“They need role models” — how football is transforming the lives of young girls in Nepal

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By Creative Media News

More than 15,700 fans gathered at Kathmandu’s Dasharath Rangasala on September 19 to watch Nepal compete in the 2022 SAFF Women’s Championship final. In the end, the hosts of the South Asian Football Federation tournament were defeated by Bangladesh, but more crucially, it marked a turning point in both the national team’s advancement and the greater relationship between women and football.

In Nepal, there are several obstacles for girls to participate in sports, much alone football. The majority’s earliest responsibilities are to care for their family and to marry.

Sarah Van Vooren is in an excellent position to comprehend these challenges. She co-founded Atoot with Mashreeb Aryal to give a “place for empowerment” for females in the Kapilvastu area on the southern border with India.

"they need role models" — how football is transforming the lives of young girls in nepal
"they need role models" — how football is transforming the lives of young girls in nepal

Kapilvastu has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Nepal and a varied population. In addition to education programs and life-skills workshops, Atoot teaches and empowers females in the region through football.

Van Vooren states, “We are not here to produce the best football players.” “Our program is a literal safe zone, and the football field is the safest place for these young women.” What we do on the football field begins with drills.

However, we incorporate so much more… They do not learn many things until these daily sessions. Then, it becomes a part of their mind. We also engage in daily community service, as this is the most crucial aspect. You must involve the community in your effort and explain why you support it. Because if people do not support it and accept it, it will not be successful.”

Young girls
"they need role models" — how football is transforming the lives of young girls in nepal

Van Vooren and Aryal have observed a rise in the number of young female participants. After a hiatus caused by Covid, the program resumed in September 2021 with approximately fifty young women.

One year later, 150 individuals participate daily. They ensure that their female instructors are the focal point of the endeavor. “We want to demonstrate to the community that these women are strong,” concludes Van Vooren. Women can work, wear jeans, be successful on their own, participate in sports, and travel the world. Because females have never seen these role models, you must introduce them to them.

Monica, their 20-year-old coach, was a beneficiary of a sport for development organization in India where Van Vooren formerly worked. Coming from a difficult upbringing, Monica joined at the age of ten. “She was the girl with whom we worked in South Nepal,” recounts Van Vooren.

“She had never left her home and had never received an education. Today, she is the first member of her family to earn a high school diploma. She is currently earning more money than her parents. She overcame all of these obstacles through sport for development programming. She coaches with perfect professionalism. She is the most incredible facilitator of life skills, and she is such a role model for our girls. She treats them as though they were her younger sisters.”

Van Vooren has observed an obvious effect. The girls have started advocating for themselves and their peers. They have also gained confidence by interacting with interns from all around the world who work on the program.

“As soon as the interns arrived, they rushed around them,” she recalls. “That never occurred before, ever. They were once so terrified of everything. We realized how much faith they have in us when they mistake the folks we’re bringing for them.

In addition to empowering young women, Atoot prioritizes employee development and compensation. As a result of the recent SAFF Championship, they traveled to Kathmandu to see the games. Van Vooren says, “Many of them had never attended a professional women’s national team match before.”

“You should have seen Monica and [coach] Sanju at every game. They are chanting and screaming. They’ve never had an opportunity like this before, so I’m ecstatic that they were given it. To watch women dominate on the field, and a stadium filled cheering for it.”

The competition demonstrated the advancements on the international level. In addition to the sold-out crowd at the final, Bangladesh was greeted by a massive homecoming parade upon their return to their country. Football at the grassroots level was the driving force behind their success.

Women’s football is expanding throughout the region; there is a need for it, and initiatives such as Atoot will continue to play a crucial role in removing barriers and inspiring young girls to participate.

Talking points

Since Spain’s elimination in the quarterfinals of the Euros, there have been serious doubts about the suitability of manager Jorge Vilda. It reached a new level on Thursday when the Spanish Federation announced that 15 players had withdrawn from the tournament.

The Federation maintained its support for Vilda and reaffirmed that the players would not return until they issued an apology. This resulted in reprimands for individuals implicated. An unpleasant impasse exists. With only ten months left until the World Cup, when will this matter be resolved?

The NWSL playoff picture evolves: As the regular season nears its conclusion, four teams have already clinched a crucial playoff position. The Portland Thorns, OL Reign, Kansas City Current, and San Diego Wave will all advance, with the remaining two berths to be determined. On Sunday, Casey Stoney’s Wave made history by becoming the first expansion team to ever qualify for the postseason.

WSL attendance records continue to fall: Saturday’s north London derby at the Emirates Stadium established a new record for England’s premier league, with 47,367 fans watching Arsenal sweep past Tottenham.

More than 27,500 fans attended the Merseyside derby at Anfield, contributing to the league’s impressive attendance. In total, approximately 90,000 people attended live WSL games, a significant increase over the summer months.

Favorable watching

This week’s goals were many, but Jess Park’s goal for Everton was one of the finest. The 20-year-old displayed exceptional poise as she broke in on goal, and her touch and finish were exquisite.

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