18-year-old Sushmita from Dharavi in Mumbai is currently studying for her final year exams at SNDT College in Mumbai. She has been taking part in the Magic Bus programme for the last seven years.
Sushmita lives with her parents, grandmother, two sisters and a brother. Her mother works at a garment factory sewing buttons for which she earns Rs. 4500 (£48) a month. Her father works as an in-home nurse earning Rs. 4000 (£43) a month. Sushmita and her older sister help to support the family by taking part time jobs at festivals selling items at stalls. Her grandmother is very old and needs constant care. Her elder sister is studying at Kaleena University while her younger siblings are in the 9th and 11th standards respectively.
When Sushmita and her siblings were very young, her father married again. The other family lives in Badlapur in Thane and her father uses half his income to support them. The second family causes constant fights between her parents and a tense environment at home.
Attending Magic Bus sessions gave Sushmita the chance to forget about all the difficulties in her life. She found herself waiting for Fridays when she could learn all about this new sport, football. At first her aunt objected to her wearing shorts for the session and even stopped her from attending the sessions but her mother always supported her and helped her find a new route through their community to get to the sessions.
The real opportunity for Sushmita came when she was chosen to travel to the USA for a training workshop as part of the Magic Bus Football Team. Many people in her community could not even locate the USA on a map and yet she was travelling there. This made her the talk of the community and gave a new found hope to all the girls.
On returning from her trip, Sushmita’s popularity soared and she decided to put it to good use. She volunteered to become a Magic Bus peer leader in her community and she chose child marriage as the issue she would actively campaign against. A friend of Sushmita’s had been married really young, a common practice in her community, and this had a huge impact on her and led to her deciding to raise her voice against this practice. She got in touch with the other NGOs working in her community and planned street plays highlighting the dangers of child marriage.
In her plans for the future, Sushmita wishes to master the English language so that she can hold a conversation fluently in English. Once she has achieved this she hopes to make a career in marketing or as a football coach. She has nothing specific in mind but wants a job which will give her a comfortable life and a salary which is enough to support her family.
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