In his 2017 book, Drawdown, Paul Hawken writes:
“Economic barriers include lack of family funds for school fees and uniforms, as well as prioritizing the more immediate benefits of having girls fetch water or firewood, or work a market stall or plot of land. Cultural barriers encompass traditional beliefs that girls should tend the home rather than learn to read and write, should be married off at a young age, and, when resources are slim, should be skipped over so boys can be sent to school instead. Barriers are also safety related. Schools that are farther afield put girls at risk of gender-based violence on their way to and from, not to mention dangers and discomforts at school itself.”
What Hawken is talking about is the exact challenge we are hoping to meet head on through our Blossom Bus program. The girls he describes are much like Kamini, a recent addition to the program and rider on the bus!
From the village Rajpur, India, Kamini is the daughter of farmer, Lal. Lal has a small plot of land and earns a meager living. Neither Lal nor his five brothers were able to study beyond eighth grade. There was no high school in his village and no means of transportation available.
Given his past and current challenges, one would think the idea of educating his daughter would be a far off dream. But not for Lal. When Kamini expressed her desire to study further, Lal was determined to make it happen.
Lal wanted that for his daughter, too–for her to become an educated woman, get a good job, and earn a name for the family. Lal didn’t have the resources to do this, but he was ready to sacrifice whatever necessary for Kamini to go to school. The biggest problem facing them was actually getting her there. Kamini could go, but she would have to walk. It was four kilometers to the nearest school in Solara.
Kamini tried walking to school for several months but, facing problems along the way, Lal arranged to drop her off at school instead. To do so, he borrowed a motorbike from his brother, but could not drop her off regularly as sometimes the bike was not available, and on other times he was busy with the farm.
The result? Kamini ended up staying home for several days a week and for longer durations during the rainy season while the fields were water-logged and it was simply not possible for her to walk on the muddy roads.
Witnessing these problems, Lal became disheartened. He thought his daughter would surely drop out and not able be able to complete her education. Then one day, Kamini came home from school with exciting news.
“Pappa!” she exclaimed, “You’ll never guess. It’s a dream come true! There’s a free bus taking only girls to the Solara School!”
The bus she spoke of? Blossom Bus, of course! Lal was overjoyed, “I am now certain my daughter will complete her education, will go to college and be able to live her dreams!”