Monthly Archives: July 2019

From Participants To Co-Researchers, Adolescent Girls Explore The Meaning Of Their ‘Voices’

The discourses surrounding the Indian education system have focused on the voices of the stakeholders – policy makers, activists, education experts and specialists, teachers, and parents, ignoring the insights and suggestions of those who experience it firsthand – children.

An independent researcher, Jahanara Raza, studying at Cambridge University took on the mandate of exploring the meaning of ‘voice’ with 13 adolescents from Tughalakabad Extension, New Delhi, delving into the meaning of voice, how it connects with their understanding of learning, with questions and thoughts not many have probed into – Do we really know how students feel about their education in India? How do they think about their learning? What do they understand by the concept of a voice?

Using the method of PhotoVoice, a mix of photography and visual arts, as a medium to provide a platform to the voices of adolescent girls, she collaborated with an Arts Organization called Slam Out Loud and conducted workshops over the course of 12 days, that transformed these young girls from mere participants to active co-researchers.

The adolescent girls between the ages of 14-17 years, who came from different religious, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, had one uniting factor – they all attended the neighbourhood government school and felt frustrated that nobody was listening to what they think, feel and want. And that was the starting point of their metamorphosis in discovering their ‘voice’.

The project began at the initiation of the researcher to collect empirical evidence to build a case for the potential of student voices to transform the education system. In the end, it evolved into a collaborative effort where each student facilitated group discussions, questioned each other on how they discovered the meaning of their voice and eventually co-created images describing their voice. They even designed their own image release form and selected the content on their own for each photograph.

I think the tipping point in the process began to happen when the professional photographer, Aaditi Kulshreshtha, came to do a workshop with the girls. Each one began sharing aspects of that one incident that was connected to both their voice and their learning. This could be a moment where they found out they don’t have a voice or understood it’s meaning or raised it against an oppressive force. It was heart-wrenching to hear stories where violence was inflicted, their agency was taken away or crucial opportunity denied. It was unfortunate that they learned to have a voice in the face of denial and oppression. It is inspirational to see how each one of them took their personal stories and transformed them into pieces of art. For me, that was the most satisfying aspect of the project- to see them visualize their stories. I find it completely bizarre that our system doesn’t understand that students will be ill-equipped to learn the basics of Maths and Science, if they don’t have a space to reflect on these life-defining incidents. How can one be open to new things when the daily fight against mental baggage and societal constraint weighs one down?” says Jahanaara at the completion of this project.

The outcome of the “Project Vastavikta – The brave hearts of Delhi can be best articulated by the following photographs.

ALBIA

ANJALI

“The big block represents my big dreams but when I started growing up people started questioning them. Those thoughts, questions are breaking my dreams( broken pieces represents that).”

LAXMI

“These are my slippers that are showing the struggle and hard work. Just like my parents do. I also presume that these slippers conditions are showing poverty along with the commitment to work.”

MUSKAN

NAGMA

“My definition of voice is to express my feelings and keep on learning new things.”

POOJA

“This image indicates that similar thing, that I told you in the previous picture, it is just trying to show that all the efforts, people, experiences of every thing top to bottom from opportunities to values.i learned from school, it all started from school.”

PREETI

“This picture symbolize my confusion in life, that I don’t know where to go. When I was a kid, my parents used to told, that this is right for you and this is wrong for you. That has made me lose my choice, what I want to choose, what I like to do, what I want to do. All of them. Family given me direction, go there or go here, be this or be that. Society told-you is meant to be a household lady. They have decided my life by their own selves. I want to be a housewife? No, not all. I am meant to achieve something big, something great. That would help me grown up and develop, and help others to grow up, find their voice. This picture symbolizes I have lost my voice- where am I? Very confused. running here and there. Finding a way where to go. Where is my choice? Where is my decision? Everyone has given my instructions. Study, marry and become old. They told me, have decided my life already. Then what to say about me? where is my choice? did they ask before they had decided my life? Did they ask what i like to do and where I want to go? where I want to be? I am hanging on twigs of a tree, just not finding myself. Just a forcement and decisions of my societies and my family, none of them. Where am I? very confusing. Hanging on twigs with my slippers, being so confused about where to go and lead my life.”

PRIYA

“My reflection is showing; this shows like we had read before, 10th class syllabus in some poems- we should never remember our past because we always feel sadness. Whether our past is good or bad, sadness always comes on our face. On the first day of the project, when we made our journey chart about our learning, on that day we shared our chart with each and this brought me to this realization. We should remember our past sometimes. If we remember it, they help us learn things in the future, what we can fix and what we can leave behind. This reflection helps us to make things better.”

SANA

“Where she is sitting it shows that I am still confused and thinking where my life is leading me.”

SHABNUM

“What voice means to me? I clicked one photo from this learning journey, which I was attending. One foot was showing a man who never went to school, saw it’s face or knew the meaning of school. He never pushed himself towards education. Other shows, the foot of a child wearing school shoes, she/he is going to school now, and she/he is willing to learn, even new things, which was helping them to make their future better. My first picture represents, related to my voice. Seeing these two feet taught me the meaning of education, and what it really means/ how it helps us. I want to explore this to the public, to show how education is most compulsory for everybody. Government is working very hard to change the education system, every class has a lot of things where they will be able to understand things better.” 

SHIVANGI

“For me voice is something which make me more confident and courageous for example if we are struggling with any situation . if we are having we are having any problem than we have that much courage to speak up for it and reaise our voice . and protect us from bad person if wrong things happining with us . and we not find it good and not feeling comfortable than we have to brings our voice”

LAKHU

Slam Out Loud uses art forms like poetry, storytelling, visual arts, and theatre to help children from disadvantaged communities find their voice through creative expression.

View media coverage by Indian Express, Youth Ki Aawaz, NDTV and The Hindu

#LittleHumans Of Ahmedabad Share Serious Health Hazards Of Living Near Pirana Dumping Ground

Children at Brighton English School getting ready for their presentation. (Photo- Shahnawaz, TFI fellow)

The Pirana dumping ground, spread over 84 hectares has been Ahmedabad’s major dumping ground since 1982. The landfill comprises three 75-feet massive mounds of garbage. People living in close proximity of this dumping ground are constantly breathing polluted air, living amidst toxic waste and therefore surrounded by hazardous conditions. Children residing at the dump are left with no open spaces to play and do not attend school as they end up working at the dumping ground to assist their families in making a living.

These were some of the pressing concerns with which eighth 12-year-old students in Ahmedabad, living in close proximity to the dumping ground decided to understand the depth and scale of problems associated with this place. 

Mentored by Shahnawaz, a former Teach For India fellow, these boys also applied concepts of design thinking to their research project, are were invited by the Indian Institute Of Management, Ahmedabad to share how design thinking could be used as a problem solving tool. 

This #LittleHumans series is in collaboration with City As Lab, an organization that promotes original research and inquiry amongst India’s students, in a systematic, supportive manner, stemming from the belief that there is a researcher in every child.

Read to know more about their insightful findings.

Q) What is this research topic you chose?

A: We wanted to understand the contamination of soil at the dumping ground, the level of pollution and link it to the health hazards people face while living in the vicinity There were many layers to this topic- first the garbage itself, then the health hazards, then the mafia that works here along with the rag pickers who get income from working at the dumping grounds. It was important to understand the level of contamination before we conducted surveys with people.

Q) Why did you pick this topic?

A: All of us have grown up in this area and that’s why this topic is close to our heart. Often, people have normalised living around the dumping ground and remain ignorant of its adverse effects. We discussed three to four topics before we finalised researching on the Pinara dumping ground.

Q) The findings in your paper say that 53 % of the people who live within a 1 km radius of the dumping ground went to visit the doctor 3 to 5 times in a month. Can you tell us more about these findings?

A: Yes, that’s correct. We conducted a survey with 250 households living in the community and asked several questions around their health. Most children visited the doctor 3 to 5 times in a month and were facing respiratory diseases. Health concerns such as cold, cough, fever and respiratory diseases were common with people living at the dump yard.

Q) In the abstract you mentioned the complex issues of the dumping garbage and the need to make a mind map to prioritise which issue to focus on. Can you tell us more about the process of creating this mind map?

A: We wrote the pros and cons of all the issues around the garbage dump such as the Garbage Mountain, health hazards, children not attending school, the role of the government etc. Eventually, we started to prioritise the issues and once that was done, it was easier to find a connection between all of the sub topics. This helped us to design the structure and the approach to the entire study. For the survey, we used the field stage that helped us to come up with our problem statement.

Q) What concerned you the most from the findings?

A: Everything was a concern! The garbage mountain that was piling up was nothing more than toxic waste which added to the health hazards. The sad part is that not everyone can afford to move to a better and cleaner environment. Some of us know that the garbage dump is a problem and yet we have normalised it all.

Q) Can you share some anecdotes/stories of what people who lived close to the dumping ground had to say? What about the children in the neighbourhood community?

A: People were curious to know why we wanted to learn about the garbage dump and how our research will help them. A few people from the community were anxious and did not want to sign a consent form for the survey, others did not take us seriously and yet there were families who were keen to look for solutions.

We found that children were not attending school, would sometimes work at the dumping ground as rag pickers, and also suffered from health ailments.  This made us sad. Why should children go through this?

Q) What actions did you come up with to reduce the dumping of garbage?

A: We suggested that all kinds of waste be segregated – plastic waste, wet and dry waste, industrial waste and medical waste. We also think that the waste that is being dumped needs to move in a more systematic manner to different areas in smaller pockets rather than being dumped at one place.

Q) What did you find in terms of living conditions of children at the dumping ground?

A: Children do not even have a playground and they use the garbage dump, the only place available to them to play sports. Now you only tell us, how can this be a happy place for any child? We all like to play in the open, but here, we do not have any such space. We also came across children who did not attend school due to the poor quality of education. Even health conditions of children were not so good. We also found that children often complained of fever, headaches and cold and respiratory diseases.

Q) One of Asia’s largest dumping grounds is in Mumbai, Deonar. The Human Development Index(HDI) is the lowest. 50 % of the children are malnourished and live in hazardous circumstances. Did you know about this?

