Ananya Kamboj has become a ‘Popular Journalist’ with the Football for Friendship program and has been invited to speak at the UN. Racial equity activists are also launching their own campaign to help women and girls combat inequality.

Ananya Kamboj is just 15 years old, but her successes outnumber her youth. The Class XI student is the speaker, goodwill ambassador of the BRICS countries, and is invited to talk at the ECOSOC Youth Forum of the United Nations in September. She informs HerStorythat she has also participated in a variety of other empowerment initiatives, such as Girl Up, Girls with Impact, Lean In India, SDGs For Children, SDG Choupal, the World Literacy Foundation, Sports to Lead, and She’s Mercedes.

Chandigarh’s teenager attributes her success to the Football for Friendship program.

In 2017, when India hosted the U-17 Men’s Football World Cup, Ananya participated in a writing competition organized by Mission XI Million, an AIFF (All India Football Federation) initiative sponsored by the Government of India to popularize football in India.

F4F is an annual multinational children’s development initiative that brings together children from over 193 countries to foster appreciation for diverse cultures and nationalities through football. The program, introduced by Gazprom Corporation, is sponsored by institutions such as FIFA, UEFA, the United States, the Olympic and Paralympic Boards, governments and football federations of different countries.

Ananya has been a strong champion for social equity and women’s empowerment through her participation in numerous projects and empowerment initiatives. As a professional basketball player and soccer player when she was younger, Ananya found that some sports coaches were spreading the idea that girls can’t play sports.

She cites the initiative to inspire her to participate in social equity and higher education activism. Ananya has launched her own ‘Sports to Lead’ campaign to help girls and women recognize their rights and address gender differences. The soon-to-be-launched project will use sports as a platform to provide seminars to awareness-raising sessions about how to tackle discrimination and gender disparity. Ananya says that the program would be sponsored by her dad, who is also her inspiration to compose.

In a cricket mad country, soccer-style sports are only beginning to take root in tournaments like the Indian Super League, a club oriented national league much like the IPL. However, women’s sports, particularly women’s football, do face problems such as lack of facilities, homophobia, lack of jobs, less tournaments, low pay, shortage of broadcast slots and lack of visibility. To top it all, coronavirus could bring a final blow to women’s sport in the region. In its recent study, the FIFPro soccer union stated that women’s soccer faces an “existential danger” due to the pandemic, with the problem extremely bad in India.

She adds that being part of the initiative has helped her to respect investigative principles, such as submitting authentic reports and verifying evidence. Ananya recited nine principles as a conscientious student – friendship, equality, fairness, health, peace, devotion, victory, traditions, and honour. She wrote about them in her memoir, My Journey from Mohali to St. Petersburg. The book is a collection of 21 stories that illustrates her experience through the F4F program and the ideals that sport and the curriculum have taught her. The publication of her book in Moscow during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia is her most proud accomplishment.

Ananya has been a ‘young journalist’ with the initiative for the past three years and aims to pursue her love for news. She already has a simple intention to slash. She plans to pursue media at the undergraduate level and then participate in the FIFA Master’s program – an international sports management degree. She intends to write for groups like FIFA and the Olympics. Ananya will be taking part in the UN ECOSOC Youth Forum in September 2020 to chat specifically about the Football for Friendship initiative and the principles encouraged by the project.