15-year-old climate activist from US encourages girls to play football

School students at a training session at Perur in Coimbatore.

School students at a training session at Perur in Coimbatore.  

3 schools are under the ‘Kicks for Climate Action’ campaign

Scores of young girls from government and government-aided schools in Coimbatore are trained to play football under Girls Play Global (GPG), an initiative by Janani Shivakumar, a 15-year-old climate activist from New Jersey.

The initiative, which was started by Janani earlier this year, attempts to raise awareness on climate change through football under a campaign titled ‘Kicks for Climate Action’. “This December, in Coimbatore, Girls Play Global is hosting the first annual all-girls climate action themed football tournament to bring the spirit of football among the girls,” she told The Hindu by email .

Janani, who is currently studying Grade 10 in the U.S., said that the reason behind starting GPG was to encourage those girls who are passionate about sports but do not have the access and encouragement required.

“There is so much talent and interest among girls to play sports in India. The only issue is that there are lack of opportunities,” she noted, adding that many girls do not come forward due to lack of encouragement “from their family and society as a whole.”

R. Jagan, head coach and team manager of GPG, Coimbatore, said there are currently three schools under the ‘Kicks for Climate Action’ campaign namely: Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Thondamuthur; Government Higher Secondary School, Alandurai and Thavathiru Santhalinga Adigalar Higher Secondary School, Perur (government-aided school). “The teams have five players and three substitutes each,” he said. The Thondamuthur school has two teams, while Alandurai and Perur schools have one team each.

The football tournament is scheduled to take place on December 29, where the teams would not only have to play football, but also present a project that the participants have done related to environment, according to Mr. Jagan.

“Earlier, we played average football, but we have improved a lot in this training,” said B. Kavya, a student studying Class XII in Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Thondamuthur. Echoing this sentiment, K. Ramya from Class XI said that the football coaching by Mr. Jagan has been different than previous trainings. Both these players, who have been training under this GPG initiative for the past three months, are currently training for the upcoming football tournament.

K. Shivakumar, Ms. Janani's father, said that she was among the 10 student leaders who were invited to speak about GPG at the UN Headquarters on September 20 to mark ‘International Day of Peace’. “Both my wife and I served as mentors throughout the process and encouraged her to pursue her goals,” Mr. Shivakumar said on the formation of this initiative. Born in Uliyampalayam, Thondamuthur, Mr. Shivakumar said that he moved to the U.S. in 1997.

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