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Using sports as a tool for social and individual development

Using sports as a tool for social and individual development

New Delhi: Back in 2003, Afak Khan saw some children roller-skating in a park near his house. Coming from a not so well-off family, the then six-year-old dreamt of learning the sport despite knowing he will not have the money for it. Today, Khan participates at the national level, thanks to social support.

"When I saw those kids skating in the park, I was driven by a strong urge to learn the sport. I somehow saved my pocket money and purchased a pair of secondhand skates from a scrap dealer. Thus began my journey to the skating rink," Khan, now 16, told IANS.

Khan is one among many children who are being taught social values and life skills through the medium of sports.

"Sport is a well-researched, universal tool for social development and has the potential to cut across boundaries and break barriers of religion, caste and colour and unify people regardless of how rich or poor they may be," Chetan Misra, founder of Delhi-based The Football Link NGO, told IANS.

"Playing sports gives children valuable qualities such as confidence, being socially forward and helps develop their personality to make them well-rounded individuals. Sport is also a powerful tool to teach social issues and moral values through a fun and entertaining activity," he added.

The Football Link, a coaching institution, teaches children social issues such as women's empowerment, how to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases and gender equality.

"Through partnerships with various international organisations, we conduct "Coach the Coaches" workshops where local coaches are taught international techniques of football for social development, increasing child interaction and social inclusion," Misra added.

Agreed Franz Gastler, founder of Yuwa India, which uses football to empower girls in India.

"We use football as a platform for development because girls requested it when Yuwa first started in 2008. We quickly discovered that football is an excellent way to bring girls together and keep them coming back," Ranchi-based Gastler, a 31-year-old American who came to Jharkhand five years ago to teach in village schools, told IANS.

He explained that Yuwa works in villages in rural Jharkhand, which has some of the highest rates of child marriage, human trafficking and female illiteracy in India. He said some of the Yuwa girls have been chosen as brand ambassadors for the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan, which aims to achieve 100 percent access to sanitation for all rural households by 2022 by constructing toilets.

"In a place where girls are expected to drop out of school at an early age and get married in their mid-teens, Yuwa's mission is to put each girl powerfully in charge of her own future - enabling her to break free of the cycle of poverty," Gastler added.

According to Misra, the worst affected are the children growing up in slums and low-income families of the mega Indian cities, who face constant abuse, neglect and
severe lack of basic resources.

He added that football, being a global sport, has the potential to break the boundaries of rich and poor.

"On the field everybody is same. They are taught values of sportsmanship and teamwork and anybody who wants to play is given a chance irrespective of their
economic background. No money is charged for participation at these centres," Misra told IANS.

Akshai Abraham, founder of Lucknow-based Project Khel, "a customised programme that uses sports and games as a platform to engage with adolescents from disadvantaged backgrounds", feels that there is a need to tap the power sports has in bringing about a change in the lives of people.

"I think there are enough of schemes, like the Panchayat Yuva Krida Aur Khel Abhiyan (PYKKA), but implementation is an issue. The aim of Project Khel is not to create competitive sportspersons but to recognise the value play has in the development of a child and to utilise the power of sport to bring about societal change," Abraham told IANS.

Once engaged, the project's programme leads the children through a series of modules designed to impart crucial Life Skills Education (LSE) though experiential learning and activity-based learning models.

Additionally, it also conducts specialised thematic workshops and modules, which aim to create awareness on issues such as civic responsibility, child sexual abuse, personal hygiene and self presentation.

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