Inspired by research demonstrating that girls who participate in sports have higher self-confidence, stronger social support systems and improved physical and mental health, Sports for Empowerment (S4E) is one of Vikalp’s newest programs. In June 2014 Vikalp created all-girl volleyball teams in a number of rural villages where the risk of child marriage, violence and dropping out of school was particularly high for girls. Through volleyball, S4E provides a supportive environment for girls to learn a new skill, develop self-confidence and better understand their bodies, health and capabilities. Sport also provides a gateway for to initiate other big conversations about empowerment, girls’ rights and alternative channels for growth and learning. Sport is not only a successful tool for the empowerment of girls and women on its own; most crucially, it can be used as an inroad for socialisation, networking and discussion. When sport is used in conjunction with other styles of learning, like workshops, mentoring, and girls-only safe space discussion, its value is truly realised.
After the success of this first pilot project, many other girls from villages across the district told Vikalp they wanted to play sports. Today, Vikalp is supporting over 20 all-girl volleyball or netball teams in 20 villages across Rajasthan. Some of the players have even participated in state and national level matches and this initiative has become one of the most successful ways to empower girls.
Playing volleyball makes me more confident, gives me courage and gives me the chance to see the world outside my village; so I really enjoy it. When I first started playing volleyball my parents resisted, saying I was too old for games and that it was time to focus on my household work. After winning my first match though, I began to realise that I have the power and courage to make decisions for my own life. Now I have re-enrolled in school, and I help lead Vikalp meetings in other villages to give other girls the courage to do the same thing.