The programme targets girls below the age of 15 years. It aims to finally become a hub and spoke model wherein football is used as instrument of change – targeting gender based inequalities, economic exploitation, malnutrition and child marriage, all of which afflict the girl child in rural Bihar.
The hub is the main eye hospital center at village Mastichak – a 300 bed tertiary care center working for eliminating blindness in India’s poorest state, Bihar. This centre trains the girls to become either a professional footballer or an optometrist or both. Women’s football in India does not offer long term career opportunities; but in case a girl makes it to the national team she will be entitled to a government job in the sports quota. To gain this opportunity, the girl needs to break in to the national team by the age of 17 years. An Optometrist is the most crucial element in an eye care setup, after the eye surgeon (ophthalmologist). The course they will go through is called Bachelors in Optometry and Ophthalmic Techniques, which is a 4 years professional degree course and which cen be entered after completing the A levels. The course is a combination of extensive theory and practical sessions conducted by in-house ophthalmologists as well as visiting faculty. After completing the course the girl is entitled to practice as an Optometrist and will easily earn £3600 per year (either in a job at the hospital or by doing her own clinic – most them will actually go for a job here), which is 20 times the AVERAGE PER CAPITA INCOME OF RURAL FAMILIES IN INDIA. This will actually create wealth in the rural areas leading to a greater contribution to the country’s GDP as well as more spending power. Add the fact that they will be instrumental in helping the hospital achieve its vision of eliminating blindness from Bihar. So in either case – whether she becomes a professional footballer or not, the girl gets a guaranteed education, career and livelihood. The girls reside in the fully fledged separate girls hostel in the hospital campus. The spoke (we currently have 3) are girl schools in the most backward areas of the state. The concept is to introduce two periods of football (of 45 min each) every week whereby girls between 10 years to 15 years are exposed to football as a sport. These periods are conducted by the local physical education teacher who has been trained by our full time football coach. Once the interest level develops and the girls want to be part of the programme full-time, we select such girls to join full time and reside in our hospital campus at Mastichak. The entire costs of her education, living and training is taken care of by us – the parents have to execute a bond undertaking not to marry the girl before 21 years of age.
The objective is to create the role models of change of tomorrow – these girls are future change agents in their respective communities.View all projects