Fully clad in her burqa, 14-year-old Samsun walked confidently through a hallway full of teenagers staring at her curiously. She and her best friend Sabiya were there to register for our Football Clinic in Dang, a district in Western Nepal.
Samsun and her team pose for a photo before the game.
“I love watching football. As soon as I heard about the Football Clinic, I wanted to enroll,” Samsun said. She belongs to the local Muslim community. Many of her peers are forbidden from doing things that others take for granted, like walking freely around the village or going to school. But Samsun’s story is different; she comes from a liberal family, and her parents – especially her father – are vocal advocates for the empowerment of girls. If not for him, Samsun would not have garnered the courage to join the Football Clinic.
90 minutes on the pitch seem like a short span of time, but for Samsun they were deeply transformative. After the match, she explained that “playing football with boys and the police can be very scandalous, but I felt so empowered because I had my father’s support.” Football acted like an ice breaker between the girls and the boys, helping them get rid of social stereotypes and establish spontaneous relationships.
Interacting with the police was a surprising, meaningful experience as well. “We grew up with the notion that the police officers are strict,” Samsun explained, “but, when I met them in the Football Clinic, I found them to be very funny and interesting.” She and 84 youth from Dang sat down with the officers and discussed pressing security issues in their community. Child marriage, dowry, substance abuse, domestic violence, and cyber-crime topped the list. They youth emerged from the Clinic with a restored sense of collaboration and a renewed understanding that security is a collective responsibility.
Read full on Search for Common Ground org