Finalist 2016: Srujitha Mallela, WA

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Name: Srujitha Mallela

Community, State: Albany, WA

School: Albany Senior Highschool

Age: 17, Grade 11

Why is gender equality important to you and your community?

I was 14, with a hope and passion for learning a new sport. Cricket. The town I live in has a population of 30,000 people. It also has several cricket teams that anyone with a passion can join. Or at least, that’s what I thought. Even though there were no girls teams, I was still determined to play. So I roll up to the local sporting ground and signed up. Despite the odd looks I got when people found out I was enrolling in a boys cricket team, I was excited and hopeful about being able to play a new sport that I really enjoyed at the time. I went ahead and bought my cricket uniform and equipment. As cricket season was about to get started, I got a disappointing call from the coach of the team I was placed in.

“Hi, were not sure you’d be able to cope with playing in the Under14 boys team, would you be able to take a few private lessons before we place you in another team?”

At that moment, it hit me.

They had never even seen me play, yet the alarms in their heads set off a loud siren when they realised that a girl was about to join the boys team.
After several emails, phone calls, texts and visits from my end, they finally told me they still didn’t put me in a team, despite the season already starting without me.

I was 14, when I had my first taste of gender inequality.

Gender equality isn’t only important to me, but also my community. I don’t want girls like “14 -year old-me” to have their spirits crushed when they’re told they can’t do something just because of their gender.

So many girls and boys are constantly put down when stereotypes associated with their gender restrict their hopes and dreams. Rural areas are still struggling to eliminate gender inequality. The time has come where we must break traditional roles that create inequality.

When the toxic idea that one gender is superior to the other is exposed to young children, it can affect their beliefs, values and attitudes for the rest of their life.
If I could go back in time to when I was 14, I would do whatever it took to get on the team,  to not only play a sport I enjoyed, but to also prove the point that girls can do anything boys can do.