Having their ear to the ground
We get pushed around and treated like garbage because there is no one to speak for us," says Shambhu, the 17-year-old editor of India's only newspaper named 'Balaknama: voice of children' which is completely written and run by children living in New Delhi's slums.
Balaknama is today an eight-page monthly newspaper with a readership of thousands of people.
The newspaper is considered to be one of the most impressive newspapers that publish stories and reports based on the lives of the street children.
The paper covers a range of serious subjects that highlight the problems faced by Indian street children. It involves issues like sexual abuse, child labour, police brutality and also stories of hope and positive change in the society.
Launched in 2003 with just a few reporters, its network has now spread to several cities in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, with over thousands of children working for the publication.
Jyoti, a reporter of Balaknama who covers South Delhi said, "There was a severe need to give a voice to the children who live and work on the streets. This newspaper has helped us create awareness amongst the readers about the hardships of street children." The first edition of Balaknama was published in the year 2003 in Hindi. Today it is published in both Hindi and in English.
The newspaper allows children to express their stories in their own words to the public. 'Balaknama' is distributed amongst its dedicated clients, children living on the streets, admirers, common people, in the markets, at NGOs, civil societies and government authorities.
"Street children are the subjects and sources of my stories. Unfortunately, their stories are not covered in the mainstream media", said Saurabh, a reporter.
Balaknama: the voice of children has proved to be a platform to the poor children who face hardships in their lives. The newspaper gives them freedom to think, write and express what they feel and experience.
The newspaper priced at Rs 5 has 5000 Hindi and 3000 English copies printed per month. The paper makes no profit and is entirely NGO-funded. The paper involves children who do labour work and also work for the newspaper side by side.
For instance, there are children who clean cars, do household chores, or deliver products in the morning and then attend classes at an open school centre, and in the afternoon work as reporters for the paper. Every new reporter who joins is trained by the older experienced ones at the NGO's residential workshop.
The paper has helped solve many issues especially faced by the girl child living on the streets. "Initially nobody knew who we were, from where we come and what problems we face. This newspaper has given me an identity", said Chetan, who works for the paper.
Balaknama has spread awareness among people on how the street children live and the struggles they face daily to earn a living. "All we wanted was to make people aware of the fact that children like us do exist. We wanted to show them the dark side of the lives of the street children," said the editor of 'Balaknama'.
"We highlight issues like child labour, sexual abuse, etc in order to eradicate it from our society", he added.