On December 8th, 2013, Kusum Kumari gave the following talk (In English) in front of over a thousand people during the TEDxGateway event in Mumbai. She wrote it herself.
Hello, my name is Kusum Kumari. I’m 13-years old. I’m from Jharkhand. I want to tell you how football changed my life.
In my family there are 8 members: my father, my mother, my three elder sisters, one elder brother, one younger brother, and me. My father is a farmer. My mother is a housewife. My two elder sisters got married when they were 17 years old and 18 years old. My one elder sister studies in college. My elder brother drives cars. My younger brother studies in school. I study in Standard 6.
Before I joined Yuwa, I went to school, but not daily. I didn’t think about my school much because I did not know the importance of school. I would go to classes 3 or 4 times in a week. If someone asked if I wanted to go spend one week or one month at my relatives’ house, I would say yes and leave school for a long time. I had fun with my relatives, but I did not go to school.
I did not have this idea that I could study and do something with my life. I didn’t think about my future.
I was shy. I didn’t talk to anyone. If I played in the road or sand I wouldn’t wash my body because I didn’t think it was important.
If someone came to my house and asked me a question, I would not give them an answer. I would not look at them. I would just walk away. No one in my village knew my name. Even my neighbor did not know whose daughter I was.
I was so happy to join Yuwa. When I first joined Yuwa, there were only a few girls. But after some time, there were many girls. We ran around with the ball and we had fun. I saw that other girls kept their bodies and their clothes clean, but mine were dirty. So I started to wash everyday and wear clean clothes. I made many new friends.
I started going to Yuwa classes. Franz and Yuwa teachers told me why education is important. I learned that if I get an education I could get any job I want. I learned that with education I could find different ways to make and save money and live better. With education I could go to other places and do something with my life.
So I started going to school everyday. I studied well and I worked hard. I stopped spending lots of time at my relatives’ house.
Girls on my Yuwa team work hard. I feel stronger when we are together. If one girl is upset or has a problem, we make her feel better. If one girl stops coming to Yuwa, we talk with her and tell her how much fun it is. If one girl is absent, we find her and tell her to come tomorrow. We support each other.
To go to Spain, we needed birth certificates to get passports. My friends and I did not have birth certificates because we were born in our homes. Everyday, we went to the panchayat in a group. But the panchayet told us to give him more money. He said we were small and could not win and that the foreigners would sell us in Spain. He hit my friends and made us sweep the floor. We felt scared of him sometimes, but we went everyday. I was so sad during that time because I thought ‘I won’t get to go to Spain.’
The trip to Spain was the first time I had gone so far from home. It was the first time that I played on a big ground and turf. The girls on the other teams were very big and very good players. We lost our first match, but we wanted to win. So we worked even harder. We felt confident and supported each other. We won 3rd place bronze trophy and we felt so proud.
In Spain, I saw that girls and boys were the same. There was no difference. Girls went everywhere that boys went, even at night. They did everything boys do. I thought this was very good. I want to feel free like the boys.
When we came back from Spain, everybody knew us. Now, in my village everyone knows my name. Everyone says that girls in Yuwa are doing good things.
Now, if anyone asks me a question, I give him or her an answer right away. I am not shy. I go to the Yuwa House everyday for English class. I love to speak English.
After school I want to go to a university and study Social Studies. Someday I want to join an NGO that helps girls. There are still so many girls who do not go to school. They only work in the house and their parents get them married very young. I want to help these girls.