|© UNICEF India/2004|
|Primary school girls in the district of Murshidabad play football; equipment was provided by FIFA in the form of ‘sports-in-a-box’ kits.|
NEW DELHI, India, 1 September 2004 – FIFA, the international football governing body, is donating 65 sports-in-a-box kits to the UNICEF West Bengal office to help support girls’ education and their right to play. Girls in most villages have hardly ever participated in outdoor sports; they will now have the opportunity to form teams and play football regularly.
Thirty-two kits went to the districts of Murshidabad and Jalpaiguri. UNICEF, which is already working to help improve educational quality in 1000 schools, will use this opportunity to further enhance existing education programmes in the area.
The use of the kits has two purposes. The first is to help increase the attendance of children in primary school; the opportunity to participate in sports will act as an incentive for the children. The second purpose is to help ensure equity among girls and boys in sports participation; girls will now have more opportunities to play football along with boys.
The idea of girls playing football is so unusual in the district of Murshidabad that a crowd of nearly 3000 turned up to watch a match during a heavy downpour.
“I was never allowed to touch the football by my family members earlier. Today I was thrilled to hold the football in my hand,” said one of the girls participating in the programme.
Football is one of the most popular games in West Bengal. UNICEF is exploring opportunities for collaboration with the Indian Football Association, to support coaching, mentoring and endorsing girls’ involvement in football, as well as retention in school and quality education.
FIFA has already donated more than 600 “sport-in-a-box” kits to support UNICEF programmes around the world. These kits, containing everything necessary for a game of football, are used to encourage girls to attend school and to play sports.
UNICEF and FIFA are committed as partners to using the power of football for promoting children’s healthy development.