poverty, he could not afford to buy himself a cricket kit, but his determination and love for the game, kept him focused on his end goal.

When he came in contact with Karunalaya, a nonprofit organization working for the protection and development of street children, his passion for cricket found a means to be translated into reality. Paulraj’s resolve to excel in the sport took him to England where he not only led the team as it’s captain, but also ensured that India won the Street Child World Cup.

For Paulraj, the victory at the Street Child World Cup meant more than just bringing home the Cup, it was also a lifetime opportunity to raise awareness on issues faced by millions of street children in India.

Team South India is a mixed-gender team comprising 4 girls and 4 boys from Chennai and Mumbai, supported by Magic Bus and Karunalaya.

Q) Tell us your name, what do you like doing in your free time?

A: I am Paul Raj and I love playing video games in my free time!

Q) Congratulations on winning the first ever Street Child World Cup! How was your experience?

A: I am so happy to have won the Street Child World Cup and it was a great feeling to have won the match against England! Not just me, even people from the community were proud of me. Our victory was a victory for them too!

Q) Tell us about your travel to England. How was it meeting different boys and girls from across the world? Did you make friends with them? Tell us about it.

A: It was such a great experience as it exceeded my expectations. I bonded really well with the team from Nepal. We have now become great friends. I was a bit shy to talk to other teams, but with the children from Nepal, it was easy and comfortable.

Q) Who is your favourite cricketer? Why? 

A: Dhoni ! He has been a great captain, his helicopter shot is just amazing, along with that he is also a good wicket keeper. I think he is the BEST!

Q) Dhoni or Virat? Who is the better captain? Why? Tell us about your team captain too.

A: Dhoni for sure! I think Dhoni gives a chance to young players, always gets the team together and plays fair. I love Dhoni! I was the captain of the team, maybe my friends will be able to answer this question better!

Q) Sachin or Virat? Who is the better batsman? Harbhajan or Bhumra? Who is the better bowler?

A: I love Virat more than Sachin. I like Bhumra more than Harbhajan!

Q) Are you watching the World Cup this year? Which country do you believe has the best chances of winning? Why?

A: Of Course, I am watching the World Cup! I think 3 of the teams are strong contenders – Australia is a brilliant team and they have won several World Cup trophies before. Australians are skilled in both bowling and batting. Our Indian team is united and they support each other. I also think even though New Zealand has never won a World Cup, they too are doing well.

Q) What do you aspire to be when you grow up? A cricketer or something else? Why? What is it about cricket that you prefer over other sports?

A: I got interested in the game of cricket when I saw my brother play the sport… I definitely want to become a cricketer! I learnt that one needs a lot of practice to get better in the game! This consistency also helps in everyday life as it makes us disciplined.

Q) If you were captain and you had to pick the World Cup Team, who all would you pick?

A: I shall obviously be part of the team. I will also have Dhoni, Bhumra, Kuldeep Yadav, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kholi, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvanesh Kumar and Mani Kumar in my team!

Q) You must’ve grown up watching only men and boys playing international cricket. How was your experience in playing in mixed-gender teams? What are your thoughts on it? Why do you think (or not) that girls and boys playing together is important?

A: Yes! I have grown watching only men and boys playing international cricket. I think it is important to have a mixed gender match because it shows equality of both – girls and boys. Girls are equally powerful; they should be given more of an opportunity to play. In our team, girls were both good at batting and bowling! They have the same skills as we boys have. So, why should we not play together?

Q) Are you going to be watching the Women’s World Cup Cricket? Why/ Why not?

A: Of course, I want to watch the match. However, I do not know when the series will be on television and if I will have the time to watch the entire match, What if I am busy with my studies then? I will definitely catch the highlights of the match with my friends…

Q) Tell us the best thing about playing cricket? What is the most fun part about it? What have you learnt from playing cricket?

A: The best part about playing cricket is learning so many techniques. I learnt how to be focused, disciplined and the importance of consistency. I loved when I hit a six, the feeling was so good!

Q) Is cricket compulsory in schools? Should it be? Why so?

A: We have many games in my school, but we also need cricket as a game to keep practicing our skills. If the school provides us with cricket coaching, it will become a great way for children to get trained and pick up the skills!

Q) How has your life changed after going for the Street World Cup?

A: Everything is so different now. Playing at Lord’s was a great feeling and I got to represent my country! For me, to go there as a street kid and represent the voices of all street children was a big achievement! I got a platform to showcase my talent at an international level and I sometimes wonder if I am living a dream. Now, people are better aware of the issues that children on the street face every day. I think, the platform helped in spreading awareness. Everyone around- my school, parents and even people in my community are happy and proud of me. I love the appreciation that came my way. Today, I am more than just a street child. You know, participating in the Street Child World Cup also helped me get admission and enroll in a college under the sports quota.