Konika Kumari’s family is an incredible example of how sport has the power to change lives and alter the prospects for girls in deprived areas. 16-year-old Konika’s dedication to football led her on a path to become one of the growing number of paid local coaches at the Yuwa project, an initiative in Jharkhand that is supported by Laureus Sport for Good.
The basic salary gives her the financial independence to study at the Yuwa school without burdening her family. She describes how she went from having no aspirations or hope, and accepting that her future would be one of domestic servitude, to becoming inspired by the sport and education provided through Yuwa to travel the world and blaze a trail as a female footballer and, maybe one day, a flight attendant – a role which is much sought-after by girls in her conservative and insular village community of Hutup.
Konika’s older sister, Renu Kumari, who also went through the Yuwa programme and is now on a 10-month placement year studying in the United States. 17-year-old Renu is studying in Milford, New Jersey. She is currently a straight-a student and is on the high honour roll as part of the Youth Exchange & Study (YES) Program.
Konika and Renu’s mother, Bigan Devi, who spoke to us as she cooked dinner on the family’s open fire, is illiterate and comes from a generation where education of women was considered pointless (this is still a widely held view in their community). With encouragement from her daughters, she practiced signing her name using a stick on the mud floor of their home, so she could sign the Yuwa permission forms allowing her children to gain the education she was denied.