Neeta (19), Hema (14), Konika (16) and Radha (16) are Yuwa (the Hindi for youth) participants. The sports project in the Indian state of Jharkhand recently won the Laureus Sport for Good Award 2019. At present, approximately 500 young girls from the "Yuwa School" regularly play football and take part in tournaments.
Both of my older sisters were married as young teenagers, I definitely do not want to go down this road.
Many older girls also work as coaches with Yuwa and thereby earn their own money. Around 90 of them attend the "Yuwa School" where classes are taught in English. Neeta Kumari from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand, is a student at the Yuwa School. The 19-year-old has been playing football since she was ten and now also coaches an independent girls team. She is due to graduate from the Yuwa School soon. Neeta has already participated in two tournaments in Spain with her team and has traveled to Alaska for a kayaking expedition as part of the international "Inspiring Girls Expeditions". She has achieved a lot since she joined the Yuwa project. She tells her personal story in order to inspire others and is a confident role model for many young girls in India. Neeta has gone her own way, including against her parents' resistance.
"I would like to be a journalist," wishes Neeta. With the help of sport she has become stronger and has more self-confidence. She wants to determine her future herself: "I will go my own way. And I really hope that many girls will follow in my footsteps, in line with the motto: if she can do it, so can I."
With Yuwa, girls pursue a new path. They gain something valuable from it – the ability to take their future into their own hands in order to break out from the vicious circle of poverty, violence and a lack of education. Her story is food for thought and impressively demonstrates the power of sport to help disadvantaged children.
It is a big step for women because reigning patriarchal structures make an independent life unattainable for most of them. Ultimately there are few prospects for women in Jharkhand when it comes to their day-to-day life: 45 percent of the female population is illiterate, 50 percent of girls do not attend school, and 60 percent are married underage.
Bettina Fetzer, Vice President Mercedes-Benz Marketing and member of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, has this to say about Yuwa: "We are particularly pleased that the Yuwa project for disadvantaged girls has won the 2019 Laureus Sport for Good Award because girls and women are still very affected by poverty, discrimination and violence in many regions around the world. That is why Mercedes-Benz and Laureus focus part of their work on projects that empower girls and women, opening up new perspectives for them. Together, we want to use the power of sport to give them self-confidence and leadership abilities so as to equip them against violence, gender-based stereotypes and prejudices."