A: We do not know about the dumping ground in Mumbai. However, we did come across malnutrition in the dumping ground here. Children as young as 5 were weak and we could even see their bones. We also came across children who had rashes all over their bodies and others who were born with deformities. For us, these health hazards were alarming.

Q) Many children work at the dumping grounds and are unable to go to schools. What do you think is a solution to enable children to attend school?

A: Why can’t the rich people contribute to schools in slum communities so that more children feel like attending the school? The government should balance the facilities in the public and private schools. Tell me, even when children attend school, how many of them understand what the teacher is saying?

We believe, if children are provided with a happy environment, everyone will automatically feel like attending school. We also know that education is the right of every child irrespective of how much their family earns.

Q) Have you shared your findings with your peers, neighbourhood and the community? What did they have to say?

A: We got mixed response from people from the neighbourhood and community. Some of them were curious; others did not take us seriously. We are children after all, right? However, we were appreciated by our school for undertaking this research. For us, the best part was when we presented the findings to our school teachers and they encouraged us to dig deeper. Our teachers took the survey findings to their families and they gave us positive feedback. We are so happy!

Q) What’s next? How do you plan to take your research findings ahead?

A: We want to hold a press conference so that the media covers the issue of the dumping ground and hazardous waste, with seriousness. We believe this will also put pressure on the government. You know, the government talks about Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and a clean India, but why doesn’t the government first clean the heaps of dump? We shall be looking at filling a Public Interest Litigation to know more about the violations of rules for having the dumping ground close to the houses of people.

Little Humans is a volunteer driven photo project based on the belief that the littlest people have the biggest stories to tell. You can contribute too. Share a story, volunteer with us or simply leave a comment on our blog. For more such stories, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

#LittleHumans Of Shiv Nadar Public School In Delhi Find Simple Solutions To Prevent Air Pollution

Go Vert team using bamboo to grow trees. (Photo- City As Lab)

At Shiv Nadar Public School in Gurugram, almost every classroom has an air purifier installed to prevent children from the rising air pollution in Delhi. At school, children of all ages, come wearing masks, equipped to protect themselves from breathing impure air.

These alarming and urgent concerns rattled four Class 12 students- Palak Modi, Disha Zatchi, Soumya Juneja and Ira Sidhu who took on the challenge to find a solution to this pressing problem. They started by applying a simple, cost-effective and sustainable solution – Go Vert, to reduce air pollution in their school premises.

This #LittleHumans series is in collaboration with City As Lab, an organization that promotes original research and inquiry amongst India’s students, in a systematic, supportive manner, stemming from the belief that there is a researcher in every child.

Read to know more about their insightful findings.

Q) Why did you want to take on a research study?

A: Our teachers told us about City As Lab and asked if we’d like to participate in a year-long research study. The idea to conduct a study in real time, come up with a problem statement and find solutions to the problems around us, seemed interesting. Some of us in the group are trained Kathak dancers and often spend are free time rehearsing, this was something different for us to take on, besides studying.

Q) What is the research topic you explored? How did you arrive at Go Vert as the study topic?

A: Air, the most important element to sustain life on Earth, is now getting severely polluted. This also has adverse effects on our health. We wanted to see how natural purifiers helped to reduce air pollution, and therefore took on the task of testing the effectiveness of plants over air purifiers in our immediate surroundings i.e our school campus.

There were multiple reasons we chose to research this topic. Firstly, it is not something that is on everyone’s agenda. The situation has become so alarming that most places in our school have air purifiers installed. However, despite the air purifiers, children would come wearing a mask and not go to a playground to play. They were scared of the pollution outside the classroom environment. This was disturbing to know and see. Another reason to take on this topic was because Disha from our group has asthma and she too would wear a mask to school. She had to shout to make her own voice heard as most times the other person was unable to hear what she was saying. I mean, this does not even make sense, right?

All of these reasons gave us a strong push to choose this topic over any other.

Q) Can you tell us more about Go Vert and why you chose the name?

A: Vert means green in French. So, the literal translation was Go Green and hence we came up with the name “Go Vert”. If you see, Vert is also the prefix of the word vertical. Since we were planting vertical vegetation in our school, it fit perfectly!

Q) In the introduction of the abstract you mentioned “Sooner or later, we shall have to realise the earth has rights too, to live in a safer environment, to be able to breath.” Please elaborate.

A: We consider earth as ‘being’ with equal rights, just as we humans have. We share resources with Earth and we have to give respect to the earth for the natural resources it provides for us. The Earth is our home. We should not exploit Earth or our future generation and keep over-using or ill-treating its resources.

Q) If the earth has rights, does that mean you have rights as a citizen too? And do you have rights as a child?

A: Yes, we too have rights as citizens and as children! We think the Right to Education, Right to Survival, Right to Protection from harm and abuse, Right to Participation, Freedom of Expression are some of the basic rights of children.

Underlying all of these is the right to be heard and ensure we are protected and this is why we live, right?

Q) Tell us about the experience of studying air quality? What did your findings tell you?

A: For starters, we first understood what Air Quality Index (AQI) meant. For instance, if the AQI of Delhi reached 250, what does this actually mean? We kept reading these figures in the media. How polluted is the air? We went back to basics and also got Air Quality Monitors to study the AQI in our school. We understood that AQI keeps changing depending on the weather and other external factors such as proximity of factories and chemicals around us. That in itself was an eye-opener.

Q) We all know that plants act as natural air purifiers. ‘Grow more plants’ is what we have been hearing and yet it isn’t achieved entirely. What did your study indicate?

A: It is time to go back to the basics! One of the easiest things is to put up a machine instead of using what is naturally available to us. What we need right now is cost effective, and sustainable solutions by using the natural resources already available to us. Our study told us that plants act as natural purifiers and it will only benefit us if we went back to the natural resources available to us to solve pressing issues.

Q) What difference did you find in the air quality level after you placed plants in your school?

A: For about two months, we planted trees in our school and found a drastic change in the level of AQI. We used Air Quality Monitors to test the same. We saw a 15-20 % reduction in the PM level, an air pollutant found in the air. With monitoring the AQI, we concluded that plants help reduce the AQI level drastically.

Q) Have you shared your findings with your friends, school, and neighbourhood?

A: Yes, we have been passionately working on the project and love having conversations, spreading awareness and asking everyone for their feedback. We feel that it is a collective responsibility to protect the environment around us so that our future generations will be able to have cleaner air.

Q) Do you know about the odd-even scheme that the Government of Delhi rolled out as a way to reduce air pollution in the city? What do you know about its success and failure?

A: We think it is a controversial scheme because in a vast and diverse country like India the odd even-scheme cannot run in the long run. One cannot prevent vehicles from being on the road. Even though the scheme did better in the first phase, the AQI did not reduce drastically in the next round. Our research told us that there are many parameters by which the AQI can show us a change in the levels.

Q) What did you learn about plants, the environment, air pollution, and damage to the climate, through this research?

A: We always underestimated the capacity or ability of plants. Besides producing oxygen, they not only improve the air quality but also have some therapeutic effects on the person who is occupying the room. It pacifies the mood, calms and relaxes people. Some plants also help to keep insects away. Some of the plants we put in school were the Snake Plant, Aloe Vera, Spider Plant, Peace Lily , Lemon Grass, and Basil. For instance, the snake plant gives us oxygen 24/7. It is a natural purifier, Basil and Lemon Grass keeps ants, flies and mosquitoes away.

Q) Is climate change and its effects a topic of conversation at school, at home or with your friends?

A: Yes. Now, after our research study, we do that all the time! After planting vertical vegetation in the school, we also have got the same plants at our home. In a city like Bangalore, vertical vegetation is popular and we hope to take this to apartments in Delhi too. We also keep discussing how to take this project ahead and keep sharing with our parents and friends on our future plans.

Q) What were some of the interesting things you learnt that you never knew before?

A: There were so many interesting things. We never knew what terms such as AQI actually meant. We did not even know how to measure AQI. Now, we have a deeper understanding of how this works and it was fascinating to become aware of the air we breathe!

Q) What was difficult about this research?

A: Air pollution is a topic not everyone wants to dig deeper into. To choose this topic, convince everyone why it is important, and to understand the hazards of air pollution remained a challenge.

Q) A WHO report in 2014 listed 10 of the 15 most polluted cities in the world, in India…No 1 being Delhi. It also highlighted that children were at the greatest risk. Did you know that?

A: Yes, we are aware of the WHO report that said Delhi was the No. 1 polluted city in the world, which is why there is an urgent need to work on effective solutions. We are aware of the risks children face. We at least got a chance to be outdoors and play in the open, but we feel bad for children younger than us, who prefer being indoors than outdoors.

Q) Your report stated that children could not go out to play in playgrounds because of air pollution. How did you feel about that?

A: A large part of our childhood revolves around play and it was sad for us to see children sitting indoors, listening to music than going out. We don’t think anyone should have a childhood like that!

Q) If you had to appeal to the country/ world leaders (on behalf of other children too) to ensure your right to clean air was fulfilled, what would you say to them?

A: We think the UN is doing a good job while talking about Climate Crisis and air pollution. However, the need of the hour in India is to use sustainable long term solutions which are cost effective. We’d like to support them and collaborate with the government on this!

We strongly feel that making bullet trains by cutting down trees may lead to development, but it will never create a balance in the environment or produce clean air. The government needs to relook at the things it does in the name of development. Simple things like planting trees in big volumes can go a long way in protecting the environment.

Q) What are you plans/ actions after the research? How are you going to share your findings with people outside of school so that air pollution can reduce in your city? Tell us your ideas.

A: We are in talks with different NGOs and would like to work with them to provide eco-friendly solutions. This will also help us take our work further as we also want to create green spaces in apartments and societies in Delhi and Gurugram.  We shall also be participating in the Google Science Fair which will give our research a big boast! Planting a tree is a simple thing and can go a long way.

