Five years after the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) promised women and young girls of Mumbra a ground to play in, finally they have started work on the plot of land allotted for the cause. Mumbra is a suburb in the outskirts of Mumbai, where the girls will have a ground to play in, by the end of March, as announced on International Women’s Day.

The plot, is next to Maulana Azad Stadium in Kausa, had some discrepancies which is why TMC couldn’t start work earlier, but now the TMC Commissioner Sanjeev Jaiswal has confirmed that the work on it has started.

“This is a big victory for us. It is reflective of what collective voices can do together,” Salma Ansari, a member of the group who had initiated a signature campaign, said, reported Hindustan Times.

Jitendra Awhad, local MLA and state minister backed the demand and followed it up with the municipal body. He assured that the ground will be ready to use within a month. “There were some problems as a part of the land was under coastal regulation zone-1 and we had to get land from a builder. But now work has started. This is probably the first time that we are building an all-girls’ ground,” Awhad said.

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The ground will have basic amenities to ensure safety for girls and women by recruiting security guards. It will be adequately lit and have changing rooms too.

This is a big victory for us. It is reflective of what collective voices can do together.

“This reservation sets a benchmark for other municipalities in our cities on what needs to done to get women into public space, beyond mere lip service to the cause of women’s empowerment,” said Sabah Khan, founder of Parcham, an NGO which pursued TMC to get the ground for the girls.

Khan pointed out that the other grounds in the area are unusable for women because of safety and security issues. The decision to have an all-women’s playground came through in 2014 after 874 girls and women from Mumbra had signed a petition seeking reservation of a sports ground.

As the Mumbra society remains highly patriarchal, the establishment of an all-women playground comes as a breath of fresh air. A 2001 TISS report titled ‘Mumbra — a status report’ showed that the suburb has 24 % women who are illiterate, 92%who are unemployed and 28% who were married before the age of 17. 2.56% Muslim women living in Mumbra aren’t allowed to go out of the area at all by their families.

Even at that time, the report had suggested developed playgrounds and gardens for women, children and the community. “While it appears that this facility will be useful primarily for the children, it may provide women with a space in which they can bond with other women. It can serve as a place for socialization for women, of which there are few in Mumbra-Kausa. Women and children from different backgrounds will be able to interact with each other, widening their horizons and perspectives.

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