Indian girls' sports programme wins Laureus Sport for Good Award: Stellar moment in Mercedes-Benz's social commitment

Feb 17, 2019
Monte Carlo/Stuttgart

Monte Carlo/Stuttgart. Yuwa (Hindi for 'youth') is the name of the programme which is receiving the Sport for Good Award at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Monaco. This decision honours an initiative which gives girls in the northern Indian state of Jharkhand the tools to take their future into their own hands. Mercedes-Benz has been supporting Laureus Sport for Good since 2000.

Yuwa aims to equip girls and young women in Jharkhand, India, with education, self-confidence and leadership skills and thus protect them against violence. As is the case with all Laureus-supported programmes, Yuwa utilises the power of sport to help disadvantaged children and young people. At Yuwa the participants play football on a daily basis and regularly take part in team competitions. Many of the older girls also work for Yuwa as coaches, earning their own money, which in turn helps foster their independence. In addition to this Yuwa also offers a full school education in English for around 450 girls. In turn, Yuwa helps the young women overcome poverty and violence in the region, enabling them shape their own future. This is a big step for the women, as the prevailing patriarchal structures would otherwise make it impossible for most of them to lead an independent life. Everyday life in Jharkhand offers virtually no perspectives for women – 45 percent of the female population are illiterate, 50 percent of girls do not go to school, and 60 percent marry as children.

The 2019 Sport for Good Award is being presented to Yuwa founders Franz Kastler and Rose Gastler Thomson, and programme participants Neeta Kumari, Hema Kumari, Konika Kumari, and Radha Kumari in Monaco. Franz Gastler is from the USA and has been living in India since 2007. He has worked there in roles such as an Advisor at the NGO "Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)" and as a teacher and sports coach. In Jharkhand he was so shocked by the inequality in opportunities for boys and girls that he decided to found Yuwa in 2009. Rose Gastler Thomson joined Yuwa in 2012 and in 2015 established the YuwaSchool, of which she is head.

Strong through sport

One impressive example of the successful work carried out by Yuwa is the story of Neeta Kumari from Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand. The 19-year-old has been playing football at Yuwa since she was ten, and today she coaches her own girls' team and is about to finish school. Yuwa has given her lots of impetus and ideas. For example, she has already taken part in two tournaments in Spain with her team. As part of the international "Inspiring Girls Expeditions" she also travelled to Alaska for a kayaking expedition. She passes on her experience by giving lectures and speeches, which has made her a role model for young girls all over India. Her story has encouraged them to go their own way, even when encountering resistance from their parents. "I would like to be a journalist", says the young Indian woman. "My two older sisters were married off as young teenagers, and I definitely don't want that to happen to me."

Thanks to Yuwa, Neeta can decide for herself which path she wants to take. Her school-leaving qualifications, her very good English language skills and the confidence she has developed through sport are all opening up completely new perspectives for her.. "With the help of sport, Yuwa has made me strong and shown me that I can determine my own future", says the 19-year-old. "I'm really grateful for this. I'm going to go my own way. And I hope very much that lots of girls will follow me, thinking: if she can do it, I can too."

Focus on women

Mercedes-Benz also supports the work of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation in India. Bettina Fetzer, Vice President Mercedes-Benz Marketing and Member of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, on Yuwa and winning the award: "It is particularly important to us that Yuwa has won the 2019 Laureus Sport for Good Award with a project for disadvantaged girls. Because in many regions of the world, girls and women are still more likely to be affected by poverty, discrimination and violence. Mercedes-Benz and Laureus are therefore focussing their commitment on projects which empower women and girls and open up new perspectives for them. Together we want to use the power of sport to instil confidence and leadership skills in them and arm them against violence, gender clichés and prejudices."

Laureus and Mercedes-Benz

"Sport has the power to change the world.” The Laureus Sport for Good aims to fight violence, discrimination and disadvantage faced by children and young people. Mercedes-Benz co-founded Laureus Sport for Good and its cooperation with Sport for Good has now become the most important aspect of the brand's social commitment. Laureus and Mercedes-Benz work together to offer disadvantaged young people all over the world a future: through sport the children discover their strengths and learn to bring out the very best in themselves – important experiences from which they stand to benefit throughout their life. Laureus and Mercedes-Benz complement one another perfectly here, as they share the same values and believe in the power of passion, determination and perseverance. Mercedes-Benz uses these key competences in the development of automotive innovations. Laureus teaches young, disadvantaged people these qualities through sport.