Little Humans is a volunteer driven photo project based on the belief that the littlest people have the biggest stories to tell. You can contribute too. Share a story, volunteer with us or simply leave a comment on our blog. For more such stories, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

#LittleHumans Of Parel Unravel Living Conditions Of Animals At Byculla Zoo

Shreya, Akanksha and Tanvi with their street pet dog at a community temple in Parel (Photo- City As Lab)

When three friends Shreya, Akanksha and Tanvi discovered that they could turn their city into a laboratory, research on issues that concerned them and their environment, it felt as if they landed at the right place at the right time.

Driven by their love for animals, the trio took up a 9 month long exploration, to probe and investigate the plight of animals at their neighbourhood zoo. They undertook the entire research design and delivery process themselves, attempting to meet the zoo authorities on different occasions, to gather first hand data.

Their research project was built in a way to derive responses for the question “Is Jijamata Udyan (Byculla Zoo in Mumbai) capable of keeping animals in the zoo?” that translated into a report – Jijamata Udyan: Paradise or Prison? which reflected their perspectives, observations and solutions on how to make a zoo that was safe for all the animals.

This #LittleHumans series is in collaboration with City As Lab, an organization that promotes original research and inquiry amongst India’s students, in a systematic, supportive manner, stemming from the belief that there is a researcher in every child.

Read to know more about their insightful findings.

Q) What was the reason you choose this research topic?

A: We all love animals. In our group, we have had about 7 cats as pets, Shreya here wants to become a veterinarian and all the street animals are her pets- she has named the cats Peri, Kitty, Meow Meow. So that’s why we were naturally drawn to the topic. But apart from this, we read in the newspaper that the Byculla Zoo had recently kept Penguins are we were curious to know if the weather conditions in Mumbai were suitable for them. We had visited the zoo during our Diwali vacations, when we read that the baby Penguin died and this made us really sad!

You tell us, how can Penguins live in the humid weather of Mumbai? This made us dig deeper to understand the condition of other animals that were kept in the zoo. Was the zoo capable of following all the guidelines for the existing animals and taking care of them? This led us to explore and choose this topic- Is Jijamata Udyan capable of keeping animals in the zoo?

Q) What did your research study tell you about the zoo and the conditions of the animals?

A: We went to 25 cages and visited the zoo at least fifteen times in 9 months. The first thing that caught our attention was the portable water kept for animals. It was not clean and had turned green. We realised, this was not good for the health of the animals. Would we drink green water? So why keep it for the animals? The Central Zoo Authority  has come up with guidelines and rules that every zoo has to follow. For instance, every zoo needs to have two veterinarian doctors and we found that the zoo has only one doctor. However, whenever we tried to meet her, we were told she was either on leave or not available to meet. We tried meeting her at least 10 times.

Q) You quoted from a research study which stated that 86 percent people felt the zoo is not safe. Can you tell us more about this?

A: It was a newspaper article where a local corporator had conducted a survey to ask the opinion of people which said that 86 percent of people who had visited the zoo felt that the zoo is not safe for the animals. That apart, statistics and an RTI filled by an activist told us that the zoo popularly known as Rani Baug lost the highest number of animals in the past six years in 2016-17. Besides, 77 animals, birds and reptiles perished over the past year. We had to rely on secondary data and our observations because no authority wanted to meet us.

Q) You have stated that more than 5000 people visit the zoo every day and the officials do not have the capacity to keep the animals safe? Can you elaborate?

A: It is not just the officials that are at fault, even the visitors who come to the zoo are not mindful of the animals. People were disturbing the animals and teasing them while they were asleep. That apart, cats too were kept in cages in the zoo. This is a violation of rules as domestic animals cannot be kept in cages. The elephant in the zoo kept on swinging his trunk and was not able to stay still. Later, we got in touch with a zoologist who shared with us that the elephant was unwell and that was a reason he could be swinging his trunk. We observed that the birds always had their beaks open and did not have drinking water around them. It was a gross violation of so many rules set by the Zoo Authority of India.

Q) What did the government funding towards the infrastructure in the zoo, food for animals, and the salary of the staff look like? Did you identify any gaps there?

A: Everything was a mismatch at the zoo as it did not seem like the government funding had reached the zoo officials. The zoo had many vacant posts that were never filled and the infrastructure was not up to the mark.

We understand that it can’t always be an ideal situation, but then, why get penguins in the zoo if you can’t keep the existing animals safe? This is just violating the rights of animals and harassing them.

Q) In the research study, you said you tried to meet the officials thrice but they refused to meet you. Why do you think this happened? 

A: Well, the zoo authorities were scared because a lot has been spoken about them in the media. They did not want to talk to us with the fear of losing their job. We also felt that because we did not have authority and were children, they felt like they were not answerable to us.

Q) What are your plans to take the study ahead?

A: We want to ensure that animals are protected in the zoo. We created a Facebook page to spread awareness but as we got busy with our studies, we did not get the time to follow up. We will start the page again to talk about love for our animals and try to create conversations around the reality at Byculla Zoo.

Q) What message you would want to give to children who visit the zoo?

A: Like we stated earlier, children can be mindful of the animals and take care of their needs too.

Q) Recently, we celebrated World Environment Day, which talks about the rights of the earth, global warming, protecting the environment and the planet. Where do animals and wildlife fit in? What is your take on this?

A: Animals have the right to live on this planet just as we humans have and we hope everyone takes it seriously!

Q) Just as the animals have rights, even children have rights. Did you know about this?

A: Yes, we know that children have rights too!

Q) What are your rights as children?

A: We have the right to know about everything, the right to ask questions and get a response, we should not be considered smaller than anyone else. We also have the right to learn, right to education and the right to get information.

Q) What message would you have for leaders who are working on animal welfare and the environment?

A: Improve the zoo, take care of animals. Our gardens and forests are as important as roads and infrastructure. Government officials should first visit all the zoos and see the conditions of all the animals. Once they do that, they would be able to come up with better policies and keep the rights of animals intact.

Little Humans is a volunteer driven photo project based on the belief that the littlest people have the biggest stories to tell. You can contribute too. Share a story, volunteer with us or simply leave a comment on our blog. For more such stories, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

#LittleHumans From MSB International School Tell Us Why We Should Stop Consuming Bread

Mariya, Mustufa, Huzefa and Zainab testing different breads at their school lab (Photo- City As Lab)

What if a group of children told us that eating bread has more harm than good? Mariya, Mustafa, Huzefa and Zainab from MSB International School in Mazgaon, Mumbai, took on the mandate of answering the question “How safe and healthy are the different varieties of bread available in the market?” It was by reading latest news and research papers, consuming bread themselves and understanding well that many people consume bread on a daily basis, that they decided to delve deeper into understanding the harmful effects of consuming bread and titled their project – “Bread Matters”.

The students took up this burning research topic and studied it for over nine months before drawing a conclusion on the same. They prepared their own research design, methodology, sampling and data collection procedure and also used their science laboratory to an informed argument on why we should stop consuming bread on a daily basis.

This #LittleHumans series is in collaboration with City As Lab, an organization that promotes original research and inquiry amongst India’s students, in a systematic, supportive manner, stemming from the belief that there is a researcher in every child.

Read to know more about their insightful findings.

Q) Tell is about the research you took on.

A: We chose a simple topic. We wanted to understand the harmful effects of bread, the use of chemicals and the health hazards bread can cause us and that’s why we took up this research study.

Q) Do you know about different forms of research? What was your approach towards the study?

A: We know the basic forms of research such as primary and secondary research, importance of a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis and using different methods to collect the data and analyze it.

Our approach for the research was simple. We gathered 12 kinds of breads such as Pita Bread, Pizza Bread, White Bread, Wheat Bread, Pao from different bakeries around the city and tested the bread in our laboratory to study the chemical components in the bread. We used google forms and reached out to more than 88 families to understand their consumption patterns of bread. We also used secondary research to understand the components in bread that make it harmful for daily consumption.

Q) Why did you pick this topic?

A: We read news articles and research studies that said bread is unhealthy. So, we wanted to know why and if it was really true. We began to dig deeper to get more details. Everyone loves to consume bread, it is tasty, simple and easy to cook. However, we always had a doubt if bread was cooked with overuse of chemicals to increase its shelf life. This intrigued us we picked this research topic.

Q) What are the harmful effects of bread as per your study?

A: Bread uses preservatives such as Potassium Bromate used to bind the bread and strengthen the dough. In 1999, the International Agency on Research for Cancer declared that potassium bromate was a possible human carcinogen, which means that it can possibly cause cancer.

Calcium Propionate, another ingredient used in bread causes stomach ache, migraines and other behavioral changes such as irritability and mood swings.

Q) We read that you want to start a workshop on homemade breads. Do you have any plans to involve children in this?

A: Yes, the school has begun with a bakery class where every child is taught how to make homemade bread. It is healthy, organic, fresh and does not have preservatives. We took the study to our teachers and when they realised the harmful effect bread can cause, they themselves reduced the consumption of bread and have initiated bakery classes. At least 1000 children including families have reduced their consumption of bread.

Q) What do you plan to study/ research next? Tell us.

A: We will study the chemicals in biscuits because by now we know anything that uses preservatives to increase the shelf life is more damaging to our health and we would like to come up with alternatives for them.

Q) As home science students, what is your take on nutrition for children. What do you think constitutes a healthy meal for a child?

A: Eating a balanced diet is important. Fruits and vegetables are a must for a healthy mind and body. Every child should eat food with less use of preservatives and add a gluten free diet to their food. We do not know the preservatives used in packaged food anyway. We want to ensure that every child gets quality food and does not have to go through malnutrition or falling ill due to lack of a good diet. Instead of wasting food and consuming it from malls, we can save money, and contribute so that no child is left hungry.

Q) Do you have anything to say to the government or policy makers when it comes to nutrition, eating healthy for children?

A: The government must provide healthy food to every child. Instead of saying there are no children on the street; the government can go to the communities and slums where they live in large numbers. Every child requires a healthy diet and the government can promote healthy food in school canteens too.

