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Case story > Magic Bus Programme > Ritu Pawa, Girl, 14 years
Case story > Magic Bus Programme > Ritu Pawa, Girl, 14 years

About Ritu's family and her community

Ritu shares her small home in the slums of Tughlakabad with her 7-member family. Like all their neighbour’s homes, theirs too is a makeshift structure pulled together using plastic sheets and cement. Given the family's financial situation, that is all they can afford. Her father is working as a driver and mother works as a maid.

How did Ritu become a part of the Magic Bus programme?

Ritu was one of the community’s girls who are traditionally discouraged from going to school. Consequently, the child was mostly left to fend for herself. “At first glance itself, you could make out that Ritu was not very well taken care of. She was dirty and unkempt, one of the hundreds of girls who grow up with no future,” says Niraj Kumar from Magic Bus. “As an unschooled girl, she was fated to follow in the footsteps of her mother and become a child bride.”

When Magic Bus started sessions in the area, Ritu was among the group of children who would stand on the sidelines, watching. She soon picked up the courage to talk to the volunteer running the programme here. “I told Bhaiya that my parents will not allow it, but I wanted to be part of the group that seemed to be having so much fun together,” she recalls.

Magic Bus’ staff approached the parents and held meetings to explain that girls playing and studying is not a bad thing at all, in fact, as a child, Ritu’s right is to learn and grow as well as any boy. Her parents eventually agreed, but on one condition: there should be separate groups for girls and boys.

What impact has the programme had on this individual young person's life, and also on the lives of other young people in that community?

One key takeaway for children in the Magic Bus programme is that girls have the same abilities as boys. This was a lesson Ritu learnt herself, as part of the Magic Bus sessions. Within as little as 2 months, she decided to call for a boys-vs.-girls match, at which she invited her parents too,” says Niraj about impact created on Ritu’s life.

Watching all children together on the ground went a long way towards breaking age-old stereotypes about divides along gender lines,” says Niraj. “Ritu explained to her family that nature had not meant for girls to be “the weaker sex” and that given a chance, she could do as well in life as any boy. Her new found confidence was visible to all, not just her parents but her entire community.”

Soon, Ritu became a regular school-goer and an avid learner. With health tips from her Magic Bus mentors, she learnt to take care of her own health and hygiene needs, including basics such as bathing, cutting nails, wearing clean clothes.

Ritu is now part of an advanced development programme at Magic Bus that teaches her English language and computer skills. She continues to be a keen footballer.

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