Ananya Kamboj
Equality Changemakers

Ananya kamboj : Using Sports to Empower Girls and Women

Ananya kamboj was just 12 when she was selected by mission XI million, an initiative by FIFA, All India Football Federation and Supported by Government of India as a young journalist at the Global Football for Friendship (F4F) social program at St. Petersburg, Russia in 2017. Since then, she has been selected to represent India as a Young Journalist at the global Football for Friendship (F4F) social program for the three consecutive years.

She had been chosen as a goodwill ambassador of BRICS countries in 2018. In the same year She was invited to Moscow as a special guest at the world premiere of her book ‘My Journey from Mohali to St. Petersburg‘, an anthology of twenty-one stories.  She was also awarded the best young journalist award for her efforts in spreading the values of the program through this book.

In 2019, she was invited by International Children’s Games (ICG), an International Olympic Committee-sanctioned event to speak on peace, friendship, and youth empowerment during the opening ceremony in Ufa, Russia.

She was invited by the United Nations twice to share her views on Football for Friendship. 

Now 15, she has participated and represented India in various other projects including Girl Up, Girls with Impact, Lean In India, SDGs For Children, SDG Choupal, and She’s Mercede

Ananya, could you tell us about your present work in relation to promoting women empowerment and gender equality?

I am an advocate of gender equality. My main goal is to fight for women’s rights. I get extremely offended when someone says girls cannot make it to the top of the ladder. I think women should be respected and accepted in society equally as men, not as a second gender.

I am also an advocate of women’s sports, and represent India internationally in a social program called Football for FriendshipI see this as an opportunity to use sports as a tool to promote gender equality. 

My project – Sports to Lead, which is in the pipeline will specifically focus on women’s rights and will address the main obstacles in a women’s progress in the target area. I plan to organize awareness sessions for girls on their rights and to fight against discrimination and gender equality.

The Sports to Lead will also highlight the benefits of using sports as a vehicle to combat hyper masculinity.

What inspired  you to take these steps at such a young age?

I have been playing football and basketball in my school and club teams since childhood. I have learnt a lot about myself, as well as about life  during my sports training sessions. 

In an attempt to motivate the team’s performance, I often hear coaches hurl statements such as: This is a war! Let’s go out and kill the other team! Man up! You’re playing like a girl!

I realized that while the coaches show the kids how to shoot a basket, throw a strike or head a football, they also indirectly send a message to regard girls as inferior to boys.

For many people, “playing like a girl” and much nastier variations means being inferior. Being too slow! Being clumsy! Being too weak. Striking out. Dropping a catch. Missing a tackle. Missing a shot! Getting crossed up! I want to change these narratives.

Sports in general has often been a landing site for hyper masculinized ideals (power, using violence to solve problems, homophobia and risk taking), but there’s a growing recognition that cultivating these kinds of performance-based values contributes to societal norms relating to violence against women.

This motivated me to take a pledge to make the world a better, fairer, safer place for women and decided to work for the empowerment of girls.

What, according to you, are the major challenges in empowering women and girls in India?

The greatest challenge in women/girls empowerment in India are the psychological barriers of a male dominated society. Once the mindset of the society is changed women can be fast paced in doing what the world needs. Often it is the fear of rejection that curbs the growth of women. Giving them the assurance they need and piercing through this so-called male dominated society will be helpful for empowering women.

Family structures must be supportive for women to make decisions to promote gender equality, social justice and enable them to contribute to sustainable national development. I think we need to promote more awareness about inequalities evolving from power imbalance and domination at various levels. I feel empowerment is not just about improving capabilities of women, but more about providing enabling circumstances which restrict women from flourishing. ,

Please tell us about  the role of your family in shaping your life
I was born and raised in Chandigarh, India. I have grown up in a joint family, and I  consider my family as the biggest pillars of love, strength and support for me. I am fortunate that everyone at home (my grandparents, parents and uncles) supported me in whatever I did.  The values and structure of my joint family taught me self-control and how to respect others. It also taught me the values like adjusting with others and flexibility, which can go a long way in life.
I believe equality begins at home. I have been blessed to be born to parents who see women as the pillars of society. We are two sisters and my parents have always taught us to uphold the fact that we are no way less than boys.

My parents believe that real women empowerment is right in the hands of women. Having grown up with these great ideals, we both are now strong, partially independent and capable girls ready to face any challenges with strength and integrity. I Feel proud to be the daughter of such great parents.t

Ananya Kamboj

Please share some of your achievements and major milestones that you are proud of

For the last three years, I have been selected to represent India as a Young Journalist at the global Football for Friendship (F4F) social program. Football for Friendship is an annual International Children’s social program that unites children of different nationalities, different genders, and different physical abilities. The goal of the project is the development of children’s football, fostering tolerance, and respect for different cultures and nationalities among children from different countries. The key values that the participants support and promote are friendship, equality, fairness, health, peace, devotion, victory, traditions, and honor.

In 2019, I was invited by International Children’s Games (ICG), an International Olympic Committee-sanctioned event to speak on peace, friendship, and equality during the opening ceremony in Ufa, Russia.

I was invited by the United Nations twice to share my views on peace, friendship, and equality.

I am a published author of My Journey from Mohali to St. Petersburg, an anthology of twenty-one stories. These stories are based on the fundamental human values.

I became a goodwill ambassador of BRICS countries and participated in various other projects, including Girl Up, Girls with Impact, Lean In India, SDGs For Children, SDG Choupal, National Youth Council of India (NYCI) and She’s Mercedes.

I have been selected into the WLF Ambassador programme 2020 by the World Literacy Foundation (WLF). The WLF Ambassador programme aims to bring together individuals from all over the world to be a local voice and fundraise for literacy in their schools, universities, communities or social groups.

Right now I am working on gender equality and the prevention of violence against women and girls through my initiative called Sports to Lead.

Ananya Kamboj
What would be your advice to those who want to promote gender equality? 
Attaining gender balance will require encouraging women’s leadership, holding leading positions in business, participation in politics & sports, the private sector and government offices.
Each one of you can make a contribution by empowering your daughters, sisters and other girls in your family and community.
I am here to serve a cause, and that is to celebrate women empowerment and gender equality by sharing my story, supporting my friends and colleagues to do the same, and thanking ‘Rights of Equality’ for supporting female leaders – the list goes on, but you get the gist of it.                                                  
Rights of Equality

This interview has been edited and published by our editorial team.

5 Comments

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    Somapika Sarkar

    Ananya, you are having a very inspiring journey. Sports can be a powerful tool to instill values and right set of mindsets. Keep it up.

    • Swagata Sen

      Swagata Sen

      Thank you so much for your comments Somapika! Ananya’s journey is extremely inspirational. We hope that her story will inspire many girls to break the barriers and follow their passions.

  • Avatar

    Atulmaharaj

    There’s nothing that a woman cannot do. From flying high in the sky to taking up a sport. Ananya is standing up for a great cause and she’s leading by an example by doing all that she has done till now. I’ve been following her journey for quite some time and she always made us proud with her achievements. Wonderful interview, thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

  • Avatar

    ANNA P B

    Ananya,the concept of gender equality and the how women can be empowered in Sports sector is really a strong concept.I feel really inspired by your activities especially,you are the advocate for the next generation.Carry on your work,lets build a no one is judged by his or her gender.Congrats

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