JOHRI: The Rifle Association of Johri has produced a number of award-winning national and international shooters. Situated in the interiors of a small village called Johri in Baghpat district, Uttar Pradesh, this shooting academy was one of the first in the country to let girls take up shooting as a sport, back in 1998.

For many girls in the village, the academy has been a way to come out of the local setup of patriarchy and enter the outside world. It has been a way for them to revolt against the social norms in their village, where girls are generally not allowed even to step out of their homes. Shooting has helped them gain confidence, fight patriarchy and replace the prevailing social norms.

Though the Rifle Association has already helped many girls overcome barriers of caste, class and gender, there are many others who are still struggling in the process of changing mindsets, and must do so every day, convincing their families, relatives and neighbours.

One such girl is Meena Kumar, a college student who is learning to shoot at the Rifle Association. Her elder brother doesn’t like it that she goes to learn shooting at the academy. Her parents, however have begun to give her their support, after witnessing her achievements in the sport, and after her convincing them again and again.

Doli Jatav, a 10-year-old shooter, is another such girl who is going beyond caste and class barriers to fulfil her dream, of winning gold medals one day for India at the Olympics. Her parents work at brick kilns to try and make ends meet for their four children. Doli has already won around 30 medals and aspires to win many more.

The academy stands today as a symbol of overcoming societal hurdles, and a way for women to claim space in their society.