To Foster Leadership and Life Skills among young underprivileged Girls through the Sport of Sailing

Hyderabad, INDIA

(Launched 2016)


 This is a two-year joint proposal submitted by Naandi Foundation (implementing NGO) and Yacht Club of Hyderabad (technical partner for Sailing) based on successful training of a small group of girl sailors from underprivileged backgrounds and having ongoing projects with boys of similar backgrounds

Naandi Foundation

Naandi Foundation started in 1998 with poverty alleviation as its core vision. Since then it has worked in various areas of poverty alleviation impacting the lives of about 5 million Indians. Some of its services include child rights, elementary education with positive discrimination of girls, safe drinking water and sanitation, large scale cooperative irrigated farming in dry land areas, end-to-end sustainable agriculture in tribal areas, skilling and employment for youth, safe motherhood and early childhood development including tackling of malnutrition amongst children, and other socio-economic issues. Its ideology revolves around building sustainable models within the social sector that deliver critical services efficiently and equitably to underserved communities. With operations in 14 states, Naandi's child rights work has included providing hot cooked midday meals to 1 million children, extending academic support to children in over 2000 government schools and supporting close to 100,000 girl children to complete 10 years of formal education.

Chaired by Mr Anand Mahindra (Chairman and Managing Director of the Mahindra Group of companies), the Board of Naandi comprises leaders of Indian industry. In addition to establishing partnership with communities across the country, Naandi is working with the Government of India and various state governments. Naandi also partners with donor organisations and corporates, prominent among them being the World Bank, UNICEF, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Sir Ratan Tata Trust, KC Mahindra Education Trust, Global Livelihoods Fund and USAID to name a few. 

The Yacht Club of Hyderabad (YCH)

The Yacht Club of Hyderabad, a non-profit based out of Hyderabad, is a sailing academy located on the Hussain Sagar lake in Hyderabad, India. It was founded by Suheim Sheikh, an avid sailor, on June 5th 2009. Traditionally a sport for the privileged class, Suheim wanted to make sailing accessible to common citizens, with a focus on economically challenged kids from government schools. With this mission, he dropped out of a successful career in the Indian software industry and passionately took to creating infrastructure to allow access to the sport and to coach kids. Founded as a non-profit organisation, YCH is funded by Suheim and a few private donors who believe in his mission.

 YCH started off with 4 children, 3 small boats and a 60-year old broken down jetty. The Club is now a sturdy well facilitated and robust jetty with more than 50 boats and 50 sailors enjoying the facility to the fullest. The Club largely works as a privately funded foundation and the work of the last 6 years has been focused on deprived children from Government schools with a few from the affluent classes.

The Club has trained close to about 100 young sailors, a majority from underprivileged backgrounds, about 30 of whom have sailed at the national level and a few at the international level. Towards its philanthropic mission, YCH runs many events including the Monsoon Regatta, sponsorships of which go towards the running costs of the club. During its initial years, the club funded and enabled all children it selected to complete their school and college education besides providing counselling. Many of these children who have completed their 12th grade currently serve as coaches at the club while pursuing their higher studies.

 With a strong focus on creating a legacy sporting infrastructure that can transform into a self-sustaining non-profit sports enterprise over a period of 10 years, the Club now works closely with foundations like Naandi Foundation and government agencies to take care of the kids’ education while he nurtures their sports careers.  

a.     Description of core Nanhi Kalis’ programs over the last 3 year

In 2005, Naandi Foundation along with K.C. Mahindra Education Trust started Project Nanhi Kali. Project Nanhi Kali was initiated with the aim of providing education to underprivileged girl children in urban, rural and tribal regions in 9 states of India.

With the aim of ensuring that girls from underprivileged families complete at least ten years formal schooling, Project Nanhi Kali provides academic, material and social support to girls (who, once ‘adopted’ are referred to as Nanhi Kalis) and ensures that she is able to go to school regularly with dignity. The intervention includes academic support in the form of before or after-school classes and material support is provided in the form of schoolbags, shoes, books, uniforms, lunchboxes and other essentials that help a girl go to school with dignity. Project Nanhi Kali also mobilizes communities of parents, teachers and elders to make them active stakeholders in the process of change.