Little Humans is a volunteer driven photo project based on the belief that the littlest people have the biggest stories to tell. You can contribute too. Share a story, volunteer with us or simply leave a comment on our blog. For more such stories, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

7 Inspiring Ted Talks By Teens You Cannot Miss

“Children are our future” is a timeworn saying, but in reality, they are hardly ever listened to. Here are some children changing this narrative, quite literally. With their brilliant minds and compassionate hearts, listen to these 7 teens sharing their incredibly brave and inspiring stories on Ted Talks, proving to be leading thinkers and doers in this world.

1. MEMORY BANDA, 11, MALAWI

The tale of Memory Banda is an awe-inspiring one that touches every person who hears it. At age 13, she defied a centuries old tradition in her village called Malawi, when she refused to get married and be sold into an initiation camp.

Memory tells the story of her and her sister, and how they went down very different paths in life, despite growing up in the same family. In her culture, once you a girl reaches puberty it is tradition for her to be sent to an initiation camp. At these camps there are taught how to sexually please men. Her little sister got pregnant while at the camp. She goes on to describe the horror that these girls go through, ending up pregnant and contracting STDs. That was the path her sister was forced to take. Memory chose a different path. When it was her time to go to the initiation camps, she refused vehemently. The women in her village called her stubborn and stupid. ‘You do not respect the traditions of our society. Of our community,’ they told her. But Memory still refused. She had higher aspirations in life. She wanted to get educated, she had dreams she wanted to fulfill.

She wanted change in her society and therefore gathered all the young girls in her village who, like her sister, had been forced to bear children at a young age. They reminded each other how to read and write, and Memory loved that experience, and so did the other girls. They fought their traditional leader and today in Memory’s village, no girl under the age of 18 can be married off. From that day till this day, Memory has continued to fight for the rights of girls.

2. MANSI MEHTA, 15, INDIA

At the age of fifteen, against all odds, Mansi Mehta finally achieved something she had wanted for a long, long time. She worked with girls in her hometown of Surat, teaching them how to read and write. She runs a foundation to educate girls from marginalized backgrounds and advance her dream for a gender-equal and literate country.

Her story began in her history class, where she learned about Poornima Arvind Pakvasa. Poornima was a freedom fighter at the age of 18 who taught Kasturba Gandhi how to read and write in prison. Something about the tale stuck with Mansi for many years, something she couldn’t explain. On a family vacation, Mansi found herself in the same town as Poornima’s institution. She had no idea what she was going to say or do, but Mansi absolutely knew in her heart that she wanted to meet Poornima. But the guard outside the institution wouldn’t let her. Mansi had a stare off with the guard for nearly thirty minutes, and eventually the guard crumbled under the iron clad will of this eleven-year-old girl and let her in. She spent hours with Poornima, and just as she was about to leave, Poornima leaned in close and whispered ‘I’m passing this to you now. This legacy of getting educated and to educate.’ And that is exactly what Mansi has been doing since the day she met Poornima.

3.RICHARD TURERE, 13 KENYA

13-year-old Richard Turere is known across the world for his brilliant solar-powered invention, that saved his community in Kenya.

In the Masai community in Kenya, cattle are all important. But lions attacks from the nearby wildlife sanctuary were becoming increasingly common, and the more attacks occurred, the more people’s hopes diminished. When Richard’s family’s only bull had been mauled by the lions, he knew that something had to be done. He had to devise a means by which he could protect his family’s livestock. So, Richard took to lighting flames around the cattle sheds, but that seemed to only aid the lion’s vision. Unshakable, Richard didn’t give up. He began patrolling the area outside the shed in an attempt to stop the lion attacks. He used a flashlight as he walked around but it was when no lions came that night did Richard realize something: the lions were afraid of moving light. Wasting no time, Richard began formulating a plan. He took apart radios and gathered solar powered bulbs and after days of tinkering he devised a system that emitted strobe lights at night, scaring off the lions. ‘Since then, I’ve set up seven homes around my community’ Richard said proudly. Several of his neighbors asked Richard to install the lights near their homes. His invention began being used all over Kenya, and Richard was hailed as a hero.

4.THOMAS SUAREZ, 12, USA

Brilliance often comes from where you least expect it, and a 12-year-old boy certainly wasn’t expected to be the brain behind ingenious apps. From his love for playing videogames, developing apps to starting his open company CarrotCorps, Thomas is an inspiration to many.

Thomas always had an eye for building things up. He wanted to be able to learn how to code, and wanted to become a prolific programmer. ‘If you want to learn soccer, you could go to a soccer field. If you want to learn to play the violin, you could get lessons. But what if you want to make an app?’ Thomas would not be deterred by the lack of resources and taught himself programming languages like python, java –“just to get the basics down.” It took time and effort, but eventually Thomas created popular apps like ‘Earth Fortune.’ He even convinced his parents to pay the 99-dollar fee on the app store to get his apps on the store. However, he wanted more people to be able to code, since it’s such difficult knowledge to gain. So he started a programming club in school where he taught other students. ‘So I can share my experiences with others’ Thomas said. Thomas continues innovating and be brilliant.

5.FIZZA MOBIN, 17, PAKISTAN

Mental health is often dismissed as nothing more than laziness. It is something we all have, but more often than not, we dismiss it, misuse it or mistreat it. Fizza is a student who loves to travel the world, and as a consequence has learnt the importance of mental health.

Fizza explains that mental health is quietly represented in famous stories and people: like Winnie the Pooh. She explains that the characters show traits of struggling mental health. Winnie the Pooh displays impulsivity like that in OCD. Piglet seems to overanalyze every situation, which is a symptom of generalized anxiety disorder. Tigger is always distracted by the smallest of things, which is a common symptom of ADHD. Mental health has been plaguing millions of children, adolescents and adults all over the world. Fizza asks one simple question: ‘how do we change that?’ The answer to that is awareness. Fizza calls for more awareness of mental health, for its symptoms from the media and social outlets. ‘You are not alone. You have Winnie the Pooh, and Piglet and Tigger and so many more just like you. It can change so much. So much more than we realize’ . She emphasizes that we think that by preventing our children from learning about the basis of mental health disorders in their youth, that we are doing them a favor, for we have granted them an unblemished childhood. The harsh reality is that we end up preparing our children for nothing, and leave them in a state of perplexity, because they are unaware of how to take care of their own mental health.

6.BIPANA SHARMA, 14, NEPAL

A ferocious Child Rights Activist, Bipana Sharma has been fighting to make Nepal a more child friendly country since she was eleven years old. She is the proud founding President of Child Club Network Sunwal. She fights to discourage child marriage, child labor, and the discrimination of disabled and violation of child rights in Nepal. Her social mission and movement led to the declaration of her municipality Sunwal as Nepal’s First Child Friendly Municipality.

Bipana was angry and hurt at all the injustice done to the children in her country. They had no rights, no one looking out for them. Bipana realized no bills were being passed, no laws were changing and blaming the government would accomplish nothing. ‘This point became the formal starting of me doing something exceptional. I started working, and that’s how I started breaking the barrier,’ she says. She opened several Child Clubs and has interacted with over 1 lakh children both nationally and internationally, and continues to make her country a more accepting place for children.

7.KARIM NASSEF, 17, EGYPT

Karim is an incredibly intelligent student who dedicated his life to fighting for causes he believes are just. He is President of the Student Council; he co-chairs the school’s Model United Nations club.

‘It’s become such a global issue; a global phenomenon that it’s slightly become impersonal. The youth especially don’t feel in touch with it, they don’t see a personal aspect to it. They see it as “not my problem”’ Karim says, outlining the dangers of climate change. He believes that his generation haven’t been as invested in this global catastrophe as much as they should have been, especially considering it affects them and their future generations the most. Karim entreats his fellow youths to consider the looming threat of climate change, and all the destruction that it will reap, and appeals to them to join the fight to stop it.

#ItsOkBaatKaro – A Safe Space For Adolescents & Youth To Share Their Struggles With Mental Health Issues

“Hi, I am 16 years old. The last six months have been the hardest six months of my life, and I say so because when you love living, you want to overcome all challenges in your life, and achieve things, even if you don’t really want to put that into action…I really did not want to live and the misery seemed never ending–but I decided to give life another chance, and give myself another chance,” said the courageous 16-year old Riya, as she shared her first-person account of coping with depression and anxiety on Its Ok To Talk, a space for young people to voice the difficult reactions, emotions and stories that accompany mental health.

An initiative by PRIDE, Sangath, Harvard Medical School and supported by the Wellcome Trust, UK, #It’sOkToTalk is a safe space, promotes dialogue to change the mental health culture.

According to World Health Organisation, suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15–19 year olds (A student commits suicide every hour in India), 10–20% of adolescents experience mental health conditions, also accounting for 16% of the global burden of disease and injury in people aged 10–19 years, indicating the growing crisis around mental health amongst children and young people across the world.

These statistics reinforces why dialogue around mental health is crucial to develop positive emotions and coping mechanisms amongst children and youth.

#ItsOkToTalk believes that talking about mental health is the first step towards breaking the stigma. The initiative works with collaborators, in different languages and formats, using art based techniques for capacity building and community engagement by keeping the youth at the center of their work, even reaching those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Let’s a look at some of their diverse content breaking the stigma around mental health.

1. EXPLORING STORYTELLING AS A TOOL FOR SHARING PERSONAL STORIES

“You would have read this or will probably read this in a lot of places but here’s an affirmation anyway: there is no shame in asking for help.” Excerpts from the text and artwork shared by 18-year-old Divya Padmakumar.

The website has created a safe space for youth to share their experiences with mental health, illness and wellbeing. The storytelling format is free- flowing where one can choose from a variety of formats- writing a blog, article, poem, creating a video, sharing series of photos, artwork, posters or even an audio recording. The essence lies in creating a community where people can share their experiences with each other, feel comfortable and free opposed to overwhelmed, and understand that they are not in this journey alone.

