International Women’s Day celebrated through the inspiring power of sport
SPECIAL REPORT, March 8, 2012 - In an area of India known as Andhra Pradesh, a young woman lives with her step-mother.
The young woman's name is Farzana.
Farzana is one of countless female participants of Laureus-supported projects finding strength and independence through the power of sport.
Today is International Women's Day, which, for over a hundred years, has been held to promote and celebrate the emancipation and equal rights of women in all areas of life, all around the world.
And Farzana's emotional story, told recently by a leader from the Magic Bus project in India, really is a perfect celebration of this day.
Life is not easy for Farzana. She, like so many people in India, earns a pitiful amount of money a month, just £30, and is even frequently forced to live off the leftover food her stepmother doesn't require.
Furthermore, living in Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, she has to live through the constant tensions between Muslims and the ostracised group in the country known as Dalits or ‘undesirables'.
But despite this hardship, Farzana spends what little free time she has as a youth mentor at the Laureus-supported sports project Magic Bus. There she teaches young girls and boys from both of these communities to respect one another through the tool of sport.
She is committed to helping reconcile these two groups, with the dream being that the distinction between them will one day no longer exist.
But she too has benefited from her work with the project in subtle ways that have brought remarkably positive changes in her life.
For many young girls growing up, having total choice over whom they wish to marry is taken for granted.
But for some women across the world, gaining this freedom remains a struggle.
Farzana explains that working with Magic Bus has given her the confidence to take on this challenge and to face this struggle with resolve. She says that this confidence has helped her say no to an offer of marriage from a 70 year old head teacher of a local school, despite pressure on her to say yes.
She explains: "After joining Magic Bus, I gained confidence and started facilitating sessions in the community and refused to marry or succumb to pressure."
And it is this attitude that has filtered down to the girls and boys she teaches every week - children who have spent their whole lives fitting in and following the crowd.
The future looks incredibly bright for Farzana and she now hopes to do a postgraduate course and become a lecturer.
Laureus would love to hear how sport has helped your lives. So, on this great day, send in your stories on Twitter at @LaureusSport and the Laureus facebook page of how you have benefited from taking part or helping others through sport.