Project Nanhi Kali is for girls in school – Grade 1 to Grade 10. It is a girl child sponsorship project which raises sponsorships at INR 3000 per child per year for girls in primary school and INR 4200 per child per year for girls in high school. Across 15 locations in India, Nanhi Kali currently sponsors 110,000 girls through this programs. Those who have 'graduated' out of being a Nanhi Kali, that is, completed Grade 10 - till now, and therefore count as their alumni are another 75,000.

Key Partners/Stakeholders

-  The Yacht Club of Hyderabad (supervisors and sailing trainers)

-  Naandi Foundation (project implementors)

-  Parents of the girl children

-  School Authorities

b.   Project Objectives

The key objectives of the project are:

·      To help nurture confidence and dignity amongst young girls who can be leaders and role models of the future.

·      To provide economically challenged girls, sustainable access to safe world class sports infrastructure.

·      Nurture and motivate sporting talent that would otherwise go untapped and give them a chance to excel in competitive sailing and be recognised

·      To expose them to and teach them to overcome challenges is sport that could in parallel translate into skills to overcome academic and life challenges

·      To help the girl child appreciate and overcome sexist challenges that they would inevitably face while growing up in conservative third world societies leading to equal opportunity

·      To improve their employability

Through the medium of sailing, the key objective of this project is to encourage girls to take on leadership roles as they quite rapidly move from novice to experienced sailor to assistant coach to a full-fledged coach with girls from the similar and affluent backgrounds as understudies. 

This leadership experience would enable them to take on greater challenges in life and also the process of 'learning to learn' and 'learning to teach and therefore learn again' equips them to face greater challenges both academically as well as in their future work place.

 c.     Background of the core project

Since 2009, YCH has been working to use sailing as a medium to train young children (mainly boys) and upgrade their ability to handle challenges, success, failure and competitiveness. Orphans and deprived children with diverse backgrounds like farming and labour have been trained to top levels and their education and nutrition funded and monitored by the Club. One of the successes we are proud of is that some of boys from our first batch currently serve as part time instructors at the club. Annexure 4 provides case studies of 4 such trainees-turned-coaches. One of our main focus areas is to provide the children with a stable and sustainable career and move them gradually from the vernacular medium to English and into a sustainable profession of their choice including but not limited to the marine and sailing industries.

Through its initial period, YCH had worked primarily with boys. In mid-2015, however, it decided to test the idea of training girls in the sport of sailing. Towards this end, it partnered with Naandi Foundations’ Project Nanhi Kali. A few Nanhi Kali’s or girl children who receive support from Naandi Foundation were selected and trained to sail. Trained Nanhi Kalis are encouraged to participate in championships at the national level. Their education is also monitored and the children are assisted in getting admission to top colleges and schools in the city.

d. Core Project Idea for which support is sought

In mid-2015, The Yacht Club of Hyderabad along with Naandi Foundation decided to launch a Sailing Program for Nanhi Kalis, called ‘Project Navika’. The pilot phase saw two batches of Nanhi Kalis screened and short-listed for sailing training. Of a total of 30 girls, 2 were short-listed after the initial screening. The third batch of 20 girls has currently been screened and 9 selected for final shortlisting. Naandi Foundation and YCH have been able to bear the program and training costs of the first batch of girls. We now envision a more robust and sustainable girls sailing program for which financial and technical support is required.

We are proud that 11 of the 50 girls from our pilot batches are now swimming, sailing, kayaking and wave-boarding independently. This batch will soon start mainline sailing in terms of racing, etc. They will also attend championships in July 2016. Most of these girls did not know how to swim when they were recruited for this program. Their confidence and sailing skills have improved significantly since the start of the pilot program in January 2016.

