Bamni village is located in Maharashtra, India and is home to 1000 people, including 184 children. They earn their living either working as farmers and domestics or running small businesses. Of the 700 households in the village, 35% hold a Below Poverty Line card and a similar number of residents live in semi-constructed mud houses.
Bamni has a large population of Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), nomadic tribes and Other Backward Classes (OBCs). There are a few brick houses and cottages but the majority are simply shacks made from twigs and leaves. The primary occupation here is agriculture with most of the residents working as labourers in neighbouring fields.
The village has a Marathi-medium primary secondary school with classes till the tenth standard; children who want to study further have to travel to the block-level school which is at a distance of 5kms. The nearest government-run primary healthcare centre is similarly distant; an auxiliary nurse- midwife visits the village once a week for free health check-up.
The main problem faced by inhabitants of Bamni is the shortage of toilets. Only 30 per cent of the villagers have access to toilets in their home. Others defecate in the open.
158 children in Bamni are part of the Magic Bus programme running in their village since 2010.
These programmes have helped several children like Kajal Gedam stand on their own feet, overcome their insecurities and find self-respect despite adverse circumstances.
Kajal’s parents work as farm labourers, making no more than INR 3000 a month. She joined the Magic Bus programme when she was 9. She went to school and had some friends, but was terrified of playing in front of people, especially the boys in her village.
When the Magic Bus team took her under their wing, they began counselling her about gender equality, explaining that she too was a strong and intelligent person who shouldn’t be afraid of anyone. The team made an effort to reinforce this belief through various games and sessions. They encouraged her to participate in games with a mixed team of girls and boys. In time, she grew confident of herself and overcame her apprehension.
Today, she is 12 years old and regularly participates in community sports and activities with all her friends. Her remarkable performance during a recent sports tournament won her praise from the entire village. Kajal’s parents are thrilled at her growth through the Magic Bus programme and have enrolled her younger brother as well.
Kajal’s new-found confidence has changed her life and given her the power to dream of a brighter future. She plans to complete her college education and earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.
A few of the areas of behaviour change addressed by Magic Bus volunteers and mentors include:
• Importance of personal and environmental hygiene
• Equal treatment of boys and girls
• Importance of education
• Respect for elders
Sessions are held every Wednesday from 8 am to 10 am, and are divided in three parts: