Shanti Bhushal (19) grew up watching boys play football and volleyball, often wishing she could take part in the action.
Like many girls in rural Nepal communities, she was brought up to think that sports were simply not meant for her.
“I was of the opinion that it was shameful for girls to play games and was often discouraged from doing so,” Shanti said. “I’ve wondered why girls were not allowed to play, and I regretted being born a girl.”
To empower girls in rural communities, READ Nepal’s Pragatinagar Community Library and Resource Center (CLRC) launched sports-based youth development programs, using football, volleyball, and other games to enhance girls’ confidence and self-esteem.
Shanti and her friends learned how to play volleyball and football when she joined the READ Center’s youth group. They were the first group of girls who joined the games and in no time, began winning trophies from the matches. More than just fun and games, Shanti and her friends made history when they sparked a decision in her college to include girls in every sports match.
“We now have a girls’ sports team in college and a rule that girls should be included in every game. I’m thankful for the opportunity to play regularly, and it all started with the READ Center,” Shanti said. “Our teachers say, ‘For the first time in history, we have a girls’ sports team and more girls are getting the confidence to play.”
Opportunities at the READ Centers expand the community’s perspective on what a woman is capable of. It reduces gender bias and helps young girls become empowered and self-assured leaders. Today, hundreds of young girls like Shanti participate in READ’s sports programs, traveling across the country to compete in tournaments and sharing their dream to become professional athletes. Families have also become more comfortable with their daughters competing in sports. Now, instead of thinking that sports are only meant for boys, girls like Shanti can grow up enjoying and honing their skills in volleyball, football, and anything they set their minds to.