Me, The Change: Meet Sweta Shahi, a Rugby Player Without A Ground
Producer: Vatsala Singh
Cameraperson: Athar Rather
Video Editor: Kunal Mehra
When Sweta Shahi was asked if she would like to play rugby, she heard the word ‘rugby’ for the first time. She was spotted in a state athletic event by Bihar’s rugby secretary. She trained with her father and taught herself a foreign sport by watching YouTube videos. The 19-year-old has represented India in three international championships. But it wasn't an easy stride to pull off for this village girl.
The 2019 Lok Sabha elections are set to be a turning point in India’s history. But there will be one kingmaker or queenmaker to watch out for. Meet the first-time woman voter. As a part of “Me, The Change" campaign – an initiative by The Quint, presented by Facebook – The Quint went to speak to Sweta Shahi.
100 kilometers from Patna airport, in Nalanda district, lies village Bhadari. Shahi was born to farmer Sujit Kumar Shahi and Champa Devi, a homemaker. She has an elder sister and three brothers. While most village girls her age are married. Shahi has no such plans and is only eyeing the Olympics.
There were some in her family who objected. Her maternal uncle who was of the view that women shouldn’t play sports said, "Who would marry you?"
Rugby is an injury-prone sport. What if I got hurt? He was worried that nobody would want to marry me. If it weren’t for my father’s unconditional support, I would not have reached where I have.Sweta Shahi, Rugby Player
Due to a lack of money, her father became her coach and her mentor. The two watched videos on YouTube and Facebook, picked up tricks and practiced. The effort bore fruit when she was the only girl from Bihar selected for the national camp in 2013.
She represented India in the Asian Rugby Seven Series held in Sri Lanka, Dubai and South Korea.
But India's international rugby player does not have enough resources at her disposal. She doesn't have a coach, a ground to practice and can’t even afford an athlete’s diet.
I had been practicing on a field. But the owners have built boundaries around it. I have to cycle 6 kms every morning to train in a school’s playground. While a rugby ground needs grass, this one has stones and bumps. I could get injured but I have no option.Sweta Shahi, Indian Rugby Player
Shahi wants rugby to flourish in Nalanda. She goes from school to school trying to encourage more girls to take up rugby. When she is not training in the camps, she spends her time training these girls. Six of them have gone ahead to play at the national level.
Shahi is a first-time voter. On being asked what she will vote for in the upcoming General Election, she said:
Politicians are making roads but none of them focus on players. My major problem is that I do not have a ground. I have no training equipment or any facility. When I vote in 2019, I will vote with these issues in mind. We are India’s future. If we do well, we will bring pride to our districts and states. If they promise to work for us, I will vote for them.Sweta Shahi, Rugby Player
If you know a young woman achiever, or have always been in awe of a friend, or a sister, or a colleague’s grit and gumption, tell us! Nominate a first-time woman voter who’s changing her world.