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Each for Equal: Indian MMA Fighters open up about Gender Equality

LockerRoom Team
08 March 2020

The 2020 International Women’s day is here. This year, the United Nations has selected ‘Each for Equal’ as the theme for the occasion in order to promote the message of Gender Equality.

And if you think Gender Equality is not a thing, here are some facts courtesy of the Weforum.

  • Women are 47% more likely to suffer severe injuries in car crashes because safety features are designed for men
  • 33,000 girls become child brides every day
  • Women in rural parts of Africa spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water
  • Only 6 countries give women equal legal work rights as men
  • For every female film character, there are 2.24 men

As part of this year’s Women’s day, we managed to get in touch with the Indian MMA athletes across the nation and get their take on gender equality and women empowerment. Here is what everyone had to say:

Anjali Gupta: A family that fights together, stays together. We are lucky to be alive in an age where if a woman can dream it, she can be it. Whether it is wanting to wear shorts to school because the boys can, to being comfortable in a swimsuit at the local pool, or be a chunky mom of two wanting to get into MMA... the three of us fight and stand for Equality, Justice and Human Rights for every child, woman and man.

Ritika Poojary: The overall objective of gender equality is a society in which women and men enjoy the same opportunities, rights and obligations in all spheres of life. A world where gender equality is reality means that as a child, the world would be your oyster. No game, sport, colour etc. would be out of reach. As a student one would be able to pursue any field anywhere in the world. As a sports lover, one would be able to pursue any kind of sport according to their interest. You would be able to follow your instincts, likes and dislikes without judgement or confusion. As an Adult, you would be able to share your life with the person of your choice, once again without judgement. You could be able to decide your career path based on your interests, not what society expects of you. All this because you knew that your gender would never limit your opportunities or life choices. A gender-equal world would enable everyone to just be who they want to be without worrying about stereotypes and clinches. In this ' ideal world ', rights and pay would be equal and discrimination would be diminished. We would be valued for our work ethic, our compassion, our empathy not our gender. This is a world I look forward to. The world I want to fight for.

Priya Sharma: One day she discovered that she was fierce and strong, and full of fire and that not even she could hold herself back because her passion burned brighter than her fears. You are the tigress! You have to believe in yourself.

Preeti Rana: When it comes to gender equality where our society thinks that some particular works are meant to be performed by men only, i want to stand different from them and want to show that we women are no lesser than anyone. We can cook food and get medals in combat sports too. I want to break those stereotypes of people that women are not good in business. I have my own Yoga studio and running my business good. So society should stop discriminating between men and women and start treating them equally.

Neha Kashyap: Gender equality means that women and men, and girls and boys, enjoy the same rights, resources, opportunities and protections. So I request to all peoples to eliminate any kind of discrimination between male and female and treat both of them equally in society.

Naipunya Sunil: She is always there. To hold and uphold. To wipe a tear. To rise and to raise and silently face the world with a smile.

Surbala Laishram: Hi everyone. I want to wish everyone the best on this women’s day. I strive to as a woman to be strong, self-sufficient, result-oriented, a positive role model, and never a victim. I want to be strong enough to motivate younger girls to live their dreams and passion but in a disciplined way.

Manjit Kolekar: Gender equality is not a woman’s issue. We as a society as humans have to deal with it equally and do the right thing! I hope that we all eventually understand that there is a problem and it needs to be fixed ASAP!! So we all can channelize our energy in the right place and not keep fighting for our rights! A very happy women's day to all the women across the globe.

Aarti Khatri: Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong…it is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, not as two opposing sets of ideas.

Sanjana George: I need Feminism because it kills me to see little girls believing the only thing they should aspire to be is pretty. By Feminism i don't mean that women need to be given special treatment, I mean men and women should be given equal treatment. If I were to ask you, "name a famous sports athlete". 9/10 times it would be a man. Why is it that way? Because sports isn't considered as a great career opportunity for women? Because after a certain age we have roles and responsibilities to meet and men don't have to? I personally find it abusive to put pressure on men to have to provide a life we cannot provide for ourselves. Just as women are not rehabilitation centres for badly raised men, Men are not poverty eradication plans for lazy women. Nothing determines independence like financial independence. Hence women should work and so should men. Instead of battling out between the two genders and trying to give one gender preference over the other. I think we should accept that we are different and yet we need to complement each other equally.

Nabila Birjis: Importance of gender equality in society to me simply means that men and women should be able to enjoy the same opportunities! Although it is obvious that the genders are equal though in opposite ways. Just because nature has designed man stronger in a few aspects and woman in a few, it doesn't make man superior to a woman or the other way - it makes man the opposite of a woman. A complete woman accepts and plays her natural role perfectly and doesn't need to prove she is more than or equal to any man, because she knows she is. Such a woman is free of stereotypes and can be an athlete or achiever in any field.

