Frontline Stories

Unleashing the Power of Girls

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This particular afternoon, a group of about 20 girls in karate outfits are practising their strikes and moves. The colours of the sash tied around their waists tell us how far they have progressed in karate. However, this was not a usual sight in this community five years ago.

“We didn’t know what karate was. We had never done it before. World Vision introduced karate to our village. We thought we’ll give it a try. After we started learning it, we understood it was a very good opportunity for us,” says 18-year-old Priya.

In many villages of Ranchi, India, girls are not allowed to explore new opportunities nor given any exposure. They are expected to get married and move on in their lives. Before World Vision formed this karate team in 2014, the girls from this community were subject to harassment almost every day. Boys and men used to taunt and harass them with explicit comments.

But since then, these girls have been changing history.

The karate team was formed to empower and build resilience of the girls living here. Through practising karate, girls are able to defend themselves against harassment. Today, after five years, the girls are bold, confident and positive. The martial art has turned their life around. “Before learning karate, my confidence level was very low. I used to be scared of going out, thinking something bad would happen. Since I started learning it, my confidence level has increased. I feel safe whenever I go out,” says 12-year-old Yamini. “Night or day, I boldly walk the streets by myself. I completely feel safe.”

Now, to the girls, karate means a lot more than just a means of self-defence. With World Vision’s support, they have been able to take part in both state and national tournaments. After they won several medals, the attitude of community members began to change.

Priya has also noted the difference that karate has made in her life. “Guys used to make fun of us when we began learning karate. We used to get angry at that time. But when we started to win tournaments, those people saw and now they don’t make fun of us anymore. Now they congratulate and support us and don’t look at us in the wrong way,” she says.

“We are even invited during festivals and other important events in the community. We are quite respected. All this feels really good,” adds 24-year-old Deepa, the oldest of the group. Apart from practising karate, she is pursuing a master’s degree and is teaching karate to children in the community.

With more success comes more hard work, but the girls are both motivated and happy to continue improving their techniques. “Karate is a sport that makes you happy. After coming back from competitions, our parents feel proud. When we go out, we learn about different cultures and what we can do over there. Thank you World Vision for all the help and for bringing us this far,” says Yamini, who aims to obtain her black belt this year.

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