2. DEMYSTIFYING JARGON ASSOCIATED WITH MENTAL HEALTH

Easy to consume and relatable content is created in different languages and formats for a wider audience. The initiative demystifies mental health issues, simplifying often complex thoughts and emotions for young people facing challenges and even for family members of those suffering. Recreating real life situations adds to the relatability- Friends making fun of the clothes one wears, criticizing how one talk, walks or behaves, moving out of a difficult break up or being stuck in an abusive relationship, coping with a loss of a friend or family member, failing in exams or an entrance test. The videos also use positive affirmations, non-judgmental and simple language, doing away with jargon associated with mental health, providing a clearer understanding of what one might be going through. More so, it gives suggestions and actions on how one can empower oneself by providing tools for coping mechanisms amongst other things.

3. USING DIVERSE FORMATS TO CONNECT WITH WIDER AUDIENCES


Picture Courtesy: It’s Ok To Talk

This initiative used comics amongst other diverse formats to put out important messages around mental health. The larger objective is to build discourse and eventually effect advocacy and policy changes that help in building a supportive and unstigmatised culture towards mental health in India. By identifying gaps in the space on mental health, the hashtag #Itsokbaatkaro reiterates through its uses of different formats, the need to start talking on the subject.

4. PROVIDING CREATIVE COPING MECHANISMS FOR CHILDREN & YOUTH


Using puppet shows as ice-breakers to introduce complex and less-talked about subjects, #ItsOkToTalk engages community members and works on capacity building to share coping mechanisms for mental health challenges. A puppet show was facilitated in 15 primary and secondary schools in Delhi, whereby children were introduced to the notions of mental health, well-being in a fun and playful manner. It also touched upon the aspect of how it is important to ask for help and create a support system. A lot of the content focuses on creating a long term attitudinal change not only with teachers and students but also with parents in order to create a support system that allows children to navigate life in a holistic way.

5. STREAMLINING ADVOCATES FOR MENTAL HEALTH


From social campaigners, mental health advocates to experts in the field, #ItsOkToTalk provides a space and platform for an exchange of new ideas, thoughts and experiences, opening up the way for much-needed conversation and action on mental health.

#PlayMatters2.0

#PlayMatters – How Sesame Workshop India Uses Play As A Pathway For Social Change

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAY 

For Sakina, a parent residing in the slums of Seemapuri in East Delhi, play has always been a frivolous activity that children engage in. Her views aren’t an anomaly. She, would rather that her children invest their time first in education, or skill building, or something that gives them a chance to a bright future, in what in her experience has been a cut-throat, difficult, competitive world. To her, childhood was supposed to be invested in hard work to gain skills, and not in play.

Play, on the other hand in overall early childhood development, is widely recognised as one of the most powerful ways to support physical, cognitive and socio-emotional development in the early years. A supportive adult/caregiver guiding a child through play can unlock transformative early learning experiences which build readiness, motivation and a foundation for future learning.

This potential goes undeveloped due to widespread lack of knowledge among caregivers. Too often, caregivers undervalue play or believe that they lack the time, resources and skills to be effective play partners with their children.

HOW IT BEGAN

In 2016, Sesame Workshop and the LEGO Foundation, two organisations deeply committed to promoting the power of play to create transformative, hands-on learning experiences, formed a partnership to address this need with a multi-country initiative – Play Every Day in India, South Africa and Mexico.

To begin with, Sesame Workshop and the LEGO Foundation convened the Global Advisory – a multi-session meeting over five days in Billund, Denmark. Selected play experts and providers, key LEGO Foundation staff, and Sesame Workshop New York and in-country teams (India, Mexico, and South Africa) participated in discussions to shape program thinking and design for the LEGO Multi-Country Initiative. Through the initial workshops and discussions during the Global Advisory, Sesame Workshop aimed to align key objectives for the program’s target audiences, begin to inform guiding messages & activities for prototype Play workshops, and gain insight into cultural and contextual variations in play with a key focus on all participating countries.

Since it was the first of its kind intervention globally, SWI wanted to stay closely involved and monitor the testing phases hence chose Delhi’s low resource communities as the program area. As the project progressed, we convened a subset of the initial advisors as well as additional experts to inform decision making and refine project strategies through a local advisory and undertook a thorough need state analysis of the target communities to inform the program design, approaches and goals. With each testing phase we continued to gain understanding of the need, opportunities and barriers of the target communities and refined our approach & messages based on that.

PLAY EVERY DAY OBJECTIVES 

Through our Play Every Day campaign, we wanted to change the notion that play is a frivolous activity. We wanted to show parents that something as simple as spending 20 mins to an hour playing with your child everyday can be a powerful tool to cement and strengthen family structures which lead to better learning abilities of children.

We also wanted to empower caregivers to effectively guide children in learning through play. We found that a lot of parents in the community didn’t have the confidence to play with their children. Given that these were low resource communities, they didn’t think they could afford expensive toys for their children. Moreover, they saw themselves as disciplinarians rather than support systems. We wanted to change that dynamic and create safe spaces for children inside the homes. As one of the parents who participated in the program explains, “We always thought that toys would be expensive. Who would have thought that playing with material lying around in the house would keep us busy and happy for hours.”

Sakina sheds more light into this. “My daughter would never tell me when something went wrong at school. We just didn’t have the space for that. I would scold her when she started acting out.”

One of the key objectives that we had in mind while crafting this campaign was that there needs a shift in mindset about play as a learning tool globally. Play shouldn’t be looked at as a frivolous activity with limited outcomes, but an essential pathway for social transformation by helping kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder.

We were aware that this campaign is one of a kind, and that we had the opportunity to be pioneers in a new movement with a new school of thought, espousing the simple truth that play could be an agent of social change.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ‘PLAY WORKSHOP’ MODEL

To ensure a contextually relevant and effective play workshop format, Sesame Workshop India followed an iterative process to test and refine the  messages and model with each phase. Through the activities, play facilitators conveyed key messages on the benefits of play with the intent of building caregiver confidence in their ability to play at home.

We continued to test and refine our program implementation model and content & training approach with each phase. In the Alpha phase , we tested different platforms to reach out to parents such as using phones with demonstration videos on how to play with your child and link play to learning; community viewing & workshops with community facilitators; play workshop with facilitators & home visits model.

We tested and arrived at the ‘play workshops’ model with community facilitators. Families liked the ‘human touch’, coming to the workshops allowed them a break from their routine and place for them to have fun without thinking about anyone looking or ‘judging’. The community mobilizers proved more effective as families could relate to people from their own community and it was a great motivation also.

PLAY EVERY DAY IMPACT

A quasi-experimental impact evaluation was designed to measure the  effectiveness of the Play Every Day program in generating knowledge and behaviour change on caregivers and their children aged 3-6 years. The results show that:

Caregivers participating in Play Every Day reported 23% increased frequency of play.

“Did you play with your child in the last week?”

 

 


Caregivers participating in Play Every Day reported 24% increased confidence using recycled materials as play objects.

I use common household items to play with my child – strongly agree.

Caregivers participating in Play Every Day reported an 8% increase in confidence as play mentors of their children.

“I have the knowledge and skills to be a play mentor to my child.” -Strongly Agree

LOOKING AHEAD

The results of the impact evaluation point to the tremendous potential for a programme on play behaviours in low-resource settings, with significant benefits to both caregiver and child. Play became an important tool to bring about lifelong learning and its recognition was felt across various stakeholders of Early Childhood Development.

As caregivers learn to bond and share with their children through play, the program has the potential to enhance the stability of family structures and can surely help a generation of children grow smarter, stronger and kinder.

This program was made possible by the generous support of the LEGO Foundation. 

 

#PlayMatters – The Story of Struggle & Success of Team South India Through The Eyes Of NGO Karunalaya’s Founder

This is the story of a team that found a coach 15 days before their departure to England for a World Cup tournament. This is the team that had no money to buy a cricket kit, invest in training, buy tickets to reach England or even pay fees to play the match. This is the team that had no official documentation to procure a visa or passport. This is the team that practiced cricket for a year and proved that there is no substitute for hard work. And, this is the team that became the voice of over 2 million children living on the streets of India.   

The story of team South India’s win at the Street Child Cricket World Cup is a story of hardwork and hope, struggle and success, all rolled into one.

 In conversation with Founder & Secretary of Karunalaya, Mr. Paul Sunder Singh, who wore multiple hats to ensure these children made it to the World Cup!

Q) How did the opportunity for Karunalaya’s children to participate in the Street Child Cricket World Cup come about?

A: Street Child United, the organisation that created this platform reached out to us and since cricket is a big in India, it only made sense for our children to participate in the first ever Street Child World Cup. This was an equal gender match, where we had four girls and four boys play from Mumbai and Chennai and we partnered with Magic Bus Foundation for the same.

Before the final selection process, we auditioned and screened at least 85 children who showed interest in cricket and through a thorough selection process, we tested their techniques of batting, bowling and physical fitness. Eventually, the children who were disinterested, dropped out from the game themselves, and it made the selection process a little easier.

We realised, girls were usually shy as not many had taken up sports as a form of professional play. You know, for children living in slum communities, wearing shorts and a T-shirt for a cricket match is a big thing.  Gradually, with training and practice they got into the skin and got comfortable. Children practiced for almost a year before they left for England, and by the end of all of this, we were able to select 6 children, of which 4 children from Chennai made it to team south India.

Having the best children in the team was not the only criteria.  Another challenge was having every document made for the children for their visa and passport. While procuring a passport was a 15 day job, the documentation for the passport- from the birth certificate to an Aadhar card was a tedious task as not all children had these documents. Even though the process of Aadhar Card has been simplified, children did not have a birth certificate to make an Aadhar Card. While the practice was on-going, the documentation work took us more than six months to ensure the children went to England.

Q) One of the girls said- “If you respect us, you will protect us.” Do articulate the journey of the children before and after participating at Street Child United platform. How did it change their lives?

A: Yes, Monisha, our youngest player who is fourteen years old, said this. Monisha has always lived on the street and comes from a difficult background and therefore she was able to relate her journey, speaking from her heart as she represented the voice of all street children. The Street Child Cricket World Cup was not just about playing the sport, but it was also about expressing and illustrating the issues children faced on an everyday basis. A three-day preparatory congress and General Assembly was held in England where children spoke about their demands and rights. They realised that the context may be different, but they all wanted the same thing- safety and protection. This was an opportunity for them to go deep into several issues as they now had a platform to speak on how they wanted to be treated.