Sanika Patil: As a women in this largely male-dominated sport and in a country where I am encouraged to behave in a docile manner, where conservative, religious norms often force women into traditional roles, I realized I don’t fit into any of these preconceived norms and needed my own form of expressing myself and living my life to my best potential that I see fit, not what society sees fit for me. MMA has given me that and much more. It’s given me confidence, strength, individualism, character and a second family in my fight team, team relentless.

Samata Sonvane: My perspective on equality is a little controversial.. Women and men are NOT EQUAL. They have their own place in our society, though I strongly believe that women are super-humans! Yes, they are far more superior in their own ways.. What we lack is the respect we give each other. Men and women deserve equal respect..and from where I see, women are not given the amount of respect they deserve. Respect women and help each other grow!

Akshata Khadtare: I grew up with people who respect men and women equally and this is the kind of behaviour I hope to see everyone have! If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things..My family always encouraged me to follow my dreams and that’s what brings me here. A gender-equal society would be one where the word 'gender' does not exist where everyone can be themselves!

Ratnadiptee: Even the universe is governed by Cosmic duality - sets of two equal and opposing, complementing energies. Yin and Yang must be equal to strike a balance and maintain harmony. Then why should humans follow different rules? We all agree that gender equality is a fundamental right and it is essential to achieve peaceful societies with full human potential. Sustainable development can only be achieved if we banish the bias.

Evanka Brown: When I was a kid growing up,I fell in love with martial arts but was told I couldn't learn because it was a boys sport. I could only imagine what it was like to learn it just from watching movies. Years later as I got older I decided to pursue my dreams to learn MMA but still faced backlashes from family as I had decided to become a fighter in doing so I moved away from my family in order to focus on my training but it dint stop there, being a woman I had to prove myself that I am worthy of being a fighter in a male dominant society and break the stereo typical myth that a woman is only meant to run a house. My only wish is to become one of the best Indian female fighter's on international waters. Being a woman it is very hard to achieve this goal but I can achieve it one step at a time and prove that all genders are equal and have their right to pursue their goals. I Stand here today as a  Female MMA  fighter fighting for gender equality. Happy Woman's Day

Mankomal Kaur: They say, beginning is always the toughest part, it was even tough when you are married woman. Coming to a new family and don't know anything about Mixed Martial Arts and then emerging out as the flyweight champion in X1 international women's fight night was even hard to believe for myself. But it was possible just because of my family support, my husband implanted the idea in my head to do something my own and it was crazy back then that we decided to go for MMA without any prior experience, starting with boxing initially we moved to Chandigarh along with our 4 month old kid. That was the hardest part of the journey, managing a kid during the practice after moving to Chandigarh we get in touch with our coach Gurkaran Singh of Indian Top Team and then the prep for X1 INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S FIGHT NIGHT started.

My mother in law, another woman who played a vital role in my success moved all the way from home to chandigarh to take care of matters, so that I can train well, eat good and recover efficiently. Then finally the hard work paid off and we emerged as winner of flyweight category.  It was a win of a woman's hard work, self-belief and the trust of her family that she was able to win with her hard work. Still I am perfecting my craft and still my family is supporting me in every possible way. So the final thing I believe was a tool for me to be here was HARD WORK and OUTWORKING MY COMPETITION. I want to congratulate every women a HAPPY WOMEN'S DAY but also want to convey a message that doesn't get consumed by just having some dreams, go out and work for your dreams and make them happen, everything will fall in its place.

Ishika Thite: Happy women's day to all the fabulous ladies out there! Let's celebrate the greatness in women. I feel women are far more superior than men so let's 1st stop the fight to be equal. Secondly, there are places where females have not been given enough opportunity so let's strengthen ourselves enough & make ourselves intellectually & physically high that we dnt have to "ask" for a job/opportunity. Let us be served on our capabilities. There are few areas wherein men would be ahead like in strength. Accept that gracefully. Areas like EQ (emotional quotient) females lead. I really feel there is no comparison between men & women. It's unnecessary hype. I just feel that no one should be stopped from doing or getting anything just because she's a female.

Puja Tomar: Women are advancing today in all aspects of life. And I hope that every woman out there contributes their best to the growth of the nation and society. Wishing everyone a very happy Women’s day

Jyoti Singh: Let’s all encourage our girls to dream big AND to achieve big. We should encourage not only girls, but ourselves, to be seen as equals. Women can be so many wonderful things, and being an MMA fighter is just one of them! Happy woman's Day to everyone. 

You can see the complete athlete-specific quotes and images from this article on our Instagram page as well by clicking here

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