India's Biggest Skateboard Park In This Village Is Challenging The Caste System And Other Odds
Have you ever imagined small children in a rural village with heels flipping with their skateboard? Something similar is happening in a small village named ‘Janwaar’ (7 km from Panna), Madhya Pradesh. Ulrike Reinhard, a writer by profession, first saw rural India while exploring Khajuraho National Park. She saw the deficient conditions of rural life.
About the village
Janwaar was plagued with caste discrimination, gender bias, illiteracy, alcoholism, bad sanitation, scarcity of clean drinking water, inefficient education system, drought and a lot more. During hot summer months, the temperature touches 45-degree celsius, there is hardly any water – women walk far away to bring water to their homes. There is only one school in the village, which is poorly equipped – no teaching material, no furniture, no electricity. She believed that a sport like skating can break down those barriers and bring people together.
The changes skateboarding brought in the village
Ulrike Reinhard decided to do something. Convinced of the fact that transformational change on a vast scale in rural areas can only be achieved when children are involved in the process. Inspired by the Skateistan project of Afghanistan, which was built to empower women in Afghanistan, she decided to start a social experiment and constructed a skate park in janwaar, called ‘Janwaar Castle’ in March 2015, where kids from the village practice skateboarding.
This very unusual step in the village brought massive changes, in the cast discriminated village, Janwaar. The aim of the skate park, Janwaar Castle is to uplift the children and bring some fun into the lives of kids and let them gain new skills while playing and at the same time develop the village.
Talking to The Logical Indian, Reinhard said, “This village has got more positivity and life than before, children are more self-confident.”
- Caste discrimination
The village mainly constitute of two cast groups one is Yadav, the upper caste and other is Adivasi, the outcast. Though these two groups live in the same village they never talk or have any interaction. Ever since the kids started skateboarding, many things in the villages have changed. The kids no longer care caste, they play and study together and even sleep together.
Initially, there is only one-sided participation from upper caste. Even if the ‘Adivasis’ wanted to participate, they never dared, because of their deeply rooted mindset of them that lower caste people. They used to have different timings. But soon after continuous encouragement, they shared a single platform not just to play but also to learn. At present 50-60 children come every day. There is no formal coach to train the children in skateboarding. Kids learn through youtube videos and through professionals when they were here helping to build the skateboard park.
- Skate Park Rules: ‘No School, No Skateboards’ and ‘Girls First’
When the skatepark started functioning the attendance in the schools fell down drastically. Education in the area is not a priority or concern to parents and kids. Ulrike then came up with two rules: no school, no skateboarding, and girls first.
Whereas the first rule was implemented to drive kids to school and the second was a kind of social movement in itself with the aim to empower the status of girls in these areas. Even the local government school principal cooperated with her and as expected the attendance raised impressively. Children started going to school every day, making it their priority. And Girls are also getting respect.
Ulrike Reinland said,” This skateboard park has put life in this village, and break down many barriers.The skateboard teaches us to fall and rise, take risks and most importantly, maintain balance.”
- Water & Electricity
Every summer the village, Janwaar, faces water problem. To solve the issue Janwaar Castle Community Organisation dug a tube well and installed a solar pump, which is now providing clean drinking water throughout the year. Let it Flow, an NGO helped in repairing the bore wells and also donated 100 water filters that can be attached to the water source and release clean water at the other end. The water filters were distributed to the villagers after demonstrating how they are used. Next the organisation is working on water harvesting in the village.
- Installed solar panels to power
- pump water from the newly constructed tubewell
- Janwaar Castle bamboo house
- Four floodlights at the skatepark
- Employment Opportunities
Currently, Janwaar has 4 homestay options for the people who come to visit Janwaar. The home stays provide stay and food, which cost Rs 250/day. This additional income is helping the families to send their children to schools.
The organisation which started just one and a half year ago in April 2015 have done a lot more work towards the advancement of our society. And is still doing so. Building more model schools in different villages. It is putting forth an example for all of us that we should also take a stand for these people who are in an urgent need of help.
Her message to The Logical Indian, “if we want a better India we have to improve the relation between rural and urban sphere”.
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