A year ago, it was rare for girls of V.R.P. Chatram community to step out and participate in outdoor activities. V.R.P. Chatram is a semi-rural suburb near Chennai. Its residents are mostly factory or agricultural labourers who travel to Sriperumbudur everyday for work. Girls of this community would often engage with elders to understand the root cause of gender-inequity in their community, and try to subvert it; however, their efforts went in vain.
“There were guidelines set for girls at every age, and we were supposed to adhere to those. I was not ready, but I was unsupported in my quest”, reminisces 19-year-old Kowsalya.
Kowsalya joined Magic Bus a year ago as a Community Youth Leader. She was spotted by Magic Bus Youth Mentor, Kiruba. “Kowsalya came across as an independent, righteous girl who wanted to empower herself and women within her community. However, she had limited support from her community”, says Kiruba.
Magic Bus entered her life at a critical juncture: it gave her the platform that she was looking for years.
“Before I joined Magic Bus, I would give out leaflets to children in my community on gender-equity, healthy practices, and education. They would enjoy reading it but would forget about it in a few days. I soon realised that there was need to reiterate the message and find innovative ways of putting it across as well. Magic Bus’ Sport-for-Development approach was the perfect combination of both”, she explains.
Sports has an easy connect with children. But, to get girls to play alongside boys is always a stiff challenge in communities where the norm is to keep girls indoors. Initial resistance to change, suspicion about Magic Bus’ activities in the community and its underlying purpose always poses a challenge. But, our Community Youth Leaders (CYLs) and Youth Mentors (YMs) are adequately motivated and convinced to take on those challenges and slowly open up the community to support girls participation in sports and activities.
Kowsalya overcame the resistance of her home and community. Not only did she step out of her home, but also motivated and encouraged other girls in her community to do the same. She realised that simply stepping out of homes is not enough – girls had to be made aware of the importance of hygiene, healthcare and education.
Kowsalya is studying Bachelors in Computer Science and working as an agent of change in her community.
There are many more Kowsalya’s whose story you will read about in this blog. But, we must not forget the incredible support of Asian Paints in scripting change in this particular community. Thanks to Asian Paints’ support we’re now able to work with 2400 children in this community – many of whom have unrealized leadership potential lying dormant in them.
Similarly, your donation might help more Kowsalya’s to lead change in her community.
It simply takes Rs.1500 ($25, £15) to help more children like Kowsalya to step out of their homes and become leaders. Support them.