Gender equality is a very important goal for Magic Bus, explains Global CEO Jayant Rastogi
Earlier this month, Lord’s Cricket Ground stadium saw a World Cup match the likes of no other as young boys and girls from the streets across the globe took to the pitch in a 10-team gender-neutral cricket world cup.
On May 7, the day of the final, Team India South filed out of the iconic dressing room and out onto the field that will soon see the ICC Cricket World Cup. And came out victorious against England in the Street Child Cricket World Cup (SCCWC).
“We won the final easily,” recalls 17-year-old Mani Ratnam, who lives in a slum in Mankhurd with his mother and two sisters. “We got them out at 47 runs, and it was an easy score to follow. We played a steady game and won,” adds the young aspiring cricketer.
Mani was able to go to the World Cup as one of the children under the Mumbai-based NGO Magic Bus, an Indian NGO associated with the event.
While the final was a relatively straightforward game, with India South cruising to a victory, the last time that they had faced England in Round 2, the results were markedly different.
“The match dragged till the last over and we lost by just one run,” recalls 14-year-old Mohd Irfan Labbe. “We had underestimated them and played a lackadaisical game. Coach told us afterward that we should never underestimate the opponent.”
And this was not the only lesson they learned. While bringing home the SCCWC trophy is an incredible achievement for children who had no formal training other than the training camps prior to the World Cup, the exposure to different cultures and to the vastly similar issues that street children from across the world have, was equally important.
“We think that in developed countries, there won’t be as much poverty or that street children will be better off. But even there, they have the same issues,” says Parvati Pujari, one of the mentors of the Magic Bus programme, who managed the team’s activities while they were in England.
At a congress, where the children were asked to speak about the issues they faced and suggest solutions, these similarities were highlighted. “I suggested that education should be free regardless of such documentation,”says 14-year-old Shama Siddiqui.
“Gender equality is a very important goal for Magic Bus,” explains Global CEO Jayant Rastogi. “When the girls go and come back, the fathers and brothers support them when they want to play and this builds gender equality within the community. One of the girls said that the boys never let her play with them before, now they call her to come and play. Her father was teaching her how to play cricket.”
While Magic Bus’s entire education programme is tailored around sports, and the NGO delivers sports activity-based sessions in close to 1961 communities and 930 schools in both urban slum clusters and remote rural areas, completion of education is the priority. “We want them to be pulled out of poverty in a sustainable way. Some of them aspire to be cricket players, and we will connect them to the required people,” adds Rastogi.
And one cricket dream, at least, seems to be on the rise. “Veteran cricketer Monty Panesar met us and he took Mani’s contact details,” relates Pujari. “The hope is that he will help him to begin a career at the club level.”
We hope more such dreams continue to come to fruition.