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Meet The 4 Amazing Kids Who Are Off To France For A Football Festival To Represent India!

By Nishreen Bandukwala:

Bengaluru-based Navnita, from Class IX was always interested in sports and outdoor activities. But her school was congested and did not even have a playground. Navnita had almost given up on her dream until she was introduced to an after-school programme where she chose football even though she had never played the game before. Navnita’s dedication towards football helped her master the skills of the game. Today, an excited Navnita, whose favourite player is Ronaldinho, says, “I love football! Generally, learning a game like football means paying huge fees. But I’m lucky to have this opportunity to learn the game and use my potential (sic) make use of my potential.”

She is one of the players selected from India to represent the country at the Street Football Festival this year in France. She cannot contain her excitement, “I am so happy to be going to France for the first time because of my love for the game. I want to learn their culture, interact with people there and be a key part of the football festival!”
Being a football enthusiast myself, I was deeply inspired by the story of Navnita and three other determined footballers. They have been selected for the prestigious Street Football Festival in Lyon, France. It’s a well-designed sports initiative of Euro 2016 which aims to play a critical role in enabling a child’s overall development.

Navnita and three other players from humble homes have been supported on this journey by Dream a Dream, a non-profit organisation based in Bengaluru. The organisation works towards empowering children from low-income families to overcome adversity and inspire change through various creative life-skills.

But, how does playing football lead to the overall growth of these children?

According to Dasra’s report Power of Play, one in three children enrolled in school do not reach grade 10; one in every four adolescent girls is married and 70% employers find Indian youth unemployable despite a degree. Through its research, Dasra establishes that there is a significant impact of free play in childhood on improved academic achievement among children. The organisation Dream a Dream leverages after school art and sports programmes to help children develop life skills and further enhance youth’s ability to gain and retain employment.

Sports is a cost-effective way of promoting healthy behaviour, encouraging education, fostering gender equity, enhancing inclusion and fuelling overall economic development.

These four talented young football players from vulnerable backgrounds have put tremendous effort to participate in the Football Festival.

Meet The Talented Players

“It’s a dream come true” – Navnita

navnita (1)
Navnita is excited to finally be a part of an international event that would give her exposure to different people from across the globe and develop her personal and sporting skills by interacting with other teams.

“Proud to be representing my country” – Manoj

Manoj has been playing football for four years now. Initially, he did not like it because he could never control the ball. But once he took that up as a challenge and started training, he began to love the game. He feels that the skills learnt in football have helped increase his power to concentrate and also improved his reading abilities. When he comes back, he wants to form a team within his school and help other students.

“An inspiration to other girls” – Harshitha

Vocal about her thoughts, Class X student Harshitha says, “Girls are hardly involved in sports. I want to be an inspiration to other girls so that they come out and play games like football. I have been lucky my mother encouraged me to do what I want. But, I know a lot of girls even in our class who cannot play because their parents do not allow them. I want to show them that we can move ahead not just through studies, but through an interest in sports too.” This Ronaldinho fan says she cannot wait to go to France, “I want to see how others make use of this sport and come back and do the same here.”

“Football teaches discipline” – Arbaz

15-year-old Arbaz Pasha who likes cricket and football is also thrilled to be a part of the team going to France for the Street Football Festival. When he began playing the game five years ago, he was a novice but with the attention and guidance of his coach, he began to show more interest and discipline in learning the game. Arbaz says, “Apart from discipline, the game has taught me to be positive in life.” With aspirations of becoming a police officer, Arbaz is super excited to be a part of the festival.

The story of Navnita and her friends is motivating people to believe that all it takes is sheer determination and hard work to inspire change. It is great that Dream a Dream is supporting the aspirations of these kids by raising funds for them through social crowd funding websites.

All images shared by Nishreen Bandukwala.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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