Encouraged by the small successes made with the first batch, The Yacht Club and Project Nanhi Kali now aim to train an additional 20 or more girls in Hyderabad in 2016. And further train another batch of 20 or more girls in the next one year. The idea of the program is to rigorously train Nanhi Kalis with sailing talent, right up to the point they are able to compete at national level events and serve as trained instructors.

d.   Need for such a project

Although India has seen women compete and win at state, national and international level championships in sports; they still are a minority. There continues to be a discrimination based on patriarchal views in all socio-economic and ethnic groups across the country against the girl child.

Parents and society usually have a clear demarcation of what ‘young girls’ can do and what they cannot. And playing a sport or training to compete in one, certainly, doesn’t feature in the to-do list! To excel in a sport, one requires great discipline and greater support from family and coaches. It is important that their parents believe in them and allow them to practice.

Having said that, there is a large part of ‘building of self’ and ‘transformation of self’ to achieve the set goals in life. No matter what the criticism, the spirit to passionately follow one’s dreams and work hard towards it, is imperative. This is essentially, easier said than done as all of us, as a part of the society we live in, can succumb to pressures which may lead us to make decisions which self-destruct our career-path.

 The Yacht Club of Hyderabad is making an interesting attempt to help underprivileged girls, interested in a career in water sports, realise their dream by providing them with a platform to excel in sailing in collaboration with Naandi Foundation.

If Nanhi Kalis are trained to perform at top competitive levels, they too may get the opportunity to become trainers and coaches with a regular stipend or salary. This also provides a hope for the Nanhi Kalis to fight the shackles of societal pressures and conditioning and aim for excellence in the sport that they are interested in.

e.   Background of the project beneficiaries and project area

Beneficiaries of this intervention are Nanhi Kalis from socially and economically deprived families. Most Nanhi Kalis are first-generation learners. Parents of these girls work as domestic help, watchmen/watch women, mechanics or auto-drivers with very low incomes ranging between INR 5000 to INR 7000 per month. Most of the Nanhi Kalis have at least 2 or 3 siblings and have big families with 7-10 members. Some of the girls are brought up by single parents, making it rather challenging to get opportunities and excel in a particular stream.

 f.    Project implementation details

This project aims to cover the whole range of sailing skills that confident sailors need. Starting with basic requirements like swimming and skating, the project aims take the budding girl sailors through technical sailing skills. A structured 12-month program is being designed which also cover championships. While being trained in sailing, all Nanhi Kalis will continue their education with the support and guidance of Naandi Foundation.

The pilot project was financed jointly by Naandi Foundation and YCH. Based on the experience of the pilot project that is under-way, we now seek funding to work with the 20 to-be girl sailors and build a solid program of ‘leadership through sailing’. The core aspects of our program are described below.

f.1. Screening and short-listing of Nanhi Kalis for training

Girls who are sent for screening at The Yacht Club ideally have to be 9-12 years old and should weigh no more than 40 kilograms and under 4.8 feet of height given that limitations of the training boat.

The following criteria are followed during screening and filtering: 

·      Girls have to be present for at least 5 consecutive days at the club especially during the initial screening process

·      Girls are tested for their balance through an on-shore activity, skating

·      Girls are observed to see if they fear water

·      Girls need to be medically fit

·      Girls need active parental support

The girls selected for training need to wear the correct gear for sailing. Picking the right combination of girls who fit the age, height and weight requirement for training is vital. This apart, it is also important to choose girls whose families are also equally encouraging of them in pursuing a tough sport like sailing. Our program coordinator works consistently with the families to make sure they are part of the girls’ development.

f.2. Skating

Skating is part of the screening process where girls prove their ability to balance. Girls have to practice skating regularly. The skateboard used for practice is called a wave board. Most time spent during the initial days, is on a wave board, as an on-shore activity. This regimen is of great value as balancing is a crucial dynamic for sailing or any sport for that matter.

