On occasion of the National Girl Child Day, Nurturing Excellence in Sports Trust (NEST) along with National Yuva Cooperative Society (NYCS) today launched ‘Khelegi toh Khilegi’, which is a pan-India football based programme for girls between the age of 10-15 years. The first event was held today amid great fanfare at Thyagaraj Stadium in the capital where over 700 girls took part from across Delhi NCR.

The programme was flagged off by Mr. Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India, who was the Chief Guest and Ms. Meenakshi Lekhi, Member of Parliament, who was the Guest of Honour.

Khelegi toh Khilegi aims at developing girls football in the country, with an intention to empower the girl child and using football as a tool to break gender stereotypes, improve self-esteem and develop leadership skills. Starting from Delhi, the initiative will be held at 15 cities across India in the first year. Apart from identifying talent amongst these girls, Khelegi toh Khilegi will also be providing training to them with the objective of seeing them represent India at global sporting events like the World Cup and Olympic Games. Simultaneous workshops will also be organised, where issues relating to the girl child will be addressed. Also Read- India sack U-17 football coach Nicolai Adam months ahead of 2017 World Cup

Speaking at the launch, Mr. Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India said, “In line with the efforts around ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padao’, Khelegi toh Khilegi is a welcome step in the field of sports. I congratulate all the people and organisations involved in this wonderful initiative.”

Addressing the workshop during the launch, Ms. Meenakshi Lekhi, Member of Parliament said, “I thank all the brothers who have come forward to support their sisters. Sports can go a long way to bring about a positive change and I’m happy to be here today.” Also Read- No room for radicals in football, says Real Madrid President Florentino Perez

Today the launch of Khelegi toh Khilegi witnessed participation from over 700 girlss who had come from far flung areas of Delhi NCR who had come to the Thyagaraj Stadium and express themselves through football. Among them Khushi, 10, whose father works a driver had come from Mangolpuri. “I am really happy that I came here today. It was great playing football with the other girls and I want to play more”, said Khushi, her excitement palpable.

Similarly, 10 year old Dipansha, daughter of a carpenter from Sultanpur beamed, “It felt great meeting all the girls. I have played football before but today was different.”

Maneesh Bahuguna, Managing Trustee, NEST said, “In the past decade, women sportspersons have been performing consistently at the international level. Even the women’s’ football team is performing comparatively better than the men’s team and are ranked 54th in the world currently. This gives us the belief that given the right exposure and avenues to develop, womens’ football in the country presents a lot of scope. As an initiative, Khelegi toh Khilegi will strive to not only develop girls football but also act as an agent of change to bring about a positive impact to empower the girl child.”

Khelegi toh Khilegi, with a view to empowering girls and break gender stereotypes will also aim to increase the opportunities for girls from the non-urbanised and backward sections of the country. NEST is associating with several NGO’s, which work on social issues concerning young girls in the urban and rural areas.