UNODC Conversations

India: Cricket Icon Yuvraj Singh extends support to efforts against drug abuse, gender-based violence


New Delhi, India/October 03, 2018: Calling for collective action to address drug abuse and women's safety, India's celebrated cricketer Yuvraj Singh has urged the youth to use sports as a medium to stay healthy and focused. 

In an exclusive interaction with UNODC South Asia, the popular youth icon also emphasised the role of parents and teachers in creating a society that is free from drugs and violence.  

Watch the complete video here: UNODC South Asia/Conversations with Yuvraj Singh  

Following are selected excerpts from the discussion

Q. Over the last two decades, you have brought together millions of Indians through cricket. How has your journey been so far?

Yuvraj Singh: It has been an amazing journey for me, despite the hurdles and ups and downs.

My mantra of 'never give up' has always inspired me and the people around to always fight the odds.

The journey is still going on, and whenever I feel something is coming to an end, a new chapter begins. Something new is always happening in my life.

With regard to cricket, I am still going strong and look forward to playing this year.

Q. Your determination and resilience in fighting cancer was very inspiring and touched a lot of people. Can you tell us about that time and how you overcame that battle?

Yuvraj Singh: That was a very dark period in my life.

I was at the peak of my career and we had just won the 2011 World Cup.

I was the man of the series when this happened, and it triggered a big drop in my career.

I think it is a part and parcel of life, and I certainly learnt a lot from it. Thankfully, I was surrounded by good people around me, especially during the treatment.

I also had the blessings and support of my fans from India and across the world, and that support helped me bounce back and beat cancer.

In the process, I did inspire a lot of people to fight and overcome cancer.

Today, my non-profit organisation, YouWeCan works towards spreading awareness about cancer and reducing the stigma around it. I think we are moving in the right direction.

Q. Coming to social issues, what is your take on the prevalence of drug abuse? What would be your appeal to the youth?

Yuvraj Singh: Indeed, the increasing prevalence of drug abuse among children and youth really concerns me. Much of this is because of lack of education and guidance.

Parents and teachers play a huge role in addressing this issue. In this age of social media, they must speak to their children and students, and understand their problems. It is important to 'Listen First' to children and the youth, as emphasised by UNODC in its efforts to combat drug use.

It is our responsibility to talk about the issue more, and sensitise the young generation. It is also important to shift their focus and energy away from drugs and towards sports, music or studies.

I wish to tell my young friends that drugs can never be the answer to life's problems. My journey is an example: one must never give up, no matter what ups and downs one faces in life. So say no to drugs and stay healthy and fit.

Q. How can sports be used as a medium to keep the youth away from drugs and crime? What values can sports teach the youth?

Yuvraj Singh: I think sports can make a huge difference in terms of getting people out of their adversities. As I said earlier, sports helped me overcome cancer. I am sure people in crisis can find much needed direction and guidance in their lives through sports.

Sports changes the way one thinks because when you play, you stop thinking about your stress and problems. Sports like cricket also teach you a lot about team building and trust, and the need to set goals in life and go after them.

A lot of things direct the youth towards drug abuse: it can be problems with family and friends, or even certain issues in life. If we give them the power of sports, we can change their minds by providing an avenue to channelize their energies constructively.

Q. Sexual violence against girls is another very serious area of concern. How do you feel about this and how important is it to sensitize the public towards women?

Yuvraj Singh: My sensitivity towards women comes from my mother. That is why, I feel very sad when I look at the current situation with regard to women's safety in our cities.

I think it is due to a problem with our education--people who commit such acts are not educated to respect women. It is also about the values that we are brought up with.

It is very important to talk about these issues and educate people that women should be treated equally and given due respect.

We must act together to ensure safety of women. Gender-based violence and sexual assaults against women should have no space in 21 st century India.

Q. Your initiative, the YouWeCan foundation has been driving social change across India. What was the drive behind it?

Yuvraj Singh: I started my own cancer charity, YouWeCan in 2012, when I came back from my treatment. By playing on my name, 'Yuvi', it made sense to say 'You and We Can' come together to fight cancer.

Since I underwent my battle with cancer with a lot of support, I could feel the pain of others going through this ordeal and therefore, felt the need to establish an organisation to do something for the society and make a difference.

Cancer treatment is very expensive. We try to create funds for people, but we get almost 300 enquiries for treatment every month, which makes things difficult for us.

At the moment, we have very small goals but I am proud of all that we have done, as a team. We have about 50 students who have been cured of cancer and we are taking care of their complete education.

Q. What are your thoughts on UNODC's work? 

Yuvraj Singh: It is always an honour to be associated with the United Nations. Partnerships with the UN through agencies such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime are very important and welcome.

It gives us a global platform to talk about issues such as cancer and drug abuse, as well as challenges pertaining to youth and women, which are important and must be talked about.

I extend my support to UNODC's work in the region and look forward to working together to promote security, justice and health in South Asia.


(As told to Mr. Samarth Pathak, Communications Officer, UNODC South Asia)


(Disclaimer: All photos sourced from official social media accounts of Mr. Yuvraj Singh, with permission.)