The game also developed confidence in children as it gave them the exposure to represent India. Before this, for the girls, a simple thing like wearing shorts for the practice sessions was not easy and they went all the way to England to represent their country! After coming back from England, even the outlook of how people saw the team changed drastically, and now they are treated with respect. Children share with us the stories of how they are invited to different forums to speak about their journey and they feel happy about it.

Even the outlook of the police towards the street children has changed. The other day, Monisha was telling us about an incident where a policeman had read her story in the newspaper and assured her that he will ensure her protection. Today, people are friendly and treat them with respect. That apart, now many of the children have also got admission in colleges under the sports quota. This, in itself is a huge achievement for children living on the streets.

Q) What is your view on a child’s right to play? How does this experience at Street Child United exemplify that?

A: Right to Play is an important right for all children under Article 31 of the UNCRC. At times, parents do not understand why play is important for the holistic growth of children. When children play, it is not just about the game, it is about their health, well-being and overall development. The Street Child United was a global platform for children and this not only made the children and their families proud, but also their country. At the core of all of it, Street Child United wants to break the negative stereotype of street children and it uses sports as a medium to do so. Street children never got an opportunity to showcase their talent and participate at a global level and therefore, this became a big feat in the lives of children.

But you know, every child should play, not just for an event, but for fun. The objective should not be to become a good boxer, or a footballer or a cricketer, but to play for play’s sake because there is a lot of learning in play. The values that can be learnt through play are itself education, and learning can happen beyond the classroom.

Q) Tell us about the build-up to the Street Child Cricket World Cup. How much time did the children spend practising? How did you select the team? Who provided the equipment, nutrition and the playground? Do elaborate on the role of the coach who came in two weeks before the match.

A: We had four members from Chennai and we partnered with Magic bus who had shortlisted four team members from Mumbai. At the end, all team members came together to co-ordinate, and practice as Team South India. We spent almost a year training the children, our practice sessions would begin at 5 am in the morning where fitness training was provided by our program team and another program person passionate about cricket would informally teach the children too.

We realised that the nutrition level of the children was not great, where most of them had low hemoglobin levels and its then that provided them with a healthy and balanced diet that included eggs and green leafy vegetables. We also ensured a doctor was available for any small injury that a child underwent during the practice sessions. We were able to manage this as we used the same food cooked in our shelter home.

However, we still have a deficit and are now slowly returning the money we spent to ensure children went to England. There was also a fee of 600 dollars that was to be paid for each child and we managed all of that through donations. We had to take money from other programs to ensure the children participated in the Street Child World Cup in England.

Q) Where did you receive sponsorship and funding from? What were the challenges faced in acquiring fund?

A: We thought cricket is going to bring us all the support because in India, everyone loves cricket. However, we were wrong. We weren’t able to raise the initial money for the equipment, nutrition and the practice sessions that went on for a year. We got an initial funding for a more than 1 lakh from a visually and speech impaired woman and were able to begin our practice sessions with buying cricket kits, balls, and stumps and shoes for children.

For the equipment, we also had two students from Holland who helped us with 1000 euros and that amount helped us greatly. There was also a participation fees for each player and we managed to raise that fund from our friends in Ireland who helped us with Rs. 2 lakhs.

Q) What challenges did you face along the way? Can you share some examples?

A: We were looking for a good coach to train the children in using the techniques they had learnt, however, we did not realise the business of cricket and how it has become a  money making sport. We found one coach who agreed to coach the children for an hour a day by charging Rs 10,000 and would coach for 10 days. He had told us that he would suggest techniques by observing them. Finally, we found a good Samaritan who worked at the Chennai Port Trust and coached children for free. He heard the backstories of our children and was more than happy to work with the team and he did all he could, and the children won the Cup! He only asked us to get one cricket ball that cost Rs.300. For two weeks, the children practiced day and night and got skilled in technique under his guidance. During this time, the team from Mumbai also came to Chennai and we started working together as a team.

Q) Do you believe the overall culture of sports has changed in India? Yes/ No? If yes, how so? What would you attribute this change to?

A: Yes, definitely the overall culture of sports is changing for the better in the country as the government too is promoting sports at a local level. Now, even street children are taking up sports and flourishing in it. If they get more opportunities, they would excel in the sport.

However, a sport has also become a big business and I do not know how we shall be able to crack the culture where everyone cannot afford a good coach. We do have good human beings, but how many would do something like this willingly? We have a government cricket playground in Chennai but the infrastructure is not up to the mark and not many go there to practice cricket. It would be nice to see the government providing good infrastructure for sports.

Q) How did families/relatives of children react when they learned their children would travel to London?

A: Parents were happy and could not believe this was actually happening. They were in tears when they saw their children return after winning the game and could not believe that it actually happened. They did not think in their wildest dreams that their children would be able to achieve something like this. Even the children were so excited when they heard stories of being in the same dressing room as some of their favourite sportspersons. Children sat at the same bench as Rahul Dravid sat at Lord’s! Saurav Ganguly congratulated the children on winning the World Cup and sent a video and the children were so excited. I had seen a video of the children being congratulated by him and even I was fascinated.

Q) How was the overall experience in London? Tell us how the children were reacting.

A: Before the children left for England we trained them in basic conversation in English, manners, hygiene and prepared them about the cultural difference so that they would not feel out of the place. It was a beautiful experience for all the children to see all the touristy places in England. The London Tamil Association invited the children and they were finally able to eat spicy food which they were craving for so long.  We were received with so much love and they even helped us monetarily too after they learnt Team South India won the match. Children felt happy with their kind gesture. They were all fascinated my meeting new people from diverse places and got great exposure.

Q) How do you believe sports can change the lives of children? Can you share examples from within the team?

A: Children learnt the importance of having a routine and sticking to it. Initially, it was not easy for them, but we had to push them to get into a routine. This helped them in getting disciplined and they realised, there is no substitute to hard work. They also learnt the importance of playing together in a team, having good coordination skills and it was beyond just playing a game. After the match, many children have been able to get admission under the sports quota, which is a big dealfor the street children. Today, they are more ambitious and have better aspirations towards their future.

Q) How did cricket act as a leveling field between girls and boys? Share examples, please.

A: At the Street Child United, the rules were the same for both the boys and the girls which in itself acted as a levelling field between both sexes. Initially, we realised that the girls were not exposed to cricket, but with training and exposure they were able to pick up the sport and be good at it too. The girls did not follow cricket on television. They were part of strategy making, their confidence levels increased and they did the same amount of physical activities like the boys and eventually got good at their game.

Q) What are the long-term plans for Team South India? Now that there has been some momentum, how do you plan to take it ahead?

A: Since right to protection came out as a demand from children, we want to meet our Chief Minister and present the achievements of the children and look at ways of how this right can be brought about for street children. We have already asked for an appointment and are hoping to meet the government officials soon. We also want to meet the HRD minister to seek support for their education and get their blessings.

Q) How do you believe development sector organizations, the government and educational institutions should promote sports and play, for the development and progress of children.

A: I think it is important to have a convergence of all the government departments working together on different aspects of development of children including sports and play. At the same time, while convergence is important, the government should seek their opinions of NGOs working together on similar issues. For the Right to Play, the government can consult people from the sector on new policies and how to make them a reality. You know, we have a government cricket ground in Chennai, but it is not in good condition. It will really help if the government can provide good infrastructure for development of sports. It is not just about street children because India’s flag was hoisted and the National Anthem was sung at the final match. Everyone should support Right to Play so that all children can play sports.

#PlayMatters – Sonali Khan’s Learning-Through-Play Ambition For Children In India

Photo – Sesame Workshop India

A visionary leader in the development sector, with a understanding of how to harness the power of media for social change, Sonali Khan leads Sesame Workshop’s educational mission in India to create innovative and engaging content to help children grow smarter, stronger and kinder.

Sonali is a multi-award winning, global advocate for human’s rights. She has recently taken over the reins at Sesame Workshop India, which has incubated and implemented ground breaking programs to reach children everywhere – especially those who need it most.

Here are her some of her insights and thoughts that contribute immensely to the learning-through-play ambition for children in India.

Q) Learning and play go hand in hand. How would Sesame Workshop’s work best exemplify this. Give us a birds-eye view of programmes undertaken to innovatively educate children.

A:Sesame Street was built around a single, break-through insight: that if you can hold the attention of children, you can educate them.” – Malcolm Gladwell, about Sesame Street’s impact on the children’s television landscape in his book, The Tipping Point.

Our objective in India is to positively impact the lives of all children, especially those that are marginalized, by bringing joyful early learning. Our programs draw in families with lovable characters and culturally-relevant themes and stories that promote healthy habits, gender equity, and academic readiness in most engaging innovative ways —crucial in our context.

We continue to use the power of media and our lovable furry, funny Muppets to reach children wherever they are.From using a repurposed vegetable cart equipped with a television and DVD player that engages children of all ages in narrow alleys, educational apps and games, and interactive print materials make learning fun and joyful for children and adults alike in classrooms, homes and communities.

Our programs like –
1. Play Connect Learn– engaged children and families to show improvement in early grade reading in Maharashtra through an app that made learning to read a joyful experience with our Muppets.
2. Play Every Day – Engaged families in low resource communities in play workshops to help them understand the link between play and learning. Parents learnt how to be a play partner to their child to effectively impart a learning outcome, taking into consideration the barriers of resources, education and time they face.
3. Dream Save Do – yet another project where Sesame took on the responsibility to build financial literacy in children in early years and help understand the concepts of saving, spending and sharing by using innovative playful strategies.

We continue to adopt strategies to empower children with knowledge and skills through ways that they best learn – playful engagement.

Q) How does play-based learning help children in vulnerable circumstances for example, children living in conflict, in refugee camps, as migrants? Share stories with us.

A: In India, an estimated 9 million migrated between states annually from 2011 to 2016 (India Ministry of Finance, 2017) and many are living in conflict areas leading to a livelihood crisis.

