Khelegi Toh Khilegi

The Education and Empowerment of Women throughout the world cannot fail to result in a more caring, tolerant, just and peaceful life for all. The world celebrated the International Woman’s Day 2017 this year with the theme called “Be Bold For Change”. Change here implies in working towards increasing and improving the individual, social and economic strength of the women. Women by themselves have all the capacity and some times more strength to drive the society towards better life. All that they need is equal opportunities.

National Yuva Cooperative Society (NYCS) has always believed in the spirit of womanhood to be the backbone of any society and this strong belief and thought reflects in their projects as well. We have had phenomenal participation by girls in both our seasons of GAIL Raftaar Indian Speed Star with the girls matching the boys in the season one finalists.

On occasion of the National Girl Child Day, on 24th January 2017, NYCS  along with Nurturing Excellence in Sports Trust (NEST) launched ‘Khelegi toh Khilegi’, a pan-India football based programme for girls between the age of 10-15 years. The first event was held amid great fanfare at Thyagaraj Stadium in the capital where over 700 girls from under resourced communities took part.  These young girls were from the areas of Sultanpuri, Mangolpuri and Kirari Suleman Nagar in Delhi as well from Amoli and Gunnaur in Uttar Pradesh. NYCS is grateful to ONGC for supporting the Delhi event.

Khelegi toh Khilegi aims at developing girls football in the country, with an intention to empower the girl child and using football as a tool to break gender stereotypes, improve self-esteem and develop leadership skills. The areas identified for the Delhi event, all had low sex ratios of females as well as low per capita incomes as compared to the rest of the state. We are trying to reach to those girls who really need a hand for help, and with their promising potential would fly high in the sky with the new found confidence. Starting from Delhi, NYCS plans to take the initiative to 15 cities across India in the first year. Very soon, we plan to hold a similar event at Pune.  Apart from identifying talent amongst these girls, “Khelegi toh Khilegi” program will train these girls with the objective of making them represent India at global sporting events like the World Cup and Olympic Games.

Women empowerment is not only about giving the girls freedom to take their own decisions and to play this otherwise “male dominated” game but it is about making them aware of their own social rights like respect and dignity, equal right to receive education, and opportunities at career along with creating a safe and secure environment for the girls to feel empowered to surge ahead. With this view the “Khelegi Toh Khilegi” project also plans to organise various workshops where issues relating to the girl child will be addressed such as health & hygiene, girl safety, gender equality and development through sports. These workshops will be a responsibility of Dr AV Baliga Memorial Trust, founded by the great freedom fighter and Bharat Ratna, Smt. Aruna Asaf Ali.

The first event at Delhi was flagged off by the Chief Guest, Shri Dharmendra Pradhan, Honorable Minister of State (I/C) for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India. Other dignitaries included Honorable Member of Parliament, Smt. Meenakshi Lekhi, Justice Siddharth Mridul of the Delhi High Court, Shri DD Misra, Director HR ONGC Ltd, Smt. Kiran Nadar, noted philanthropist, Shri Shaji Prabhakaran, Federation International de Football Association's (FIFA) South Asian Regional Football Development Officer, NYCS president Shri Rajesh Pande,  Smt. Asha Narang, Chairperson Anglian Omega Group, Shri V.K. Goel, Chairman Dhampur Sugar Mills Limited and Shri A.K. Goel, Vice Chairman Dhampur Sugar Mills Limited.

The girls were divided into groups of twenty eight to play football. The football sessions lasted for one hour for each group that included warm up, drills and then a seven a side match of five minutes each.  The event also saw performances from the AV Baliga trust on the theme of “Save The Girl Child” and a nukkad natak by a theatre group of girls from Kamala Nehru College. The event was well guarded by female security guards and a child protection policy was signed by all the parties involved in the event to ensure the safety of participants, along with a group insurance policy for them.

We have seen in the recent past women sportspersons have been performing consistently at the international level. The Indian Women’s football team ranks 54th in the world today, which is a much better rank than the men’s team. NYCS believes that with the right exposure and avenues to develop “Khelegi toh Khilegi” can also be a change agent to bring about a positive impact to empower the girl child.

Feminism or women empowerment is not about making women strong. Women are already strong. It is about changing the way the world perceives that strength. NYCS wishes to make a bold statement with the program “Khelegi toh Khilegi”. It wants to announce that together we can unleash the power in women and empower them to make the country proud. All we need is to -  Be bold for the change, be ready for the change and be the change.