Yuwa (which is Hindi for 'youth') is the name of the programme which is receiving the Sport for Good Award at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Monaco. This decision honours an initiative which gives girls in the northern Indian state of Jharkhand the tools to take their future into their own hands. German carmaker Mercedes-Benz has been supporting Laureus Sport for Good since 2000.
Yuwa aims to equip girls and young women in Jharkhand with education, self-confidence and leadership skills. As is the case with all Laureus-supported programmes, Yuwa utilises the power of sport to help disadvantaged children and young people. At Yuwa the participants play football on a daily basis and regularly take part in team competitions. Many of the older girls also work for Yuwa as coaches, earning their own money, which in turn helps foster their independence. In addition to this, Yuwa also offers a full school education in English for around 450 girls. In turn, Yuwa helps the young women overcome poverty and violence in the region, enabling them shape their own future.
The 2019 Sport for Good Award is being presented to Yuwa founders Franz Kastler and Rose Gastler Thomson, and programme participants Neeta Kumari, Hema Kumari, Konika Kumari, and Radha Kumari in Monaco. Franz Gastler is from the USA and has been living in India since 2007. He has worked there in roles such as an Advisor at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and as a teacher and sports coach. In Jharkhand he was so shocked by the inequality in opportunities for boys and girls that he decided to found Yuwa in 2009. Rose Gastler Thomson joined Yuwa in 2012 and in 2015 established the YuwaSchool, of which she is head.
Strong through sport
One impressive example of the successful work carried out by Yuwa is the story of Neeta Kumari from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand. The 19-year-old has been playing football at Yuwa since she was ten, and today she coaches her own girls' team and is about to finish school. Yuwa has given her lots of impetus and ideas. For example, she has already taken part in two tournaments in Spain with her team. As part of the international ‘Inspiring Girls Expeditions’ she also travelled to Alaska for a kayaking expedition. She passes on her experience by giving lectures and speeches, which has made her a role model for young girls all over India. Her story has encouraged them to go their own way, even when encountering resistance from their parents. "I would like to be a journalist," says the young Indian woman. "My two older sisters were married off as young teenagers, and I definitely don't want that to happen to me."
Thanks to Yuwa, Neeta can decide for herself which path she wants to take. Her school-leaving qualifications, her very good English language skills and the confidence she has developed through sport are all opening up completely new perspectives for her. "With the help of sport, Yuwa has made me strong and shown me that I can determine my own future," says the 19-year-old. "I'm really grateful for this. I'm going to go my own way. And I hope very much that lots of girls will follow me, thinking: if she can do it, I can too."
Focus on women
Mercedes-Benz also supports the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation in India. Bettina Fetzer, vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Marketing and Member of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, said: "It is particularly important to us that Yuwa has won the 2019 Laureus Sport for Good Award with a project for disadvantaged girls because in many regions of the world, girls and women are still more likely to be affected by poverty, discrimination and violence. Mercedes-Benz and Laureus are therefore focussing their commitment on projects which empower women and girls and open up new perspectives for them. Together we want to use the power of sport to instill confidence and leadership skills in them and arm them against violence, gender clichés and prejudices."
Laureus and Mercedes-Benz
The Laureus Sport for Good aims to fight violence, discrimination and disadvantage faced by children and young people. Mercedes-Benz co-founded Laureus Sport for Good and its cooperation with Sport for Good has now become the most important aspect of the brand's social commitment.
Laureus, a global organisation that celebrates sporting excellence and uses the power of sport to transform the lives of children and young people, and Mercedes-Benz work together to offer disadvantaged young people all over the world a future: through sport the children discover their strengths and learn to bring out the very best in themselves – important experiences from which they stand to benefit throughout their life.
Laureus Sport for Good was inspired by the words of its Founding Patron, Nelson Mandela, who said at the first ever Laureus Awards in 2000, “Sport has the power to change the world.” In 2018, nearly 300,000 young people from all over the world directly benefited from more than 160 Laureus Sport for Good supported programmes, run by grassroots organisations which are deeply embedded in their local communities and understand how to use sport to overcome the hurdles faced by local kids. A global leader in the sport for development sector, Laureus Sport for Good carries the endorsement and support of the Laureus World Sports Academy and Ambassadors, all role models and icons of sport, who volunteer their time to this important cause.