With economic hardship comes added stresses, such as hunger, uncertain housing, and a parent absent. Studies show that exposure to these kinds of traumas can hold back children at a critical time in their development, putting barriers in the way of their education and emotional wellbeing in the long term. So our efforts aim to fortify families in the face of these all-too-common challenges. Our pioneering work in the face of the largest humanitarian crisis in the world in Syria and with Rohingya communities in Bangladesh is path breaking effort that leads the way for many to think about tackling stress in early years through continuous, playful engagement.

We at Sesame know from decades of tackling some of the toughest challenges facing children that if we reach them early, we can help change their trajectories. Through our programs and show we’re helping teachers, and caregivers give children a strong and healthy start.

With their warmth, humour, and friendly personalities, colourful characters like Elmo, Grover, make difficult topics much easier for parents and kids to talk about. Parading through our GGSS show , these Sesame friends model how families can connect through everyday moment and daily routines: learning their ABCs and 123s, choosing tasty and nutritious foods, and opening up about serious topics like divorce, bullying, grief.

By reaching vulnerable children, we can help them reach their full potential. Our materials promote the kind of engagement with a caring adult and nurturing care that has been shown to strengthen children’s resilience and mitigate the effects of traumatic experiences. We also equip vulnerable children with language, reading, math, and socio-emotional skills that can set them on a path to thrive into adulthood.

Our #PlayEveryDay program shows that playing with your child everyday can relieve stress, create strong parent-child bonds that extends beyond just education. It can also create emotional support systems, safe spaces for expression, and support systems to help children process systemic trauma, and structural problems such as poverty. 

#BringingChange in Kashmir is an effort by GGSS to help children in recurring conflict hit Kashmir to help build resilience and life skills. The children in the region often miss schools, our carefully compiled episodes help children not only learn concepts but build resilience through with our muppets who engage with the children in most playful manner and connect with them at their level.

Q) Sesame Workshop India has pioneered the use of technology as a tool for learning. The mobile phone has been an amazing medium accelerating the pace of innovation for children whose education cannot wait. How have apps like Bharat ka Bag and Grover ka Number Special engaged with children differently? How important is the use of tech-based solutions for education and play? How far has India come vis a vis other developing country?

A: Every year in India, 40 million people are signing on the internet for the first time. Most of them are accessing the internet on mobile devices. We have to admit that there is an entire generation for whom the internet isn’t novel, but a natural part of their lives. This opens new avenues to educate children and create a strong base on which further education can be built. It can also be a powerful tool to connect with cultural roots.

A 2018 report titled ‘Annual Status of Education Report (Rural) 2018’ indicates that, in rural India, only a quarter of all children in Std III are at ‘grade level’. This means that a majority of children need immediate help in acquiring foundational skills in literacy and numeracy. Sesame Workshop India is addressing this need by providing innovative and engaging literary content that is aligned with the National curriculum, to make a meaningful difference in children’s reading outcomes. An example of this is our Play. Connect. Learn app that helped us reach 12000 families in Maharashtra to address the children’s reading and learning needs of Marathi as a language.

The PCL project was successful in improving children’s early grade reading skills – specifically, foundational literacy skills and reading comprehension – in their mother tongue, Marathi. Given the promising results and the potential for the PCL project model to be scaled, SWI looks forward to continuing this important work especially considering the estimated upsurge in smartphone penetration and connectivity over the next few years.

Q) Learn. Play. Grow. aims to build the capacity of Anganwadi Workers (AWW) to prepare children for school by using Sesame Workshop India’s early literacy materials in a play-based manner. Tell us more about this play-based approach.

A: Sesame Workshop India aims to change how children learn in classrooms, early childcare centres such as anganwadis, and at home. Through our project Learn, Play, Grow, in Anganwadis, we helped children the fun and engaging classroom and at home materials complimented with radio broadcast over All India Radio on the themes of Education, gender sensitization, sanitation, and health. We also provide teacher trainings to anganwadi workers to train them on Sesame Workshop materials and build their overall capabilities on interacting with children helping them to better engage with children. We supplement the educational curriculum provided by the making it instrumental in creating more powerful materials that can teach children in a more engaging way.

As part of the Learn Play Grow, a 3rd party research indicated that, children from AWCs that received the GGSS kits showed greater than 10% improvement over control AWCs in 4 out of 6 indicators – Object classification, listening comprehension, reading readiness and print awareness.

Q) “It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them,” said Leo F. Buscaglia. In context to India’s education system, how do you believe this vital connection needs to be created. Give us 3 ideas that need to be advocated for in order to change attitudes towards the importance of play in childhood.

A: It is heartening to see Indian education policies increasingly recognizing importance of play in a child’s holistic development. However, lot needs to be done to see it widely in practice, while there have been welcome initiatives like Delhi Government’s Happiness Curriculum, there is a need to strengthen systems that put this in effective practices. A lot more focus on teacher training and skill building is needed. There is also a need to build capacities of parents and provide an enabling ecosystem.

Focus on developing life skills is extremely critical for children in early years to help them succeed in life, these skills can be developed through more “child-centered” pedagogy, wherein teachers will prompt them to explore their feelings through stories and activities. Children are engaged in group work, imaginative storytelling, problem solving and more experiential play-based activities.

The mind shift will take a lot more demonstration of best practices and results of ‘play based’ education, interventions and engagement. Our Play Every Day is shows us how such demonstrations can lead to change in perceptions around play and increased confidence in parents in their ability to play with their children.

Q) How does play-based learning assist in the holistic development of children? Please illustrate with examples from your grassroots work.

A: One of the messages we spread to caregivers is that “Today’s play is tomorrow’s happy reality.” While play is an important tool as mentioned above, play-based learning can not only be a critical tool in improving children’s math, reading, vocabulary and creative skills but also serve as tools that empower families to build stronger bonds, creation of safer spaces, and support systems. Play-based learning also helps in teaching children good values and shapes them up for the citizens that they’re going to be tomorrow.

Our programs, lovable characters and culturally-relevant themes and stories work in tandem wherever children are, to promote healthy habits, gender equity, and academic readiness in most engaging innovative ways —crucial in our context.

Moreover, our children who participated in our #PlayEveryDay program show a 33% increase in creativity when it comes to use of common household objects. One of the factors that stopped parents from playing with children has been that they can’t afford expensive toys. By showing that common household items can be used to create engaging games, the program instilled in them, the confidence that the solution to their problems could be found in the simplest of things.

One story we like to share is the story of Sakina. Sakina is a parent based in a slum in Seemapuri, New Delhi. She heard about the #PlayEveryDay workshops organized by Sesame Workshop India. At first glance, it didn’t seem like much, but Sakina decided to give it a shot. In the workshop, Sakina learned the benefits of guided play and how it can help her be a more effective parent. Sakina uses the tools she learned in the workshop to improve her daughter’s cognitive skills and build a powerful bond with her. She exclaims gleefully that now her child can’t wait to come home and tell her all about her day. A bond that simply wasn’t there before. It has also given her confidence to complete her own education and look at her world in a very different way.

Q) What efforts does Sesame Workshop make towards incorporating play-based learning as an integral tool under the RTE? What needs to be done?

A: Sesame Workshop India works with various stakeholders to ensure that all early childhood developmental needs are met. We work on building the field and disseminating the need and messages to various stakeholders such as media, government, broadcasters, parents and children.

Thankfully, there is an increase in the need to include play-based learning as a part of core curriculum as demonstrated by the National Education Policy, 2019 presented to the Government of India. At The Play Conference, organised by Sesame Workshop India, we saw a glimpse of the Happiness Curriculum that the Government of NCT Delhi is implementing in its schools right now. These are extremely encouraging developments and gives us cause to celebrate.

#PlayMatters – Given A Sporting Chance – Article 31 & Its Actualization For India’s Children

Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of Children pertains to the child’s right to rest, leisure, play, recreational activities and free and full participation in cultural and artistic life. Concerned that the article was neither fully understood nor engaged with, particularly by governments, the Committee on the Rights of the Child produced a General Comment in 2013 that fully explains Article 31 and details the kind of support children require in order to be able to access this set of rights.

The general comment takes each word of the Article, and explains its meaning. For instance, recreation is explained as a “broad umbrella term for voluntary activities or experiences chosen by the child for immediate satisfaction or perceived personal or social value. While many such activities may be organized and managed by adults, recreation should be a voluntary activity.” In addition, it surfaces the fact that the Right to Play is differentially available to children basis their contexts – children who live in areas characterized by conflict, children of families that are migrant/ refugee – and identities -age, gender, race, caste, class and ability.  It recognizes challenges in implementation such as unsafe spaces, the marketing and commercialization of play, the pressure put on children for educational achievement and a resistance to children’s use of public space.

Finally, it clearly articulates government responsibility towards enabling this set of rights – the obligation to respect Article 31 (by challenging cultural attitudes that might undermine these rights); the obligation to protect Article 31 rights (through legislation, regulation, promotion of online access and safety, review of policies related to commercialization of toys and play and effective child protection mechanisms for those children who feel that their rights under Article 31 have been violated; and the obligation to fulfil these rights (legislation, data collection, inter-departmental collaboration, budgets, design that promotes inclusion, appropriate school environments and training for those who work with children).

Magic Bus India Foundation began to use play as the primary medium to engage with children, 20 years ago in 1999. At the time, and indeed even since then, most Indian adults are unsure how much play is suitable, relevant or necessary for children. The focus in India has always been on glaring conditions of poverty that make education, health and safety feel far more urgent and important, vis a vis play. Over time, the organization has been a critical stakeholder in influencing the practice of using play as a medium to enable better education and health opportunities for children.

For instance, in poor neighbourhoods in urban India, a primary obstacle for the actualization of Article 31 is access and attitude – there are no playgrounds; the small empty spaces in the community are characterized by garbage that is rarely removed by the municipality; the little space that is left is usually taken up by older adolescent males and young men who often use it to smoke, consume drugs and alcohol or partake of collective activities that may or may not be socially desirable. Younger boys and girls of all ages simply do not have access to these spaces.

