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A world of one’s own making: Pournima Bawankar

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“I did not know I could be anything apart from a daily wager, just like my parents,” says 31-year-old Pournima. Pournima went to school. She completed 12th standard and was married immediately after. “I was not allowed to go to college because it was at a distance. There is a lot of fear about young, unmarried girls stepping out of their homes,” she says. Immediately after marriage, the beatings started and continued even after she gave birth to a son. One day, she fled the house, clutching onto her son of barely one-and-half years old, and filed a complaint against her abusers. “After a point, I stopped caring about what he could do to me. I had to make him stop somehow. I had to live for my son.” She returned home and became a target of gossip by her neighbours. Even her sisters-in-law appeared hostile when they learnt she would never go back to her husband.  Isolated in her own home, Pournima decided to work twice as hard as before. “To forget my past and to earn so that no one would blame me for being a burden on my brothers,” she sighs. She worked long and hard hours in the fields for just Rs 100 a day. Around this time Vaishali from Magic Bus came to visit her house. She was enrolling children on the Magic Bus programme and asked if her niece would like to join them for a session. Her brother wasn’t willing to send his daughter out to play with people he barely knew. Pournima suggested she would watch over her niece during the sessions.

During the two hours that she watched her niece play with 24 other young children, Pournima momentarily forgot the nightmarish life she had lived in the last several years. “I laughed. I cheered. I listened. I realised how little of this I did in the last eight years of my life,” she shares.

If someone had told Pournima then that she was about find the calling of her life, she would have laughed it off. But she did volunteer to facilitate the Magic Bus sports-based session with children in the community. She won the love and admiration of the same community that had once shunned her. Although she undertook employability training at Magic Bus Livelihood programme, she didn’t want any job. She wanted to work for Magic Bus and joined as a Youth Mentor in the programme.

She is her son’s hero. The school she worked in offered her son the opportunity to study till Class 12 for free – all in recognition of her work. She also became a School Management Committee member, having been unanimously voted by teachers and parents alike.

Pournima worked hard to secure her own world and paved the way for girls in her community to dream and aspire.