Dec 05, Colombo: International cricket superstar Yuvraj Singh and the under-19 cricket future stars came together in Sri Lanka on Monday to showcase the power of sports to shape the future of adolescents in South Asia.
Yuvraj Singh was joined by under-19 cricket stars from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka who will compete in the International Cricket Council (ICC) U19 Cricket World Cup in New Zealand in January 2018.
A panel discussion was followed by a friendly game of cricket between Mr. Singh, the U-19 cricket players and youth attending the event.
"There are 340 million adolescents in South Asia. When I see the energy, passion and determination of these young people, I feel so much hope. While the challenges in this region are vast, my hope is that their energy can be harnessed to create a better tomorrow for all adolescents in South Asia," Mr. Singh said.
The panel and friendly cricket game was jointly organized by UNICEF South Asia and the ICC. Focusing on the power of sports to transform lives and communities, the panel discussed issues such as the right of adolescents to play, and the benefits that sports can provide to adolescents including improved self-esteem, health and ability to build life skills.
"Adolescence is a time of great opportunity and vulnerability. With investment and support, adolescents can reach their full potential. It is our priority to build a more peaceful, prosperous and equitable future for adolescents in South Asia. We will achieve this by supporting their access to spaces to speak up, and skills to successfully transition to adulthood," said Jean Gough, Regional Director for UNICEF South Asia. She further added, "The values that define sports - teamwork, fairness, discipline, respect for the opponent and the rules of the game - are synonymous with the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup and are well understood all over the world. These values are not limited by language, culture or country. Our hope is to see these translated to real improvements for adolescents in South Asia in their education, health and well-being."
"The ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup gives young players an unrivaled experience of global events, a real flavor of international cricket at senior level and a glimpse into what life as one of the world’s best is really like. But just as importantly it provides them with the opportunity to be involved in events like this and start to realize the potential they have to make a positive impact on the world through their sport," said David Richardson, Chief Executive Officer of the International Cricket Council, "Our partnership with UNICEF is an important one and the commitment the players have shown to being part of the panel is a wonderful demonstration of that."
There are more adolescents in South Asia than anywhere else in the world. At the crossroads between childhood and adulthood, adolescents typically face many changes and uncertainties in their lives. Almost 1 in 2 girls in the region are married before the age of 18, and 1 in 5 give birth before they reach 18. More than 20 million adolescents 10-14 years old are out of school. An overwhelming 45 percent of adolescents believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife for burning the meal she cooks for him. More than 4 in 10 adolescent girls are underweight. South Asia countries must invest in programs and policies to improve the lives of adolescents in all areas.