Sports For Life
The 190,000 school going girls enrolled in Project Nanhi Kali welcomed with great enthusiasm the Toofaan Games which required them to practise hard and do their best at 4 athletic events. Across rural, tribal and urban pockets of over 20 Indian states, girls age 6 to 16 years, were doing sprints, long endurance runs, agility runs and long jumps vying with each other to make it to the next ‘level’. The Nanhi Kali Tutors (or CAs as we call them – the Community Associates) started training to become ‘officials’, laying perfectly measured tracks, using stopwatches accurately and recording scores and timings meticulously. From village level to boot camps to zonal and then national level, across six months in the second half of 2019, Toofaan Games became the talk of Team Naandi at every field and office location.
National Girl Child Day (24 January) 2020 at Hyderabad saw 100 Nanhi Kalis, the best scorers from 10 states, compete at our ‘national event’ and win shiny medals. For many of them, it was the first time in many generations that anyone had stepped out of their village. They came from as far as Moga in Punjab and Darjeeling in the Himalayas – 55+ hours by train – to participate in what to them was as big a deal as the Olympic Games. After a gap of two years owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, Toofaan Games returned in 2022 to a rousing response from our Nanhi Kalis and Community Associates alike, with 186,000 girls participating in the run up to the finals which were conducted in Hyderabad in March 2022.
The entire experience was a vindication of the belief we at Naandi had, that introducing sports into India’s largest girl child programme, as an integral part of educating a girl child, would be a huge success from the child’s point of view. And that, for us, is the most important point of view. Of course we also knew that once the children welcomed it, the undeniable benefits of regular sports activity would fall in place and we could wake up to an India that has physically and mentally strong children in every village. And an India in which every village would be the training ground for future global talent.
Now, every Nanhi Kali:
▪ has one sports class per week, in which she plays a sport, understands how her body moves in that sport, learns about nutrition needed to keep the body healthy and also to manage her own menstrual health during games. For about 40 weeks each year.
▪ practices athletic events to see how far she can progress in that year’s Toofaan Games – from village to cluster to district to zonal level and finally to the national level.
▪ has the freedom to mobilise a football team (at least 10 girls, at least 8 years old) in her own village. Girls in Bharuch district of Gujarat have already shown the way. We have 10 football teams there now, who undergo regular coaching on the ground, and watch international matches on the internet.
An expert team led by Ms. Lisa Murawsky is the nerve centre of this entire initiative. Ms Murawsky is an international sports consultant, educator and coach with more than 20 years of experience of managing and organising sports events for children of various ages. The team also has expert consultations with sports professionals from India’s leading sports clubs and associations, and with India’s foremost women coaches and national players. At the field level, there is an army of local level women coaches with a passion for sport and the local language.
We refer to the entire sports work in Naandi as the "Sports for Life" programme.
Why call it Sports For Life?
Very simply put, our programme seeks to empower girls through sports. Starting at age 6, these girls are embarking on a life’s journey of sports education, wherein the language and practice of sports will become as normal and instinctual as all other facets of their life. The essential understanding that their physical health and wellbeing is important and that they are important individuals will be internalized by the girls. The sports arena will be an environment where their character strengths, their confidence, their self-worth, their sense of healthy competition has the opportunity to grow and flourish. The development and sustained sports community will also afford girls an opportunity to be part of a team, supported by other girls and mentored by coaches. These critical life skills and learning is the core of our programme.
By its very definition, a Sports for Life programme necessitates a holistic approach. It incorporates multi-sports learning, nutrition understanding, and educating girls to better understand their physical body, including their critical menstrual changes. An absolute critical element of this holistic programme is FUN at all levels. If we truly want girls to embrace their sports for life journey, it must be enjoyable and educational. Naming our programme Sports for Life also declares and reinforces our commitment to this long sports journey with the girls in India. This journey begins at a young age and must be nurtured and supported through their developmental and teenage years if we will truly reach our mission to empower girls through sports. It must be part of their ongoing education and growth in order to truly achieve empowerment. Naandi Foundation is declaring its commitment to this full journey.