• We are India, and we ASK for Choice!

    CAC’s Sophie Legros talks about another week in Nagpur, India with Slum Soccer.

    June 4th 2015. All programs are different with CAC, but this week was especially so, and not only because of the record temperatures of 118°F! Instead of a usual CAC training and in continuation of our partnership with Chevrolet FC and Slum Soccer, I assisted Slum Soccer in running activities around their annual state and national women’s festival in Nagpur. U20 teams from all over the state and country came to play Homeless World Cup-style games in the evenings, avoiding the blistering middle of the day heat.

    Slum Soccer and their leaders have embraced the culture of sport for social impact. Although teams were competing to win the state and national cup, On-Field sessions were organized in the mornings and classroom sessions later in the day so that players had a chance to learn and develop as individuals. I worked with both the girls and the Slum Soccer leaders on CAC’s new ASK for Choice curriculum. Games were played to teach about women’s rights, to question society’s attitudes regarding women and to reflect on what choices the girls want to make in their lives.

    A game that went particularly well was Indonesia for Choice. Four teams stand in four separate squares and have to come up with a word that describes first a man and then a woman in their community. When two words are called out, the two associated teams play a game where they try to bring the ball into the square of the other team. It is not only a fun football game, it also allows for engaging discussions about society’s perceptions of women in men. The Slum Soccer leaders, being advanced in their understanding of the CAC curriculum and of the problems of gender inequality in their community, came up with honest, power, good listener and patient to describe a man and with education, empower, freedom and all-rounded for a woman. The Slum Soccer leaders are not only aware of the gender norms in their community, they have also reflected on what is needed to achieve greater gender equality.

    Some of the young women we had worked with in Kolkata participated in the tournament. It was their first time playing in a tournament and probably the first time they had worn sports clothes. It was a true joy to witness the team’s evolution since the first time they walked onto the Chevrolet FC field just a few weeks ago. What Slum Soccer did particularly well was to make sure all teams, whatever their level, could participate. Teams of varying levels and experience, some having played for more than nine years at the national level, others just beginning, came together to celebrate women and sports.

    On the last day, girls and Slum Soccer coaches shared their stories about how they started playing football and what impact it has had on their life. It was inspiring to hear these stories which served as a reminder for everyone that the value of sport far exceeds that of winning and losing.

    Over the week, more than a hundred young women showcased their abilities and defied stereotypes that girls are weak and cannot play football. One of Slum Soccer’s greatest achievements is that the boys fully support the change. The official photographer was surprised at how much more exciting the women’s tournament was compared to the men’s, which took place a few months earlier, because in particular of the cheering on the sidelines. At the end of the week, the message was clear: “We are India and we ASK for Choice!”