Australia v India Tests
Inspiring visit gives Aussies perspective
Six Australian cricketers enjoy eye-opening experience at Yuwa girls school in Ranchi
Sam Ferris Ranchi, India
16 March 2017, 07:20 AM AEST
In the lead-up to the third Test, six members of the Australian cricket team visited the young women and girls at Yuwa, an non-government organisation in Ranchi that works to combat child marriage and human trafficking through education and team sport.
Stephen O’Keefe, Ashton Agar, Usman Khawaja, Matt Renshaw, Peter Handscomb and Glenn Maxwell made the trip to Yuwa on Tuesday where they got to know the stories of the brave and erudite students before being comfortably outplayed in a game of soccer by their young hosts.
The impact of the visit was not lost on left-arm spinner O’Keefe, who said the experience puts the life of an international cricketer well and truly in perspective.
"I think at times you can get caught up when you’re playing cricket that you think it’s the be all and end all in life," O’Keefe told cricket.com.au. "Not making runs or taking wickets is the most important thing.
"To be able to have these experiences out here, listen to these girls’ stories and also share some of your stories just shows cricket is more than a game.
"I think it transcends through ages and genders and cultures.
"So for us it’s important as Australian cricketers that we do that and continue to do it into the future.
"We’ll get more well-rounded cricketers on and off the field."
Founded in 2008 by American social activist Franz Gaslter, Yuwa (the Hindi word for “youth”) was originally a football program before becoming a school two years ago, which today teaches 81 students.
In the eastern state of Jharkhand, six in ten girls drop out of school and become child brides, and thousands of girls are trafficked each year.
Yuwa is attempting to reverse those figures by empowering young women and giving them the life skills to thrive and prosper in a difficult climate.
"Being a woman is the biggest challenge that they face," primary teacher Sharanya Rao told cricket.com.au.
"Right from when they’re born they’re discriminated against.
"It’s a tradition to give out sweets in the family when a kid is born and sweets are distributed only if it’s a boy but not if it’s a girl.
"They face so many difficulties right from infancy because boys are given better food, better treatment.
"Boys’ birthdays are celebrated but girls’ are not because families are ashamed the girl is born into the family.
"Breaking out of that is the biggest challenge right now and then changing the mindset that girls can get out of the house, girls can play, can do something, that’s their biggest challenge right now.
"They’re working towards it and a lot of them fight every day to come to school and to come play football."
The Yuwa girls won the bronze medal in the Donosti Cup in 2014, a youth tournament held in Spain, and the school are headed back to Europe this year to compete in the competition’s 25th anniversary.
The Australians were put through their paces and by their younger rivals during the visit and were easily outclassed.
"We had a juggling competition with the girls and it would be fair to say we’ve got some good soccer players but none compared to these girls,” O’Keefe said.
"They’re certainly talented kids and like we are, we’re able to combine our education through school and out sport and these girls are getting that same opportunity which is just great to see."