When street children did not find space among adults, they decided to pen down their issues and glories, an attempt to change people’s perception and ensuring identity, dignity, and participation of street children. Balaknama is an outcome of neglect and injustice to street and working children across the world.
Balaknama is completely staffed by children who live and work on the streets. This 16 page newspaper publishes stories and reports based on the lives of street children. It explores issues like sexual abuse, child labour, police brutality, and also covers feel-good stories.
Launched in 2003 with a few children reporters, today, its network has spread to seven cities across India, with more than 10,000 volunteer children reporters working for Balaknama newspaper.
How they started
On 9th July 2002, a federation of street and working children was formed by 35 children. Together they decided to bring out this newspaper as their voice in September 2003.
“If a Bollywood actor’s dog gets hurt, it will be breaking news and will be covered by all newspapers and channels in India. But when a street kid dies on a railway platform or in an accident, no one seems to care,” said Vikas Kumar (17), one of the reporters of Balaknama.
Vikas ran away from home because of his abusive parents and worked as a rag picker in Delhi for many years. During those days he used to battle with smugglers, robbers and other goons every other day. But today, he is working as a reporter for Balaknama, India’s only newspaper for street children.
Vikas said, “We want everyone to treat street kids as equal citizens and we try our best to get their voice heard.” Another child is Shanno who was earlier working as Editor of Balaknama and now serves as an adviser to the project.
“I came to know about this project with the help of NGO Chetna. I had few sessions where I found that I was not the only one who was deprived of education. There are many children who are willing to get educated but they have to work and support their families financially,” said Shanno.
Shanno said that she got to know about her rights through Balaknama. When she started working for Balaknama she had to face some issues at home. She lied to her parents that she had got a job when she was volunteering for Balaknama.
How they work
It is edited by volunteers of Chetna, an NGO, which works with street and working children. They collect a range of stories- from case studies to social and legal developments concerning the lives of street children. Constant interaction with around 10,000 members helps them to gather stories from streets of 7 districts of North India. It is financially supported by NGO Chetna, with donations and contributions from a wide range of sources, including individuals.
These street children distribute Balaknama among children living on the streets, admirers, ordinary people, in markets, at NGOs, to civil societies and government authorities. All events/opportunities that carry a scope for developing interest amongst different stakeholders concerning the well being of street and working children, are also used for the distribution of Balaknama.
It is published on a monthly basis, originally in Hindi, then translated in to English. Today Balaknama has 5,000 Hindi and 3,000 English copies printed each month. Shanno said, “It has become a means of empowerment for more than 400 street and working children who gave their time since inception.”
Balaknama’s team consists of young children who either lived or presently living life in difficult circumstances. These children have witnessed hardship in life, but their courage has converted them into reporters, who are hungry for change.
The team consist of one adviser, one editor, one sub editor, seven Delhi reporters and 30 batooni (who give lead stories but can’t read or write) reporters. Apart from them, volunteer reporters in all seven states always contribute with their stories too.
Balaknama has been mentioned in Limca Book of records for being the first ever newspaper for street children. Balaknama is gaining its popularity nationally and internationally and it has been reported by various international media houses. Every other day readership of this newspaper is increasing and motivating children working with Balaknama.
To help them with stories or donation contact: Balaknama, 31, Basement, Gautam Nagar, New Delhi – 110049, India. Phone: 011 41644471. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org