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Every girl’s choice for a future of her own

Copyrights: Atoot

Every girl’s choice for a future of her own

A participatory and holistic sport-for-development approach is a great way to make young women strong and confident leaders.

Atoot is a sport-for-development non-profit that uses football, educational classes, life-skill workshops, and positive mentorship to empower and educate girls in rural Nepal. Atoot works with girls in South Nepal who face gender-based violence, child marriage, early school drop-out, human trafficking and repression of their voices.

To address the severe gender discrimination and inequality, Atoot has chosen to work primarily with girls between the ages of 5 to 18. Atoot wants to demonstrate that when given equal opportunities, a choice and a voice, girls are capable of doing incredible things.

Sustained engagement

Atoot believes in the power of sustained, unrelenting, focused work at the grassroots level to bring about real systemic change. In line with this core belief, Atoot’s football sessions emphasise on social transformation, not perfect skills. Football is used as a holistic development tool for the beneficiaries, with a focus on teaching soft skills and helping young girls find a voice. Through daily involvement and engagement with Atoot’s programming, the girls’ self-confidence, teamwork, public speaking, and time-management skills are constantly honed. All of these vital skills are crucial in helping them develop as strong leaders who will be agents of change in their communities. 

Over the course of Atoot’s programming, there has been a notable improvement in the girls’ footballing and sportive skills, as well as playing together in groups and teams. There has also been a significant noticeable improvement in the girls’ abilities to play respectfully with one another, raise their voices, develop stronger mentalities, and make mistakes without fear of retribution – all rarities in the beneficiaries’ lives.

A team environment allows them to become mentally, physically, and emotionally stronger – together – standing up against the norm. This strengthens them to fight against the various forms of injustice they face in their daily lives. They learn to stand up for themselves, and each other, as well as be role-models and mentors to younger girls in their villages, and encourage them to become confident and vocal leaders, who bring about positive change.

Youth-led decision making

Atoot has a fully participatory model of decision-making. Atoot's work centres around the ideas, opinions, and desires of the young beneficiaries as they are the changemakers in the community. The beneficiaries (young girls) are the leaders of the organisation – their perspectives on leadership matters play an active role in deciding various aspects of Atoot’s programming. 

The subjects taught in the educational classes are chosen by the beneficiaries. The various topics covered in life skill workshops are selected by the beneficiaries. The timings of various programmes, be it football sessions, educational classes or life skill workshops, are, and will continue to be, decided by the girls themselves. Holidays are also decided by the beneficiaries, as there are many that the organisation is unaware of in the community, which must be respected and participated in.

During Atoot’s activities and the community visits, opinions and suggestions of beneficiaries, parents and various community stakeholders are taken and applied to programming as seen appropriate and in line with the beneficiaries' betterment. It is important to Atoot that the beneficiaries, as well as the community, are involved in the decision-making process and take ownership of its programmes. The organisation strongly believes that this is how long term, sustainable change is going to come about.

Community notices transformation

During monitoring and evaluation, interviews were conducted with beneficiaries, their parents, and teachers at the local government school. One of the teachers interviewed was surprised and pleased to see the impact sports have had on girls in the school. 

Here is an excerpt from the translated transcription of a local school teacher’s interview-
“We had conducted a Sports’ Day programme in school – it consisted of high jump, long jump, running, and a throwing event. We observed that girls were participating more actively than the boys! And that is when we realised that your organisation has made an impact on the girls’ lives.

“Or else earlier, the girls would hesitate – ‘We are girls. How can we play? We don’t play such games. We don’t know how to play these things’ – these are some of the things they would say. They would never come forward to participate.

“However, this time they came forward to register on their own. “I want to play too, Sir. I will get my name registered as well.” This is how they came forward and got their names registered for the program. The end result was really surprising – girls had won more prizes than the boys!

“Doesn’t that show how impactful your programme has been? The program has turned out to be very effective as just a year ago, not even one girl was not interested in coming forward to participate in the sorts of programme, and today, all the prizes are won by girls.” 

Sport for development – a transformational tool

Atoot strongly believes in the power of sport for the greater good. It believes sport is a tool to help bridge gaps, promote gender equality, build resilience, eradicate discrimination, level the playing field and build character/self-esteem. 

Atoot looks forward to continuing working with young girls, expanding outreach and transforming the lives of rural Nepali girls through the magic of sport! 

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Mashreeb Aryal is the Co-Founder & Director of Atoot, Nepal. He has worked with girls and adults using sports, education, and narrative therapy throughout Nepal & India over the past 7 years. He can be reached at mashreeb@atoot.org

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News

Author

Mashreeb Aryal

Published

Thursday, August 12, 2021 - 07:06

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