Learning to balance is crucial for sailing

f.3. Swimming

It is of paramount importance that girls who are training to be sailors also know how to swim. Hence, it has been strictly advised by coaches at the club that Nanhi Kalis learn swimming. This is a pre-requisite for all our want to be sailors.

f.4. Training in sailing

Nanhi Kalis undergo full-fledged training which includes activities like Parts of a boat, Sailing Knots, sailing a straight line, Tacking and Gybing, rounding a Mark, setting a Sail, rigging and unrigging, Safety and Capsize drills, Racing. Professional sailing coaches train Nanhi Kalis in each of the sailing skills.

f.5. Rights Awareness

Through the course of Project Navika, coaches and the Program coordinator will bring in issues of rights, particularly in the areas of reproductive health, early pregnancy, early marriage, school and gender based violence. Their interaction with girls their age from affluent families and their parents will help a great deal in this regard.

 g.   Length/Duration of one cycle

The support is sought for 20 girls for a period of one year initially and an additional 20 girls in the second year. Each batch goes through a 12-month training cycle. We will be taking on additional sailors catering for dropouts.

h.   Attending Championships

We believe that exposure to real life events like championships go a long way in boosting our aspiring sailors. It not only gives them a sense of what championships are like and what it takes to prepare for them, but also helps build in them the confidence to compete and showcase their sailing and leadership skills. Learning to win and lose, analyze one’s performance and aim higher are all important aspects of participating in sailing championships.  We want to take 10 of our top girl performers to the following sailing championships within India, each of the two years.

-       The Telangana Open July 5-10, Hyderabad

-       Monsoon Regatta July 14-17, Hyderabad

-       India International Regatta, Nov-Dec 2016, Chennai

-       Indian Nationals, Nov-Dec 2016, Chennai

i.    Follow-up plans after completion of first cycle

Nanhi Kalis will either gain admission to institutions of higher education as a consequence of having sports certification or will gain employment in any of the increasing number of sports institutions in the private or public sector. Due to strong focus on the education of girl sailors, we commit to financially support the education of the top three girl sailors through scholarships.

The possible avenues for employment after being physically trained and mentored are Government School Physical Training Instructor, Coach for the sport of sailing and allied water sports, as well as employment in the marine industry

j.      Evaluation framework

The following outcome indicators will be looked into, in order to evaluate the progress of the intervention after a one-year cycle.

·      Nanhi Kalis become trained sailors and participate in State and National level championships

·      Nanhi Kalis trained for a career in sailing as Coaches

·      Improved academic performance and accessibility to better institutions through sports quotas than their peer group of equivalent background and education at the start

·      Nanhi Kalis continue with education or gain vocational skills with improved employability.

·      Nanhi Kalis are aware of their rights

The academic performance of the girls can be measured using the half yearly and annual progress reports. This will help in making a comparison with the performance of the girls who are not a part of the intervention.

We are keen to study the impact of the sailing program on Nanhi Kalis, especially with respect to their confidence, leadership, language and communication skills. Also important to evaluate is the role model behaviour with respect to honesty, fairness, empathy and caring for one’s community and environment. Pre and post evaluations will be conducted to measure the improvement of the young girls in the above attributes and understand the impact of the intervention. Impact data will be collected throughout the project period. Innovative methods like maintaining student journals, coach journals, regular student-led group discussions, and pre and post student feedback forms shall be used for data collection. We believe it is important to involve all important stakeholders in our impact evaluation. We plan to conduct pre and post feedback from parents of our to-be sailors to get a sense of changes in the girls outside the training environment. Attempts shall be made to collect feedback from school teachers of our trainees. Besides all these, photographs and videos shall be collected on an on-going basis.

More detailed M&E and Reporting frameworks have been furnished in Annexure 3.

k.   Expected risks and challenges

Sailing is a relatively inaccessible sport. Considering, it requires young girls to go into the water, here Hussain Sager, some parents find it difficult to give their consent for this sport. The Coordinator for the Sailing Assignment has the important responsibility to educate parents on this sport and discuss future possibilities. Constant community engagement becomes vital for parents to give their consent. It goes without saying that without the parents’ consent; girls are not taken in for the training. Thus, consent is the glue between the girls and training at the club.

The consent of parents is taken before Nanhi Kalis are sent for ‘screening and short-listing’ and full-fledged coaching.