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Sailor girls cruising into winds of change
In a country where girls have till recently been brought up to fulfil traditional family-oriented roles, becoming predestined to a restrictive life of child-rearing, household chores and limited careers, it is always refreshing to see the ones who breakthrough and make a mark in male-dominated areas of society.
Children all over the world are taught important life skills through sports, with football, cricket and basketball being a hugely popular means to instill confidence among children as they learn sporting techniques to excel at their game.
But a sport like sailing has a lot of limitations in terms of lack of popularity and adequate facilities, especially in India. Despite these odds, the Yacht Club of Hyderabad, under the leadership of Suheim Sheikh, has been training young girls and boys in the craft of sailing on the Hussein Sagar lake in the city of Hyderabad in India. The training is provided free of cost to children from underprivileged areas of Hyderabad, with complimentary tuition and swimming lessons provided to enable them to do well in both academics and sports.
The Yacht Club has succeeded in producing a few national level champions in India. Although the course was initially offered only to boys, over the past year, with funding support from Enabling Leadership, a program for girls called Naavika has been initiated, offering the same training to a group of 12 girls from two government schools in the city.
Of these, two girls – Mehboobie and Preethi – have already shown what the right opportunity coupled with a little encouragement can achieve, despite the obstacles of culture, conservative tradition and a lack of resources. While 13-year-old Mehboobie won the silver in the Monsoon Regatta sailing championship held in Hyderabad in 2016, Preethi bagged the Gold in another category in the same championship. Since then the girls’ performances have caught the attention of the local media and given visibility to the unique program.
Both girls come from similar backgrounds. They both lost their fathers when they were very young, and their mothers, being the sole breadwinners of the family, now struggle to make ends meet.
But another thing they have in common is the determination to overcome.
Mehboobie’s mother Chandrakala is on a mission – to ensure her daughter does not have to live the same life as hers. Chandrakala works a security guard in one of the apartment complexes of Hyderabad and lives with her two daughters in a one-room house within the premises of the complex.
“I keep telling Mehboobie not to do any housework as it is not her job. She should only concentrate on her studies and in whatever interests her. I want her to excel in something she likes so she can be successful in life,” she says, hugging her daughter.
Preethi is twelve years old and has been sailing since 2015. Partaking in the sport has given an immense boost to her confidence, allowing her to shed her shy nature. “I want to become a sailing champion in India and abroad,” she says with a big smile.
More than just sailing skills, the girls are gaining the confidence in their own abilities to overcome whatever challenges life throws at them. It is easy to spot their confidence as they effortlessly pull out their boats, prepare the sails, and take them out into the lake, sailing like naturals.
For they’re not just setting out across the lake, but they’re starting out on a journey into a new and better chapter in their lives.
To know more about the sailing program for girls, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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