About Laureus

Laureus is a global organisation that celebrates sporting excellence and uses the power of sport to transform the lives of children and young people. Laureus unites Laureus Sport for Good, the Laureus World Sports Academy, the Laureus Sport for Good Ambassadors and the Laureus World Sports Awards in one unique organisation which uses the power of sport to do good.

Laureus Sport for Good was inspired by the words of its Founding Patron, Nelson Mandela, who said at the first ever Laureus Awards in 2000, “Sport has the power to change the world.”

In 2018, nearly 300,000 young people from all over the world directly benefited from more than 160 Laureus Sport for Good supported programmes, run by grassroots organisations which are deeply embedded in their local communities and understand how to use sport to overcome the hurdles faced by local kids.  We support these organisations with funding and knowledge-sharing, and all the work we support is measured against charitable standards set out by the United Nations, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

A global leader in the sport for development sector, Laureus Sport for Good carries the endorsement and support of the Laureus World Sports Academy and Ambassadors, all role models and icons of sport, who volunteer their time to this important cause.

The Laureus World Sports Academy is a unique group of sporting legends, each of whom reached the very highest level of achievement and collectively created many of sports most iconic moments.

Each year, under the chairmanship of former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick, the Academy members come together to perform the vital role of voting for the winners of the Laureus Awards, and this endorsement from an iconic group of sporting legends helps to make the Awards the most prestigious in global sport.

Academy members all share a belief in the power of sport to transform the lives of young people around the world, volunteering their time to support the work of Laureus Sport for Good. Throughout the year, many Academy members visit Sport for Good programmes, helping to engage and inspire the young people taking part.

Laureus is also privileged to be supported by the Laureus Ambassadors, a group of over 200 current or recently retired sports men and women who have achieved sporting greatness or made significant contributions to the sporting community. Ambassadors support the work of the Academy and of our Foundations around the world by giving their time to support programmes on the ground. A full list of the Ambassadors is available at

The Laureus World Sports Awards is the premier global sporting awards. First held in 2000, the annual event honours the greatest and most inspirational sporting triumphs of the year and showcases the work of Laureus Sport for Good.

About Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz is the inventor of the car – and has been shaping its future with lots of passion for mobility and movement since 1886. Like no other automotive brand, Mercedes-Benz links contemporary luxury and distinctive style with sustainable mobility and social responsibility. This approach and systematic striving to create a better world has connected Mercedes-Benz with sport for decades. The company has been systematically involved in sport at both professional and amateur levels for many years now and has established itself as a reliable partner in the fields of motorsport, football, golf, equestrianism and tennis.

Laureus World Sports Awards 2019
Laureus World Sports Awards 2019: Laureus Sport for Good Award winners of the indian social project 'yuwa' with Neetha (2.vl.).
Laureus World Sports Awards 2019: Laureus Sport for Good Award winners of the indian social project 'yuwa'.
Laureus World Sports Awards 2019: Laureus Sport for Good Award winners of the Indian social project 'yuwa' with Neetha (r).
Laureus Sport for Good Award 2019: Winner of the throphy is the indian social project 'yuwa':  In the back l-r: Melissa „Missy“ Jeanette Franklin (Laureus), Kosovare Asllani, Sean Fitzpatrick (Chairman Laureus),  Arsene Wenger. In front the winners from 'yuva' l-r Radha, Neeta, Konika und Hema, Fussballspielerinnen des Projektes Yuwa.
Laureus World Sports Awards 2019: Laureus Sport for Good Award winner ist the Indian social project 'Yuwa'. The project offers full school education in English for around 450 girls.
Laureus World Sports Awards 2019:  Laureus Sport for Good Award winner ist the Indian social project 'Yuwa'. The project offers full school education in English for around 450 girls.
Laureus World Sports Awards 2019:  Laureus Sport for Good Award winner ist the Indian social project 'Yuwa'. The project offers full school education in English for around 450 girls.
Laureus World Sports Awards 2019: Laureus Sport for Good Award winner is the Indian social project 'Yuwa' with Neetha. Talk between Sabine Christiansen (Laureus Ambassador, l) and soccer girls of the Project Yuwa.