The next Mithali Raj and a skatepark: How sports is driving rural empowerment

The fact that Priya’s father Surendra Punia built a cricket ground for her to practice shows how parents are supporting the ambitions of their daughters.

Published: 18th August 2019 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th August 2019 01:05 PM   |  A+A-

Cricket remains an Indian religion, though other sports such as hockey, football and kabaddi have become lucrative. India is increasing its medal tally at world events. Sports goods export is growing; the value reached Rs 1,079 crore in 2017-18.

Priya Punia


Batting for Girls

The cliché goes that cricket is a religion. It’s also an opportunity. One worshipper was 22-year-old Priya Punia from Rajasthan, who was selected for the Indian women’s cricket team over Veda Krishnamurthy for the New Zealand tour this year.

The fact that Priya’s father Surendra Punia built a cricket ground for her to practice shows how parents are supporting the ambitions of their daughters: a sea change in Indian familial attitudes.

He even sold his property and took a bank loan to build the sports complex.
His efforts were rewarded when Priya was selected for the state team and then batted for North Zone in 2015.

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She bats at number three position and is seen as the next Mithali Raj. Off the ground, she has become a social media star with over 1.7 lakh followers on Instagram.

Not a Castle in the Air

When Ulrike Reinhard arrived in Janwar, Madhya Pradesh, she realised that the caste and literacy gap between Adivasis and the Yadavs there was huge. She built ‘Janwar Castle’ in 2015 with the mission to integrate the children of both communities; here they learn languages, music, dance, painting, 3D modelling as well as life-skills.

India’s first skate-park for children is in the Castle. The state government helped Ulrike with 12 used skateboards, helmets and safety pads. It time for prejudices to fade but Ulrike managed to persuade parents of Adivasi and Yadav boys and girls of all ages to skate together.

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To stress the importance of empowering education and girls, she insisted that to get on the rink, they have to go to school and girls got the first opportunity to skate: as a result, attendance in the local government school is up.

Born in Heidelberg, Germany, the Royal Enfield-riding 55-year-old Ulrike lives in a village near the Panna National Tiger Park.

The Castle is also for international artists and the kids to turn skateboards into ‘art-boards’ together.

Around 50 to 60 children come here to skate every day. Ulrike hopes many of them would become national champions one day.

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  • ulrike reinhard

    Thanks. One correction though - we never received anything from state government; not yet :-)
    3 months ago reply
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