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Giving them the tools for success

'Although we are always short on resources, my sisters and I play better football than most guys," says Naomi Fatch, captain of the Ntopwa Super Queens, an all-girl football team in Malawi.

"We work hard, and we are a great team."

Naomi and her teammates all study computing at Bangwe Youth Centre, on the outskirts of the city of Blantyre in southern Malawi. Last year the centre - funded by Unicef and Glasgow City Council - trained 150 girls free of charge, many them victims of domestic violence who use sport to heal and reclaim their lives.

Each girl has a heart-wrenching story. One was raped by an uncle who was supposed to be looking after her. Another had to drop out of school because her father was ill and she had to become the family's main breadwinner.

A third could no longer tolerate daily beatings by her own parents so ran away from home. While these stories unite the girls, their passion for sport is an even stronger tie which explains their success on the football field. The team now sits at the top of the country's coveted Girls' Football Cup and has produced five players for the national women's football team.

But it's not just sport that creates such an impact on their lives. The girls go to class in the day to learn skills which both prepare and empower them to find employment, before reporting for sports training in the afternoon, after school.

Unfortunately the Bangwe centre is an exception rather than the norm but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Plans are in place to build a similar centre in the neighbouring district of Thyolo through funds raised by the partnership between Unicef and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games to help children. The partnership will also raise vital funds to further support the centre in Bangwe.

* The Herald and Sunday Herald Children of the Commonwealth series will run over the coming months as the Queen's Baton travels the world on its way to Scotland. As well as bringing our readers inspiring stories from key locations on the baton route, we're also raising money for UNICEF, an official charity partner of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. There are a number of different ways to donate: you can call 0800 044 5777; or you can click on unicef.org.uk/herald; or you can text 'CHILD' to 70111 to donate £3. If you prefer, there is a coupon in the Saturday Herald magazine and in the Sunday Herald. UNICEF is the world's leading children's organisation, working to save and change children's lives.

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