Reporting has made children sensitive without being marred by the mainstream ideologies

This is Chandni a street kid-turned-newspaper editor all of 18 years oldImage: Chandni, editor of Balaknama
Flix Monday, October 05, 2015 - 16:18

A few months ago Chandni was taken aback when one of her colleagues said that there was no need to bring out a colourful newspaper.

“A person in the editorial meeting suggested we should try including coloured pages to make the newspaper attractive. But Raju, a reporter, countered the suggestion saying: When the life of the street children is not colourful then why should the newspaper be?” she said.

 

Balaknama: 'Reality bites' stories told and its impact is felt

It was when Raju said this, that Chandni realised how reporting and voicing out problems have made the children sensitive without being marred by the mainstream ideologies.

Chandni is 18-years old and is the editor of Balaknama newspaper in New Delhi. Her colleague Raju is 12 years old. “That is what we call an achievement. We realise the importance of education. Reporting our own issues is, in many ways, an eye-opener,” she said.

Formed in 2002, Balaknama (translated in English as Children’s voice), is the world’s first newspaper for which the reporting is done solely by street children. It is funded by NGO Childhood Enhancement through Training and Action (CHETNA). It has about 30 street children from New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana reporting on issues.

“It is our perspective that we put forward unlike in the mainstream newspapers, where adults report child-related issues in which the focus is on the statistics. Most importantly, it makes us aware of our rights, which is very empowering and has a positive impact in our self-esteem, “she added.

After reading Balaknama’s report on child labour in railway stations, the GRP New Delhi Railway Police Station not only decided to put a full stop to it but also opened a school for the children.

Speaking about other actions from government, Chandni said, “When I told the reporters that after reading a Balaknama report, the government had planned to build houses for children living in makeshift tents under flyovers, one of the reporters criticised the initiative.”

He told Chandni that if the government wanted to really see the children off the streets, it wouldn’t build houses on the streets.

Reporting children's issues the 'right way'

Having been exposed to the harsh realities of child labour and problems, these children have an advantage over adult reporters, when it comes to pulling out information.

Born in Mathura, Chandni moved to Noida with her family. Her first job was as a street entertainer when she was only 10 years old. “Many children start at an age younger than this,” she said.

She would accompany her father and put up small shows in which she would perform stunts like walking on a rope, dancing, singing etc. After her father passed away a few years later she had to support a family, as what her mother earned through her tea-shop was not sufficient.

Let alone being taught work skills, the children on the streets are just told by their parents that they need to work if they want to have a square meal. 

“We have to find small jobs to survive on our own. Many choose become rag pickers because that is the easiest. Others work in restaurants as cleaners. Some sell roses, toys, flags etc. in the traffic signal. I have done all these jobs,” she said.

Currently, Chandni is studying through open school. She is in her tenth grade now.

Every Balaknama reporter contributes Rs. 5 per month for printing of the newspaper and their education that is provided by the CHETNA’s sister organisation Badthe Kadam. 

Apart from wanting to become a radio jockey, Chandni dreams of a day when every state in India would take up this initiative.

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