Kabaddi – an Indian sport for youth empowerment
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a young woman lunges at her opponent on a mud court
In India, Terre des hommes has been using the indigenous sport of Kabaddi to help empower girls in the state of West Bengal.

Sitting on a bed in her home in the community in Malda, Hasina beams with pride and eagerness to share her story. “The district Kabaddi Association became involved in this project and I was selected to be a state player. This achievement, along with the inner strength I have gained through playing kabaddi with my peers, gave me the courage to speak to my father about my marriage. I asked him to look at me as his daughter and not at the expectations and perceptions that society has.

Terre des hommes (Tdh), helping children worldwide, globally promotes the practice of sports among vulnerable communities in development and emergency settings to foster child and youth protection and social cohesion. Since 2018, Tdh in India has used Kabaddi – an Indian sport that is predominantly played by men – in the state of West Bengal as a tool to promote gender rights and the participation of women and young people from migrant communities.

People who have been forced into migration often experience disconnection from social support systems and are exposed to protection and survival challenges such as violence, personal loss, persecution, and access to services including health, hygiene, education and justice. This combined with continuing inactivity and lack of purpose leads to loss of hope, low self-esteem, frustration, and deterioration of physical and mental health. In the long-term, children and youth are at increased risk of social exclusion, abuse, and exploitation.

Kabaddi for Protection

The Kabaddi for Protection project’s structured sports activities along with gender sessions help girls to cope with, adapt to and transform their situations. As a team sport, it builds cohesion and fosters values of strategic cooperation and collaboration.

The adolescent girls involved in the project believe that playing Kabaddi not only helped increase their self-confidence but also encouraged the community to support and trust them as they have gone beyond expected gender norms, firstly; by participating in sport activities, and secondly; by playing far from their homes.

Girls from this project have been selected as district and state level players and many of them are now key community spokespeople, where they play active roles in preventing early marriage and abuse within families.

Five interconnected skills

The protection outcomes are achieved through equipping adolescents with five interconnected skills, essential for their meaningful participation in their communities:

  1. Communication: to create healthy connections and feel safe
  2. Responsibility: to achieve self- and collective agency and protection
  3. Self-awareness and management: to feel safe, worthy and hopeful
  4. Critical and creative thinking: to achieve informed decision-making and self- and peer protection
  5. Collaboration: to achieve collective agency, feel worthy, safe, connected and hopeful.

Sport supports building these skills and leadership among adolescents and young people. Further collectivization supports them to make their voices heard and prevent abuse at family, community, and society levels.

The COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions have exacerbated the threat of abuse and exploitation, especially child labour, child marriage and child trafficking. In a crisis or post-crisis context, many factors affect participants’ mental, physical and psychological well-being.

The practice sessions and events are a platform to host the whole community and to also pay special attention to those who need it. As many participants do not establish the security to disclose their or others’ cases, the coach possesses knowledge and skills to identify distress symptoms in young people. Many signs related to behavior, speech, movement and physique can tell the coach about the state of every participant and provide them with adequate support.

This project does not only help girls, but also boys to tackle deep structural issues. Milon, who lives in the slum, mentions: If I didn’t get involved in the project, I may not have been able to raise my voice against the sexual abuse I used to face earlier”.


Paulami De Sarkar, is leading the Child Protection Portfolio of Tdh in India and safeguarding focal point for Asia. With 16 years of experience in the development sector, she has experience in programme planning & management in International development organisations & multinational corporations, focusing on child protection, psychosocial well-being and gender justice.


Sustainable Development Goals
4 – Quality education
Target Group

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