Jharkhand's tribal girls win off football field

  • B Vijay Murty & Sanjoy Dey, Hindustan Times, Hutup
  • Updated: Aug 13, 2015 17:41 IST
Girls in Jharkhand villages have used football to get ahead in life. (HT photo)

Jharkhand-based sports and literary organisation YUWA has taken yet another giant leap: This time off their favourite football field.

The YUWA girls, who hail from a part of society where the average marriageable age is barely 13 to 14 years, are set to turn heads as they are making internet applications that are set to take the tribal society by storm. One of them titled YUWA App would be India's first internet application aimed at preventing child marriages.

YUWA is a social development platform for girls based in Jharkhand that imparts training in football, provides free education and creates awareness about social evils like child marriage and domestic violence. The organisation has had 650 female football players so far and at present has 250 players under its banner.r

Hailing from below poverty line (BPL) families, these girls, being nurtured by Yuwa founder Franz Gastler and his team of dedicated volunteers, are developing Wikipedia pages and creating India's first street view of their village, Hutup, near Ranchi by using hi-tech cameras.

Multinational computer technology giant, Lenovo is facilitating the girls in this adventurous mission. Together, YUWA India Trust and Lenovo on Tuesday launched a national campaign 'Pitch to Her' on the web, calling on the brightest minds in India to enter ideas to 'hack real world issues'.

"The campaign is aimed to introduce rural girls here to technology, even coding," said Gastler, an American who founded the YUWA India Trust in 2009 to empower girls by giving free education, teaching life skills and working to prevent child marriages. Gastler said the website 'pitchtoher.com' will invite people across India to field their ideas to YUWA to improve lives of rural girls.

"The entries will be judged by the YUWA girls and winners will get an internship funded by Lenovo at YUWA to put their ideas into action," he said.

In Jharkhand, 6 out of 10 rural girls drop out of school and become child brides. YUWA had successfully addressed this issue among at least 150 girls it randomly picked in 2009 for an informal training in football and free education.

The girls went on to become the first women's team from India to participate in the biggest women's football tournaments in America and Spain , winning a bronze in the Gasteiz Cup in Spain in 2013.

"We are impressed by the zeal of YUWA girls to adapt themselves to technology and thereby we are here with them teaching how to play with computer application besides creating newer things of their own on the web," said Sandip Maiti, head of a Lenovo Volunteers team camping at the YUWA Center.

Maiti, also the CEO of Experience Commerce, said the 'Pitch to Her' campaign will conclude with an Independence Day tournament that will be filmed by the girls using aerial cameras attached to balloons as they did not get permission to use drones. The tournament will also be telecast live on the website.

Last year, YUWA was awarded $20,000 by FIFA's Football for Hope programme to continue using football and education to empower girls in Jharkhand. This is the maximum amount that can be given by FIFA as a first award.

Gastler said the girls are also being given music training using computer kits namely Makey Makey and FitBit. "We have created a laboratory for the girls comprising some 15 odd laptops to unleash their creativity," said Maiti, as his team comprising young professionals worked hard to create the lab at nondescript Hutup. "We will help them create their own band," he added.

The girls are excited. "It is great fun going to Google and finding games, videos, photos, movies and serials," said Abha (name changed due to YUWA's policy of protecting identity of the girls).

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