They celebrate unity through sports and empowerment through education. Soccer has allowed these girls to create an example for their peers and community about sports as an agent of change. Vyasarpadi Children’s Empowerment Project introduced football in the lives of children and Child Rights and You (CRY) gave the motive a shape through its annual soccer tournament. But the story of transformation started long ago.
Bheemabhai embodies the will to fight and question all that preordained. A Dalit, Bheemabhai faced discrimination often. Discouraged, hurt, she dropped out of school. It was at this juncture in her life, that Vyasarpadi Children’s Empowerment Project intervened and encouraged her to take up soccer. It was this sport that gave her solace and a renewed her will to pursue further education.
Today, the winner of Ashoka Youth Venture Award, Bheemabhai is a standing example for girls in her community and plays her part in inspiring others to embrace either education and sport, and perhaps both. And through this, stand up to the threat of child marriage and child labor. Bheemabhai is not alone. The following are individuals who have also gone against the norm.
KeeKeerthanaKeerthana (15 years) has been playing in the girl’s team for the past 1.5 years. She took up the sport from a very early age. She plays in the forward position and is a key member of the team.
KoKowsalya Kowsalya (20 years) dropped out of the school when she was in the 8th standard. Her father is a daily wage laborer and her mother a home maker but that didn’t shy her off from dreaming about a career according to her own terms. Sport has been a great motivator for her to continue studies while she has been playing for the last 7 years. She also prefers playing in the forward position.
ViViji Viji (22 years) has been playing football for the past 8 years. It has not been easy for her to keep playing the sport and continue education but a she mentions that Bheema Bhai led the way and helped overcome self-doubt. Today she is one of the regular members of the team.
YaminiYamini Yamini (18 years) is one of the new entrants in the team, playing football for the last one year. She is a right midfielder and her father is working as an auto driver & mother a home maker. She also dropped out in the 9th standard but motivated by Bheema Bhai today she is proudly pursuing education while acing her role in the soccer field. CRY has been advocating bringing all children between the age-group of 15-18 under the purview of Right to Education (RTE) and the Labor Act which currently safeguards children between 6-14 years. Such measures along with better incentives and opportunity will ensure children from the marginalized sector with a better chance to childhood, much like these girls who show the world that indeed where there is a will, there is a way.
Come October Vyasarpadi will witness another tournament, ‘Shankara Buildpro CRY Soccer for Child Rights’ that shall aspire to spread the ripple of change to more lives and generate more stories of inspiration from the fields of hope.
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