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Inspiring inclusion: Celebrating International Women's Day in rural Andhra Pradesh through sports
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Inspire Inclusion
An empowered and inclusive community is not just a moral imperative but also essential for the progress and economic development of the world. Families thrive, communities flourish, and economies prosper within an empowered and inclusive community. An effective way to empower communities and women is through access to education and opportunities and dismantling gender stereotypes.

International Women's Day is celebrated annually on March 8th, a day dedicated to honouring the achievements and contributions of women in all aspects of life and promoting gender equality. More than just a celebration, International Women's Day spreads the importance of an empowered and inclusive community by stressing the need for equitable access to resources and opportunities and, most importantly, respecting each other.

An empowered and inclusive community is not just a moral imperative but also essential for the progress and economic development of the world. Families thrive, communities flourish, and economies prosper within an empowered and inclusive community. An effective way to empower communities and women is through access to education and opportunities and dismantling gender stereotypes.

The transformative power of sports fosters inclusion and strengthens communities regardless of the barriers of gender, age, or socioeconomic status, and it provides a common ground for all. Through a conducive environment, sports can be a powerful tool for empowering girls and women, as it boosts their self-confidence, courage, and self-efficacy. It facilitates the holistic development of individuals and creates an inclusive environment where women's talents are recognised, their voices are heard, and their rights are respected. It has the power to inspire, aspire, and transform individuals, communities, and the world.

Acknowledging the existing gaps in equitable access to opportunities for girls and boys in rural communities, Anantapur Sports Academy (ASA), a sports for development initiative of the Rural Development Trust (RDT), is working towards leveraging the power of sport to achieve social change in rural communities in India. To achieve the vision, ASA focuses on creating equal access for girls and boys to play sports, educating the children and youth in life skills and values, raising awareness on social issues, and empowering the youth through facilitating leadership opportunities.

The ASA initiatives like Rural Anantapur Sports Leagues, Mixed-Gender Festivals, Non-Residential Camps, and the Inspire Cup, the first exclusive U-16 girls' football tournament in India, ensured equal access and opportunity for girls to play the sport in rural communities. Initiatives like female youth leadership programmes, female internship programmes, and entrepreneurship workshops encouraged female youth to pursue their dreams.

The impact of these initiatives, which aimed at equal access for girls and boys in the programmes, was visible in terms of the growing participation of girls. The percentage of girls who participated in the ASA programme has increased by more than 46% over the years, from 3,000 girls in the 2017–18 season to more than 4,400 in the 2023–24 season. Simultaneously, the percentage of female youth leaders has increased by 35%, with 89 female youth actively playing a role in the programme. These young women at various levels, from the grassroots to the residential academy, are developing personally and professionally, breaking the existing barriers and becoming role models in their communities.

A few such stories of role models are of B Anusha, who was a part of the prestigious Senior Indian National Women's Team that won the Asian Games Gold in 2023; Anjali Devi, ASA Residential Academy U-17 girls team coach; and Anusha, a young footballer from ASA Residential Academy, who has shown unparalleled excellence in sports and in life. These achievements highlight the importance of creating equal opportunities for women to thrive and further inspire young girls and boys in rural communities.

On this International Women's Day, the Anantapur Sports Academy, in its journey towards social change and empowerment, celebrated all the achievements and progress made by these young women so far. The International Women's Day celebrations were organised from the 1st to the 8th of March, with 2438 girls and boys participating in various engaging, fun activities and games organised by a team of 84 youth leaders. Along with the events, a series of social media posts showcased the progress of these young women who were a part of the ASA programmes.

International Women's Day is a reminder of the progress that we have made and an opportunity to recommit ourselves in pursuit of an inclusive world. Together, leveraging the power of sport, we can build an empowered and inclusive world.

 

Authors

Communications officer
Anantapur Sports Academy

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Sustainable Development Goals
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4 – Quality education
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