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Bheemabhai – A Visionary, a Role Model and a Force to Reckon With

Hailing from Vyasarpadi in Chennai, Bheemaibhai is a force to reckon with! Like many of the inhabitants of the community, throughout her childhood, her family lived in dire poverty. They struggled to make ends meet, to the point that Bheemabhai sometimes relied only on the mid-day meals provided to her at school.Being from a Dalit community, Bheemabhai was often discriminated and bullied in school. Her only solace was playing football with her peers after school. When the abuse at school got unbearable, she dropped out which is when a partner NGO of CRY – STEDS intervened.

The STEDS team had noticed that Bheemabhai enjoyed football. They convinced her to go back to school. To ensure that she wouldn’t face problems at school, the STEDS team spoke to the headmaster of the school and voiced their concerns about the discrimination not only for Bheemabhai but for others as well. The headmaster ensured that Bheemabhai was treated fairly at school and she was re-enrolled.

Bheemabhai’s skill in football has grown from strength to strength as did her formal education. She is pursuing her B. Sc, in Mathematics, having received a sports scholarship. The 19 year old regularly represents her university at state and national level tournaments and also makes sure that she gives back to the community by coaching children in football and in studies.

Bheemaibhai has also recently been selected for the prestigious Ashoka Youth Venture programme where she aims to provide others with the same opportunities she had – empowering slum children on child rights through sports. She aims to cover 10 slums in Vyasarpadi and make them child marriage and labour free communities. One of her dreams is to empower 100 girl children into child rights leaders. Bheemabhai wants to propagate sports as a career option, aiming to touch 100 children who can focus on sports at a professional level. She also wants to create a volunteer group from across communities engaged in promoting child rights at the grassroot level. She hopes to see these volunteers participate in local elections in the future to help bring sustainable change to their communities.

And to think this determined visionary would have been smothered by the constraints of her surroundings, if not for opportunity!

While Bheemabhai continues to play football at the state and national level, she inspires children from her community as well as her peers in college every day. We wish her the best of luck on her dream and journey. We look forward to seeing her execute the mammoth plans she has set for herself and are confident that it will bring about lasting change for children.

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