18-years old street kid, Chandni is the editor of Balaknama newspaper formed in 2002 in New Delhi. Balaknama (Children’s voice), is the world’s first newspaper to have all the reporting done solely by street children. Funded by the NGO Childhood Enhancement through Training and Action (CHETNA), Balaknama has 30 street children from New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana contributing to it and reporting on various sensitive issues.
“That is what we call an achievement. We realise the importance of education. Reporting our own issues is, in many ways, an eye-opener.” Chandni says.
Voicing out their issues and their struggles has made all the children working for Balaknama aware of their emotions and sensitive to every person’s sufferings.
“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.”
Upon reading the report on child labour in the railway stations, GRP New Delhi Railway Police Station announced to put an end to it and even decided to open schools for the children.
Having had all the harsh experiences from child labour and its problems, the kids have an advantage over adults in revealing the real stories and information. They have had the first-hand experience of everything!
Chandni is a Mathura-born young girl. She came to Noida with her family and helped her father by working as a street artist with him. She danced, walked on the rope and sang to earn a living. After her father’s demise, she started supporting her family by doing all sorts of jobs including, rag-picking, selling toys and flowers, cleaning restaurants, etc.
“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.
Every Balaknama reporter contributes Rs. 5 on a monthly-basis for printing of the newspaper. Every kid’s education is supported by the CHETNA’s sister organisation Badthe Kadam.
Chandni is studying through open school and is in class X now. She dreams of becoming a Radio Jockey when she grows up.
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