Eighteen-year-old Zia Mansoori (name changed) looks forward to Sunday afternoons. Leaving home on the pretext of college-related work, she meets up with 20 others who have assembled in a room. They slip out of their hijabs, don t-shirts, long socks and shoes and it’s football time.
Encouraged by NGO Magic Bus, these Mumbra girls began their kicking pastime in October last. The game has since become, for them, a metaphor for freedom rather than a mere sport.
Girls playing this male-dominated sport are no longer a rare sight. But in this Muslim ghetto of Mumbra, it is no ordinary feat. Located on the outskirts of Mumbai, this township is home to a large population of communal-riots refugees. Twenty-four per cent of its women are illiterate, 92% don’t work and 28% are married before the age of 17 (Mumbra-a Status Report —TISS, 2011).
Zia’s family doesn’t know she plays football. To preclude confrontation, she finishes her share of household chores — cooking, cleaning and caring for her 2-month-old sister — before leaving for football training. Besides her parents, Zia has four brothers and two sisters. “Abba thinks girls have to stay at home so I don’t tell him I play. He doesn’t even want me to study but I fight and go to college,” she says.
Magic Bus initially intended to train 14-17-year-olds from Mumbra in football. But after the girls voiced their concern about playing alongside boys, the NGO made an exception. It decided to exclusively train girls of all age-groups here. Masood Akhtar, a member of Magic Bus, is the coach.
Aliya Shaikh (16) has got her father’s support but faces resistance from her three brothers and mother. “My father says this is my age for fun and play even though my brothers try to stop me,” she says. Most of the girls’ parents work in the unorganised sector. In many cases, they are single parents. A majority of the girls study through correspondence, as they eke out a living on the side.
If assembling enough girls to constitute a game of football was a challenge, making them stay on was far more complex. “We started distributing pamphlets in schools and colleges urging girls to come for training. Forty girls signed up but the enthusiasm petered out. We are now left with a team of 20 girls,” says Saba from the Forum Against Oppression of Women, one of the social workers. “Finding a ground was difficult too. Finally, we approached a temple trust which agreed to give us a ground that belonged to them.”
Girls’ entry into the grounds has already changed mindsets. Today, Mumbra has even seen a tournament between girls and boys. “Earlier, the boys didn’t let us play on the ground where they played cricket. Now, we play together. We recently had a mixed cricket and football tournament with them,” said Muskan Sayyad, a Class 10 student whose father encourages her to play as a recreation from studies.
For the oldest player, Kausar Ansari (33), Sunday sessions are a stress-buster, especially after her recent divorce. “I would just watch the young girls play until I couldn’t resist stepping onto the field. Now there is no stepping back,” she says. Her 14-year-old son often comes to watch.
Now, equipped with a certain level of skill, fortitude and heightened self-esteem, the girls want to enter professional football. “We want to have our own club and maybe call it the Mumbra Girls Football Club,” says Fatima Mirza (20), who plays the game despite severe opposition from home.
"I, Parvati Pujari, am a National Junior Trainer with Magic Bus in Mumbai. My struggle to reach where I am today is a story worth sharing."
My parents did not really think education was important, not when getting the next meal was of utmost priority, so none of my elder sisters went to school. A small NGO named Sunbeam taught me basics like alphabets and numbers in Hindi. We loved the teachers there because unlike at school, these volunteer teachers paid a lot of personal attention to each child and ensured that their concepts were clear. My curiosity and enthusiasm made me continue attending the classes. My younger sisters used to tag along too. My eldest sister was married off at an early age of 12. If only she had been educated or received proper guidance as I did later in my life, she could have been saved from child marriage.
Thanks for all your support over the past 10 months. Things are moving along at Magic Bus and we're proud to report we're working on a number of really game changing projects. We just finished up a week in Portland at Nike as part of a consortium of thought leaders in the space of physical activity. The report can be found at www.designedtomove.org, and if you browse the case study section, you'll see a spotlight on Magic Bus!
Closer to the programs, we're proud to say that 44% of the 230,000 children in the program are girls today and 98% of girls of adolescent age are attending secondary school regularly, more than double the national average of 46%. We now have position papers out on our theory of change and how it leads to measurable impacts in the areas of health, gender equality, education, and livelhoods. The goal now is clear - help as many children own the ideas that will help them escape poverty.
To this end, we're happy to announce that this project on GlobalGiving is now transitioning to from the girls' exchange program to our core program that impacts more than 100,000 girls on a daily basis.
The focus of this project is to ensure that 4000 girls in India between the ages of 13-16 make it TO and THROUGH secondary school, which will lead to an education, and more importantly, a life free of early marraige and pregnancy.
It will take an average of only $25/year to enroll and ensure a girl in Magic Bus stays in school - how sure are we??? 98% sure!!!
Please do all you can to help us and these girls reach their goals! Donate, spread the word, link us to your social media, reach out to get more info on how you can talk to your school, college, or workplace to see how they'd like to get involved through a number of ways!
Let's get this done together! Wishing you all a very prosperous 2013!
Happy Holiday season to everyone! We at Magic Bus wanted to give everyone an end of year update on the Magic Bus Girls' Soccer Team and some of the great things that have come out of this summer's trip from this side. First off, some great news for Prajakta Tambadkar! Last month, she was selected to be part of the 2012 Maharashtra State U19 Girls' Soccer Team! She will spend the next year competing at national tournaments representing her home state. She gives thanks not only to Magic Bus, but to the entire Julie Foudy Academy Team for helping her hone her skills on the field over the past two summers, the second of which was made possible by supporters like you.Also, in the past few months, Julie Foudy has really gone to bat for Magic Bus by recommending us to speak at the espnW Summit in Tucson in early October. We took part in a Global Perspectives for Women in Sports panel and you can catch the entire 45 min in the attached link below. Some major discussions have come out of that weekend and some really exciting talks about what the exchange program may look like in 2013 and beyond! Two exchange anyone? :-)Finally, we'd like to thank you all for your contributions this year through GlobalGiving. It's been a tough year for so many, which makes your donations that much more meaningful. Thank you for giving these girls a way to be inspirsed and take that energy back home to their families and communities. A reminder that the thank you letters you recieved should serve as your tax-credit receipt for the 2012 tax year.If you or someone you know is looking for an end-of-year cause to donate before the year ends, we kindly request you consider Magic Bus once again! Thanks for your continued support.
Hello Dear Friends,
It's a been a wonderful summer and lots going on with the girls on the Mumbai Team. Thanks to your help, the girls were able to make it to the US this year. And one girl from last year, Gulafsha Ansari, was able to attend the London Olympics, through a program sponsored by McDonald's via the JFSLA. Attached, you'll find a blog by Gulafsha on the Huffington Post from the day she took off from India.
While the Sheetal, Prajakta, Sangeeta, Nagma, and Savita were here in the NYC area in June, we were able to document an afternoon of their trip...listen to them, in the own words...I hope you enjoy!
Link is attached!
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