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Title [Voices of Youth] Fighting Stereotypes to become a Fighter for Peace
This photo is not directly linked with the below writing. Photo by @camssanabria
- Romee Giri
My life took turn when I was eight years old. It was my uncle, a Taekwondo Coach, and National Referee, who introduced me to Taekwondo. I was the first girl in my community to have started Taekwondo training at such a young age. This was not easily acceptable in my society as two-decades ago, sports in Nepal were perceived to be only for men. My community people believed sports were not for girls and girls are basically for household purposes.
As I earned my first Dan degree (Black Belt) in taekwondo, my parents asked me to drop sports and instead focus on studies believing a black belt was enough for a girl. Girls are for the household and there is no need for sports. I stopped practicing Taekwondo for a whole year. I had to persuade my parents that women can do a lot in sports. Sports do not destroy academic career nor career itself. Instead, it makes us stronger, it helps learn discipline, and become versatile. Eventually, I rejoined the training sessions. But I became an awkward figure in my society as I put on my tracksuits and sports shoes, the clothes I felt most comfortable in.
The society started to interfere, making comments about my tomboy apparel, my lifestyle focusing on sports, and the way I was in general. But I decided to focus, not on what other people were saying about me, but on my hobby, my sports, my Taekwondo. While doing so, I had the chance to apply for the Youth Leadership Program (YLP) organized by the UNOSDP (United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace).
I was also selected to represent my country as a speaker at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games Flaming Event, which was held at the United Nations Office, Geneva, Switzerland during a program jointly held by the United Nation and the International Olympic Committee. This was regarded as a historic movement in Nepal, as I was representing World Taekwondo(WT), the Nepal Taekwondo Association, and the Nepal Olympic Committee.
I spoke about my experience in practicing sports as a woman. I spoke of how I was inspired to become a fighter for peace through martial arts when I saw WT and Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation (THF) providing aids and humanitarian programs for my country Nepal when it was left in ruins after an earthquake. I spoke of what I learnt at YLP, that sports do not only mean physical effort, it also means leadership, dedication, passion, intelligence, the ability to create strategy and think quickly as a young athlete fulfilling social responsibility.
The special opportunities I encountered while practicing Taekwondo has allowed me to mature and change my point of view on life.I am now taken as a youth icon in my country and am being called an inspiration among many women. This has motivated me to further my studies in sports to learn how to academically develop Taekwondo in my own country and to become a creative sports leader. I wish to support the Nepal Government with my knowledge and by developing programs for youths and educating them.
It’s been eighteen years since I started playing taekwondo. Now it is part of my life and my family’s. I enjoy persuading and showing people the power of sports. I love seeing how sports can help people earn each other’s trust. Sports can be a hobby, it can be a career, and anyone can be part of it, regardless of gender, age, and ethnicity. I am ready to acquire more knowledge and experience to become someone who can inspire others and join in on the battle towards achieving Sports and Martial Arts for All.
※ This writing does not reflect the idea of ICM.