Girls empowering girls at Heathfield in Ascot

Girls empowering girls at Heathfield in Ascot

8 October 2018

Staff and students at independent girls’ boarding school Heathfield in Ascot are thrilled to be helping raise funds to fly 15 girls from Mumbai slums and rural Jharkhand in India to the UK for a life-changing two-week sport and education tour. The initiative is part of the ‘Kick Like A Girl’ campaign set up by the OSCAR foundation, a charity spanning the UK and India which drives social change by encouraging gender equality in underprivileged communities through football and education. Heathfield is one of six British schools who are funding and hosting the tour, which takes place in October and culminates in a taste of boarding life at Heathfield School.

Heathfield girls are passionate about helping other girls to be the very best they can be – this strong school ethos sits perfectly with ‘Kick Like A Girl’’s mission to empower young women by developing new skills and confidence so that they can aspire to a better future. Many of the Indian girls on the tour may have been destined for illegally early marriage, youth pregnancies or child trafficking – instead they now have passports for a trip to the other side of the world which aims to change their perspective on life and open up new possibilities.

A huge fundraising effort has been made to raise the £5000 needed to bring this project to fruition. Heathfield’s Director of Pastoral, Kathryn de Ferrer, met the girls in India in the early days of the project and was captivated by their overwhelmingly positive mindset and bubbly enthusiasm. Back in the UK, Kathryn ran 100km to raise money and the Heathfield girls boosted sponsorship by matching Kathryn’s efforts – their four school houses ran 25km each, together raising £2,000. Further exciting fundraising initiatives are in the pipeline, led by pupils Kiki Severn and Minty Clarry, who have become OSCAR International Young Leaders and ambassadors for the cause. The money raised will not only help to fund the ‘Kick Like A Girl’ tour but crucially will also provide an ongoing educational programme for their Indian peers through OSCAR’s Young Leader programme, ensuring that hundreds of children will benefit. This programme is targeted at youths wanting to create an opportunity for themselves and enables them to give back to their community by passing on skills and learning.

During their UK tour, the Under 17 Kick like a Girl team will not only have the chance to showcase their football talents in a series of friendly matches, but will also be immersed in a culture that cherishes and promotes girls’ education – the antipathy of what they are used to. The girls are particularly excited about the opportunity to take part in academic lessons and sports, whilst enjoying the exceptional facilities offered by Heathfield and the five other British schools that will be hosting them. Their trip will also include sightseeing tours of iconic British landmarks and attractions.

OSCAR – the Organisation for Social Change, Awareness and Responsibility – was founded by 29-year old Ashok Rathod, whose vision is to educate through sport and create young leaders for the future. Ashok, who himself lives in the slums, is dedicated to working with families from the lower socio-economic communities surrounding Mumbai and encouraging uneducated parents to allow girls to attend school. The ‘Kick Like A Girl’ campaign is all about opening new doors, broadening perspectives and breaking down gender inequality. The team of girls – from Ambedkar Nagar in Mumbai and rural Ranchi in Jharkhand – have been training hard in football since becoming part of OSCAR, swapping traditional dress for football shorts and T-shirts and leaving the confines of their communities to train on a football pitch. The campaign has opened their eyes to a different kind of future – in the words of one of the girls, “Football has given me a sense of purpose. I now feel confident to question decisions that directly affect me.”

Commenting on the campaign, Heathfield’s Headmistress Marina Gardiner Legge said: “’Kick Like A Girl’ resonates strongly with our school ethos of fostering confidence and belief to enable young women to go beyond their conceived abilities. Here at Heathfield we are passionate about helping girls stand up, stand out and live life to its fullest. It is an absolute privilege for our girls to be able to play a small part in empowering girls on the other side of the world to stay in education and build a positive future.”

Tour organiser Lucinda Sowerbutts added, “The children selected for the OSCAR tour come from very poor uneducated families. Some of the girls have very harrowing personal stories and they live in basic houses with no running water or bathroom. There are 100 toilets for 60,000 people. They lead very tough lives. This opportunity is a lifeline. Working in the community I can see for myself the positive impact. The host schools will learn and benefit as much as the OSCAR team. Everyone’s a winner.”

The ‘Kick Like A Girl’ tour takes place from 29th September – 15th October 2018 and their final two nights will be spent at Heathfield.

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