Meet Chandni. She’s worked as a street performer and a rag-picker her entire life, and she’s only 18; her life has been a tale of crushing poverty. Shanno, aged 19, dropped out of school in the fifth grade, and spends her days working hours and putting up with her alcoholic father. Seventeen year-old Shambhu spends his days washing cars for a living.
What’s the common thread that holds them together?
These youngsters are just a few of the estimated 51,000 children that live on Delhi’s streets. They are also proud reporters of the world’s first newspaper, run for and by street children: Balaknama (Voice of the Children).
Started in 2003 to help street children narrate their stories and fight for their rights, Balaknama is funded by the NGO- Chetna (Childhood Enhancement through Training and Action), that works for the rehabilitation of street children in and around the national capital.
What’s more, the newspaper employs children who have all either lived in the slums or worked as child labourers, and trains them to be reporters.
“I am very proud to be editing this paper because it is one-of-a-kind-in India. Children whose childhoods have been robbed, have gone hungry, begged, been abused and forced to work write about other children who are going through similar tribulations, says Chandni, the enthusiastic editor of Balaknama.
“It is not only cathartic, but also gives each one of us a sense of purpose. We can only become better from here”, she adds.
The newspaper has also achieved pan-world recognition from the United Kingdom, United States, France, Singapore, and countries across South Asia. Proving that the pen is, in fact, mightier than the sword, Balaknama acts as a ray of hope for children whose lives are destined to the street.
Featured image source: The BBC
Written by Advaitaa Ravi