Five Bangalore girls will be travelling to Lyon later this month to take part in Festival 19, a 10-day event that will bring together disadvantaged youngsters from across the globe. Festival 19, which coincides with the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, seeks to empower women and girls through football.
Parimala Honappa, Raksha Ramesh Kumar, Shylaja Naganoor, Divyashree Nanjappa and Sana Farheen are among one of the three delegations from India. Around 40 such delegations from 35 countries will feature in the event.
Raksha, who completed her schooling from Shubhodhini English High School in ITI Layout, says that she always had the support of her parents — Ramesh Kumar BK, a cab driver, and Mangala, a homemaker.
Sharing her delight on being picked for the event, Raksha told Indianexpress.com: “We are happy to be the torch-holders in bringing a positive impact to our communities eradicating superstitions and set beliefs. We hope all goes well in France and we are super excited to experience new people, culture and places overseas, also to pick the game from the world’s best.”
Raksha adds that she will use the opportunity to enable other girls from her community to find their passion and equip them with skills to pursue them. “Moreover, our coach Johnson sir is keen on getting us well-trained learning all aspects of the game in a professional manner,” she said.
The youngest in the team is Shylaja, a eighth standard student who describes herself as someone who used to be soft-spoken and shy until she discovered football. “Football is much more than a sport. It provides you with a set of skills that are useful in all aspects of life. I hope boys and girls will have access to the same opportunities and facilities in sports,” she says.
Sana, a first-year PU student, agrees. “Football has given me the confidence to stay away from such fears or apprehensions and has enabled me to approach any stranger and start a conversation,” she says.
Her teammate, Divyashree says she initially faced opposition from her family but they had come around. “It was believed that girls were only expected to manage the household and serve other members of the family. Through sport, I’ve realised that boys and girls are equally adept at acquiring skills,” she says.
“During my visit to France, I look forward to acquiring knowledge that will allow me to break down gender inequality and to unify my community through sports as a medium of change,” she adds.
The delegation will be led by Parimala, chosen as the team’s ‘Young Leader’, for the event. Parimala, who is a graduate, says she started playing football when she was studying in fifth grade and now works as a facilitator for youngsters who enrolled in the after-school life skills program initiated by Dream a Dream, a Bangalore-based NGO. “The communication skills I learned through football allowed me to get closer to my mother which later helped me convey to her family that it was too soon for me to get married,” she says.
At Festival19, the Bengaluru team will participate in a world-record attempt, workshops, games, and a friendly tournament apart from experiencing the sights and sounds of Lyon and the World Cup in France.