Friday, 31 May 2013 03:23

Soccer Without Limits presents SWOLing for Good: A profile on Yuwa, girl's soccer in India

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Organization Name: Yuwa
Location: Jharkhand, India
Contact: Franz Gastler,

Through football, Yuwa helps girls take control of their own future. Yuwa is based in Jharkhand, the Indian state with the highest rates of child marriage and human trafficking and the second highest rates of female illiteracy. In this region, girls are exceptionally isolated; they are expected to stay inside their homes to help run the household, drop out of school early, and are married off by their parents at an average age 16. Think about it: that means as many girls are married off before age 16 as after age 16!

Yuwa’s football teams bring girls out of isolation, connect them with their peers, and encourage them to get back in school and continue their education. When players approach their mid-teens, coaches consult their families about delaying their marriage. By investing time, resources, and trust in girls who demonstrate their dedication and commitment to the program and their own self-improvement, Yuwa creates strong young leaders capable of coaching and creating new teams throughout Jharkhand.


How did Yuwa get started?

Franz Gastler founded Yuwa after moving to rural Jharkhand in 2009. “I first came to [New Delhi], India as a business consultant in 2007, but after a year and a half of wearing a suit and tie in 120-degree weather, I decided it was time to leave office life behind for something a little more purposeful: teaching English to rural kids.”

Unimpressed with the quality of the non-profit organizations operating in Jharkhand, he planned to launch a holistic youth focused organization. “While I was living in a village, I noticed three things right away. First, while boys play, girls work. Second, boys get all the benefits, but seem to do the least with them. Third, what little is invested in a girl, she multiples almost beyond belief.”

So when “a 12-year-old girl from an English class I taught said she wanted to play football, I told her if she’d put together a team, I’d coach it. I’ve never seen anyone so hungry to learn and excel as girls here.”

What began with a single girl’s request has evolved into a movement.

What has been the biggest challenge in running Yuwa?
The biggest challenge Yuwa has face is developing its young female coaches to be dependable, positive leaders and critical thinkers. The older girls who act as coaches are role models for the rest of the girls in the program. It is extremely important that these coaches are good leaders both on and off the field. Yuwa is constantly seeking opportunities to connect these coaches with opportunities that will help them improve their own futures and inspire the girls who look up to them to do the same.


What are some of the life skills that playing soccer teaches us?
Leadership, teamwork, and problem solving.

Unlike a typical soccer program, Yuwa’s soccer teams are self-initiated, peer-led, and designed to encourage financial saving and planning. These are important design principles as they encourage the core skill set needed for employment. When a group of girls expresses interest in starting a team, Yuwa poses three questions to them: 1) How often do you want to play? 2) What do you need to play? 3) How can you get what you need? The first question establishes the girls’ commitment to the sport. They usually answer that they want to play every day, which is what Yuwa encourages. The second two questions initiate a longer planning process that encourages participants to plan and budget for the gear that they need.

Yuwa’s model of village-based football teams is designed by the girls themselves. Teams include 10-15 players, practice six days a week, and are coached by senior Yuwa players. Coaches and team captains keep records of players’ practice attendance and school attendance. Players create a team savings plan in order to raise money to purchase subsidized balls and shoes.

How can soccer fans get involved to support YUWA?
This July, 18 extraordinary Yuwa girls will make history as the first soccer team from India ever to compete in Spain. The Donosti Cup, Spain’s biggest tournament, is sponsoring Yuwa’s team — dubbed the ‘Supergoats’ — in Spain. Together we can make sure these girls get a chance to play…


What good does allowing these young women to play in one of the world’s biggest soccer tournaments do? The 18 girls on ‘Supergoats’ were chosen by their coaches and their peers as the most outstanding role models in Yuwa. Each one of these girls dedicates herself to her education, acts as a positive leader on her team, and plays fearlessly. She is an inspiration for thousands of girls dreaming of a better future. In one of the world’s epicenters of child marriage and human trafficking, each Yuwa girl has overcome great odds and opposition from her parents, brothers, uncles, and her society to prove that a girl’s place does not have to be in the house.

Soccer fans can support this time by donating for the Supergoats’ flights, or just spreading the word about this incredible team! You can support our crowdfunding campaign at




This profile is part of an ongoing series in collaboration with Soccer Without Limits. Read more at

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