The women achievers of Bihar

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Begusarai (Bihar):  At home, 16-year-old Shivanjali is like any other village girl in Bihar's Begusarai district. But once she steps on to the football field, she's entirely transformed.

This young girl has represented Bihar and India at the Under-19 level, and now aspires to lead India at the international level.

But she's not alone. In her village, Barauni Flag, a total of 11 girls have represented clubs or teams at the national level - no mean achievement for a village that isn't familiar with taking pride in its girls.

Bihar has a sex ratio of 916, much lower than the national average, leading to serious worries over female infanticide across the state.

For Shivanjali, support came in from her parents, after initial hesitation, but the tougher challenge was to ward off mockery from her relatives, and those in her village who suggested that the girls should get married instead of getting into something like football.

"Except my parents, others in my family mocked me. The villagers looked down upon me. They said things like, 'How can she wear shorts and play?'. But my parents supported me, and that's why I am here today," said Shivanjali.

"When a girl child was born into my family, of course there was a bit of disappointment. But we supported her when we saw her inclination for sports, and now we are proud of her," said Ram Charitra Singh, Shivanjali's father.

A few kilometres away, at a village, Kabaddi is the big draw with girls. And Sinku Kumari, a role model.

Sinku represented Bihar in the recently held National Games in Jharkhand, and her team even won the bronze. But in a country where girls are unwanted at birth, the challengers are plenty.

"One major problem was that we had to wear shorts while practicing, but people didn't like that. People made a hue and cry about that. They said how could girls do this? But now everything is OK," said Sinku.

The biggest compliment she says is from those who were once disappointed by her not being a boy, but now say women achievers like her make them question the community's obsession with boys.

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