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29 Oct 2019

Engaging Young People through Sport

Deep in the rural interior of semi-arid southern Rajasthan, where frequent long droughts make the idea of green grass seem impossible, the idea of a football tournament taking place seems unlikely - but, at the start of 2019, that is exactly what happened.

Seva Mandir has been teaching young teenage girls and boys from remote communities how to play football since December 2018 under the guidance of professional coaches. Roshan Lal is one of these coaches, travelling nearly 90km every day from Udaipur city to a remote, barren field in rural southern Rajasthan so that he can teach the teenagers how to play football and come together as a team.

'I've always wanted to teach sport, and now I have the opportunity to work with these fantastic young people in the beautiful game of football. They are so dedicated - they will make a ball out of anything just so they can play!'

Before our intervention, most of these young people had heard of football, but had no idea of how it was played. For girls especially, the idea of playing any sport was beyond their reach, as they are bound by traditional gender roles that restrict them to household chores. Many leave school early so that they can help to support their families, missing out on receiving a vital education and essential life skills.

'Sport is one of the only means of engaging with young people,' explains Renu Tiwari, head of our Youth Cell, 'encouraging them to come together across boundaries of caste or religion, build teams and hone their interpersonal skills.'

We connect all of the young people involved in our football programme with our Youth Resource Centres which are located centrally in rural villages. These centres build the capacities of rural and tribal young people, from sessions on gender rights and sexual health to vocational training, and every year we reach between 3,000 and 3,500 young people.

Munendra Chauhan, a Programme Associate with the Youth Cell, says:

'Football helps give young people the confidence to continue to create thriving communities. Today, we are witnessing a social change through better camaraderie, gender equality, social integration, youth leadership and good health.'

So far, nearly 500 young people have been reached through our football project, 44% of whom are girls.

To find out more about how Seva Mandir engages with young people, see Tomorrow's Citizens.

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