Thursday, August 1

Magic Bus & ITVS putting the power of media to work for women and girls in India

9 Magic Bus youth mentor leaders responsible for training our volunteers in the field were brought together to take part in a new and potentially ground-breaking initiative using the power of media and technology to drive disadvantaged young people to become change-makers.

They were shown a documentary film, the first screening in India by ITVS, about how a group of children challenge dire circumstances in their community, a squatters’ settlement in Kolkata. The idea is to encourage children, girls in particular, to become agents of change, a concept our mentors are familiar with since the Magic Bus sport for development programme is about empowering youth to challenge and break the restraints of tradition and poverty, to rewrite their future.

Through 40 lessons a year delivered to children by youth volunteers living within their own slum communities, the Magic Bus curriculum and its field-tested methodology, focuses on 7 key inter-related domain areas of Health, Education, Right to Play, Gender, Socio-emotional learning, Leadership and Livelihood. 250,000 children from the most marginalised and deprived parts of India are currently enrolled on the programme, with the mission to create long-lasting, sustainable community-wide change taking 1 million children from childhood to livelihood.

Similarly, the film "Revolutionary Optimists" set in the notoriously squalid Rishi Aurobindo Squatters’ Colony in Kolkata, profiles 4 youth living among 9000 slum dwellers, Shikha and Salim, Priyanka and Kajal. Their stories are followed over 5 years to demonstrate the empowerment of children to become educators and advocates for creating sustainable movements in areas such as child labour, sanitation, disease prevention, early marriage and gender. Whilst this award winning, longitudinal documentary is a success story aimed at inspiring monumental change, it doesn’t fail to acknowledge that some of these challenges require even greater levels of determination and patience.

Much like Magic Bus Founder Matthew Spacie, Amlan Ganguly, creator of the NGO profiled in the documentary, Prayasam, is a social entrepreneur and former Ashoka Fellow, who through sheer determination, instinct and passion, single-handedly initiated his programme with the belief that education and child empowerment are crucial keys to lifting entire communities out of poverty. Ganguly’s holistic approach suggests “If you want to start any kind of change, start it with the children… they have the power to become agents of change if their aspiration level is raised to believe that they deserve more. If you change your mind-set, you can change your surroundings. Slowly the children’s consciousness is raised: Why shouldn’t they have access to clean water?  Why should a young girl be forced to choose marriage instead of education and a career?”

Taking the concept of placing youth at the heart of the change-making process seriously, Amlan has gone as far as including children from Rishi Aurobindo on his Board of Directors.

Film trailer

Map Your World
Youth + Technology = Change

“Revolutionary Optimists” profiles “The Daredevils”, a group of young girls and boys who have made a dramatic improvement in the health of their slum community, a place that could not even be found on a map, using innovative new “Map Your World” technology to track polio vaccination rates and water quality.

This potentially radical innovation enables young people in any part of the world to collect and record interactive data and story maps highlighting critical issues through the use of proven technologies including Google Earth, GPS, Android phones, and an open source tool, Formhub.

By mapping and sharing these powerful stories, young people in any part of the world are empowered to become change agents in their own communities.

About the Women and Girls Lead Global campaign

'Women and Girls Lead Global' is a three-year, nine-country, thirty-film media project to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide, created through a public-private partnership between USAID, the Ford Foundation, and ITVS, and in collaboration with CARE. The campaign plan is to create a 10-episode documentary film series each year about women and girls rising above extraordinary circumstances to seek better lives for themselves, their families, and communities.

Abhishek Srivastava (pictured left), India Engagement Coordinator for ITVS, responsible for leading the implementation of the "Women and Girls Lead" project in India talked about the partnership with Magic Bus, "I am excited to understand that our film, Revolutionary Optimists, resonates very strongly with the Magic Bus youth mentor training team. They also see our film as a strong tool to address various issues, including gender, within their communities".

"ITVS and Women and Girls Lead Global have a series of such films that will seek to address gender-based violence with the prism of redefining gender role stereotypes amongst youth and children".

"It is very interesting and disappointing at the same time that the youth mentor leaders and their communities have little understanding of words like masculinity and patriarchy. It makes our task even more important and nuanced. It is about time we use such narratives to prevent gender-based violence".

Excited to share their film with youth worldwide, filmmakers Maren Grainger-Monsen and Nicole Newnham write “We hope that the story will inspire youth to feel empowered as potential revolutionaries, which is why we have developed the multiplatform tool ‘Map Your World’ in partnership with the children in our film - so that youth everywhere can become agents of change in their communities.”

Magic Bus team feedback

Rajni Rani (pictured right), a female Magic Bus youth mentor trainer who watched the RO documentary screening shared her thoughts, “I’m looking forward to using this film in our monthly community youth leader refresher training to motivate my team, and facilitate a discussion around gender. Showing this film within the communities could also have a positive and inspiring impact since so many of the issues raised are relatable to our own such as early marriage, which I myself had to fight against when I was only 15.”

Debjit Paul, a male Magic Bus youth mentor trainer from South Delhi, shared his views on the discussion around using the documentary in their training programme, “I hadn’t heard or understood the term ‘masculinity’ prior to this session and I think it is an interesting topic in terms of its relationship with gender equity and gender-based violence. With further briefing I would like to incorporate this theme into our training, using the documentary as a tool to facilitate the initial discussion among our youth leaders, and where appropriate within the communities we work in.”

Santosh Gupta, another mentor leader from North Delhi commented on the ‘Map Your World’ tool, “I’m keen to explore the potential use of this new technology in the communities we work in to record and track issues, and to use this data to advocate for making changes.”


By Heena Patel, Magic Bus Communications Team