From Jharkhand’s paddy fields to Bear glacier in Alaska, this shy teen has travelled far
Neeta was one of the eight girls selected from around the world and only one from India to participate in the exclusive wilderness expedition led by an all-woman team of wilderness guides, scientists and artistsranchi Updated: Aug 26, 2017 20:48 IST
From assisting parents in their paddy fields in her remote Jharkhand village in 2009 to dribbling the soccer ball in the biggest youth football tournaments in Spain in 2013 and 2016, and now kayaking in the wilderness expedition in Alaska, life has been munificent for Neeta Kumari, 18, courtesy Yuwa India Trust, an internationally acclaimed NGO, working in Ormanjhi area for last seven years.
In 2009, when Neeta joined Yuwa’s football team, like any other girl of a Jharkhand village, she was shy, unable to converse properly in Hindi let aside English as Shadri was her mother tongue. Cut to 2017, the demure girl has transformed into a successful football player. She is also a proficient coach and a class 10 student, fluent in English language. Such is her confidence today that she travelled all the way to Alaska alone and has returned after successfully competing in the international event.
Neeta was one of the eight girls selected from around the world and only one from India to participate in the exclusive wilderness expedition led by an all-woman team of wilderness guides, scientists and artists. Neeta had left for the expedition on August 9. She returned on Friday.
Inspiring Girls Expeditions organises and funds wilderness adventures for teenage girls to improve scientific observation skills, get a close look at a quickly changing environment, reflect thoughts and senses in drawings, become more self-confident in unknown territory, and build friendships for a lifetime. The expedition is led by a group of professional woman scientists, sea kayak guides and artists.
During the 11-day expedition, the participants kayaked and trekked around the Bear Glacier and its surrounding marine environment near Seward, Alaska.
How did she qualify for the expedition? “I applied for this programme in January 2017. To apply, I wrote a series of essays in English and ran 4 km to show my physical fitness. My selection was announced in April,” said the young girl beaming with confidence and sense of fulfillment.
How she felt travelling alone to Alaska, “Initially, I was afraid as it was my first visit abroad alone, but I managed it without any hassles and have returned more enlightened and experienced,” she said.
Neeta said the programme had a big impact on her and her parents. “They will not think that I am burden for them like my older sisters and worry for my marriage. I want to study hard and become a journalist. I am sure my parents will support my education and also help my younger sister realise her dreams.”
She said her trip to Alaska alone will change villagers mind and perception about girls’ potential. “Girls are not good at house work only. They can play, study, work hard and conquer expeditions,” she said.
Yuwa co-founder Franz Gastler is all praise for Neeta. “She is an exceptional role model. She gets up 4 am to coach young girls. She and other girls of Yuwa are showing their communities and everywhere what girls are capable of. These village girls are representing India at various international forums and speaking their heart out.”
The NGO works to put girls in charge of their own futures through football and education. It has transformed lives of hundreds of girls, most of them tribals, in the surrounding villages, around 15 km from capital Ranchi. The girls in these villages are constantly at risk of dropping out of school, early marriage, gender-related violence and human trafficking.