On a Saturday afternoon in India, a group of 20 girls practice their Karate strikes and moves in a local park. Twelve-year-old Yamini is one of them, having won 12 medals since joining the group, and now only two levels away from earning her black belt.
“Night or day I boldly walk the streets by myself. I feel completely safe,” says Yamini.
Things were much different for Yamini and her friends before World Vision formed the local karate team in 2014. The girls from her community faced harassment and jeering almost every day. Boys and men used to taunt them and shout out explicit comments as they walked by.
The girls also faced the pressure of traditional practices and beliefs. In many of the surrounding villages, girls are not allowed to explore new opportunities or hobbies. Instead, they’re expected to marry and start their own families. But Yamini and her friends were determined to kick expectations to the curb.
World Vision’s karate team was formed to empower girls and build resilience.
Today, after five years, the girls are bold, confident and positive.
The men and boys who teased and threatened them, now commend and cheer the girls whenever they return from tournaments victorious, medals adorning their necks and smiles beaming from their faces.
24-year-old Deepa, the oldest in the group, is pursuing her Master’s Degree and taking a lead in training other children in the community.
“Now that I’ve learnt self-defense, I am independent”, says Deepa.
Each of the 20 girls are at various stages of learning but they all share the same passion and confidence. They’ve been to both state and national-level tournaments, and have won numerous medals.
“Some people even asked why girls are learning karate, they need to get married. But after seeing us, they’ve changed their opinions”, says Priya.
The one thing that every girl on the team repeats is that they are not afraid anymore. Their parents are proud and encouraged to see how their girls have fought for their right to walk the streets with confidence and respect.
“Karate is a sport that makes you happy. After coming back from competitions, our parents feel proud,” Yamini added.