In 2010, in a study that used participatory tools to assess the impact of the Magic Bus intervention in two such communities, all those who were part of the programme were found to be participating in a minimum of 2 hours of play per week, while 22% of those in a corresponding control group did not get to play at all. A daily activity chart exercise with both treatment and control groups, divided into older and younger adolescents with age 14 as the mid-point revealed that as girls move beyond the age of 15, very few continue to play. Interestingly, among the boys, the control groups seemed to spend more time playing, while among the girls, those in the older cohort in the control group got absolutely no play time, versus the minimum 2 hours that Magic Bus girls got.

The report said, “Children who are with Magic Bus show awareness that playing a sport can teach valuable life skills. These include not teasing the losing team, how to deal with pressure, time management, mutual respect, the importance of listening and concentration, encouraging each other and ‘imandari’ (honestly). Respondents in the control group mentioned that sports teaches them perseverance (“gir ke phir uthna”) and solidarity. Both groups acknowledged that playing/participation is more important than winning.

This last statement is most significant – children know and understand that play teaches many things, but most of all, that participation in more important than winning. It is an aspect of Article 31 that is most underserved in our current national and international contexts, and that those invested in teaching-learning processes are increasingly reverting to.

Across the programme and over the past two decades, evaluations have shown that play does tend to enable greater self-confidence, particularly among girls. In May 2019, a team of girls and boys from the programme in Mumbai and Chennai formed Team South India and participated in the Street Child Cricket World Cup in the UK. They returned as champions and came into our Mumbai office triumphant, bearing aloft their trophy and clad in their team uniforms. The whole office gathered to listen to them speak – about how they barely knew the game when they started, how tough training was at times, how awful the food was overseas, and how they worked step by step, keeping their focus intact and most important, backing each other. One person on the team even returned with the Fair Play award for the tournament – at the final, the teams stood for the national anthems. He was the only one who stood to attention for the anthems of both countries in the final. 

It is these and other stories, even more than the data, that keeps the Magic Bus programme rooted in activity based learning. 

Over the past two decade there have been several other players in the Indian context who enable playing conditions for children. There are those that build inclusive playgrounds (Kilikili in Bengaluru), those that use play and art to build life skills (Dream a Dream Foundation), those that use sport to encourage school participation (Oscar). In addition, the CII and the Government of India have together launched the Khelo India campaign. And Magic Bus? Magic Bus has committed to working with teachers enabling them to use the Physical Education period effectively and institutionalise life skills learning through play for over 1.5 million children over the next five years!

#PlayMatters: The Boys Of Team North India Who Bring Street Children To The Mainstream Through Cricket

“I am very glad to be here today as a street child who got the opportunity to come to Lord’s to play cricket and to have my voice heard on behalf of other street children. We do not have the right to identity and gender equality and do not have access to education and healthcare. No child should work to earn for his or her food. We call on the government to act on these issues and to ensure that all children have these rights,” said a member of Team North India as they represented their country and its street children in England this year.  

While their counterparts from South India, took home the cup, this team of 8, 4 boys and 4 girls from Kolkata, with support from Hope Foundation and Save the Children., had a life-changing experience at the Street Child World Cup Cricket.

Here’s a conversation with the Boys Of Team North India on their experience, learnings and love for cricket.  

Team North India is a mixed-gender team comprising 4 girls and 4 boys from Kolkata, supported by Hope Foundation and Save the Children

Q) Tell us your names, what do you like doing in your free time?

A: We are Tarak, Anupam, Irfan and Jabir, and we were part of team North India and some of us also play county cricket. Tarak here wants to become a businessman and the rest of us want to pursue cricket or football. We love football too!

Q) Congratulations on reaching the semi-finals! How was your experience?

A: It was such a great experience! We travelled to another country for the first time and played cricket at Lord’s! We couldn’t believe we played cricket at the same ground as Dada (Saurav Ganguly) played cricket. We felt very fortunate. We also felt bad that we lost the match in the semi-final. Infact, we even played a match against Team South India! While playing against our own country, we realised we can’t have sympathy against the opponent. In any sport, one just plays to win and that is all that really matters! That apart, for us, this match was beyond a cricket match, it was representing the voice of all the street children of India as we got a platform to ensure our voice was heard. For us, that was a big responsibility!

Q) Tell us about your travel to England. How was it meeting different boys and girls from across the world? Did you make friends with them? Tell us about it.

A: It was our first international trip and we all were really excited. We were in the airplane for almost 12 hours and that was a long time. From the airport, we went to Cambridge and from there; everything was beautiful and well planned. We met people from diverse cultures and spoke to them in sign-language and yet became friends! We made friends with people from Bangladesh as we were able to speak with them in Bengali. We were surprised to hear that the team from England could understand a little bit of Hindi! They had seen many Hindi movies! They had seen Bahubali and knew so much about Shah Rukh Khan. We also made friends from the team from Tanzania, Nepal and Mauritius!

Q) Who is your favourite cricketer? Why?

A: Dinesh Kartik! We think his wicket keeping is great. Shikhar Dhawan is good too! He is an opening batsman and also does good fielding! David Warner is amazing… Hardik Pandya too!

Q) Dhoni or Virat? Who is the better captain? Why? Tell us about your team captain too.

A: Dhoni! Dhoni, for sure! He has much more experience and is a senior player and I think he knows how to manage the team! Jabir here thinks that Virat is a better captain. Tarak was our team captain and he gave us an equal chance to play and motivated us. Actually, the format of the street child world cup was such that everyone got an opportunity to play equally so it all worked out well for us.

Q) Sachin or Virat? Who is the better batsman? Harbhajan or Bhumra? Who is the better bowler?

 A: We all think Sachin is the best. He is so experienced and skilled. I mean he is like God! and we all love Bhumra!

Q) Are you watching the World Cup this year? Which country do you believe has the best chances of winning? Why?

A: India! India! India will win for sure! They have hardly lost many matches and their performance has been consistent. We think the finals will either be between India or England or India and Australia.

Q) What do you aspire to be when you grow up? A cricketer or something else? Why? What is it about cricket that you prefer over other sports?

A: I think we all like cricket and football equally and would want to pursue one of the sports. But apart from that, I, Tarak want to become a businessman! I will trade and earn money by selling water. It is one resource that everyone needs. Cricket will always remain my passion.

Q) Cricket as a sport unites our nation. How so?

A: When you play for India you play for the team and the country. During this time, nobody talks about whether you belong to east, west, north or south. You can be a south Indian, but you are first an Indian, right? A team’s end goal is to win a match! We think even the nation then looks at the team as one!

Q) If you were captain and you had to pick the World Cup Team, who would you pick?

A: We shall obviously have all our friends in the team. But apart from that, we would pick Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russel, Bhumra, Kuldeep Yadav, Dhoni, David Warner, Ben Stokes, Joe root, Kohli, Jonny Bairstow, Chahal and Shikhar Dhawan in our team!

Q) You must’ve grown up watching only men and boys playing international cricket. How was your experience in playing in mixed-gender teams? What are your thoughts on it? Why do you think (or not) that girls and boys playing together is important?

A: We all belong to the streets and the format of the Street Child World Cup was such that there were 4 boys and 4 girls in one team. Every girl and boy got an equal opportunity to bat and bowl and this was a really nice thing.

You know, the girls are equally hard working and talented. Earlier, we never saw girls come out like this and play and we had a different opinion about them. But now, when they played with us, we realised they can sometimes play even better than us! Girls Rock!

Q) Are you going to be watching the Women’s World Cup Cricket? Why/ Why not?

A: Yes, we want to observe the match and see their skills on how they bowl, bat and understand their strategies. We want to learn from watching the Women’s World Cup and would definitely watch the match!

Q) Tell us the best thing about playing cricket? What is the most fun part about it? What have you learnt from playing cricket?

A: Hard Work, Discipline, Courage, Dedication, Coordination, Consistency, Equality and Team Work. There is so much one can learn from the game of cricket you know.

We think we were skilled and were practicing really well and hence, we reached till the semi-finals. However, we realised that co-ordination is really important within the team. This is what we learnt about playing cricket!

Q) Is cricket compulsory in schools? Should it be? Why so?

A: Yes! We all think cricket should be made compulsory in schools. But the thing is, in our school, there is no cricket ground or a playground. So even if it is made compulsory, how will all children play cricket? If the government can help us, it will be nice as it will give us a space to practice and get better at our game. We went to England and visited a school and they had a swimming pool, football ground and even a place to play cricket! Why can’t we have access to such places in India?

Q) How has your life changed after going for the Street World Cup?

A: Nobody knew us before the match and now, once we came back, everyone knows us, they treat us with love and respect. We have an identity now. We now take our lives more seriously and know that we want to study more, get educated and have a career for ourselves. Today, everyone is asking us how it was going to England, meeting different people and reaching so far. We were featured in the media and in newspapers and suddenly, we got importance. This is all good and we are happy for this opportunity. However, we were able to participate in this match, because we lived on the streets, and then started to stay in the institution run by Hope foundation. What about the children who are still living on the streets? I think more and more children should get such a platform. We are just a handful of them…

You can read what the Girls Team of North India had to share with us here

#PlayMatters – The Girls Of Team North India & Their Experience With A Gender-Equal Cricket Team

“Our captain too was really good. Just because we were girls, he did not treat us any differently. He gave as an equal chance to play on the field and kept motivating us! The format of the Street Child World Cup is such that it had 4 balls in one over and everyone got an equal chance. We feel, that really helped us participate equally.” said the girls of Team North India on discussing mixed-gender cricket at the Street Child World Cup Cricket.   

While their counterparts from South India, took home the cup, this team of 8, 4 boys and 4 girls from Kolkata, with support from Hope Foundation and Save the Children., had a life-changing experience at the Street Child World Cup Cricket.

Here’s a conversation with the Girls of Team North India on their experience, learnings and love for cricket.

Team North India is a mixed-gender team comprising 4 girls and 4 boys from Kolkata, supported by Hope Foundation and Save the Children

Q) Tell us your names, what do you like doing in your free time?       

A: We are Anjali, Mille, Rabia, and Rinky. I am Rinky and love to dance on Hip Hop beats. Apna Time Aayega is a song I am currently listening on loop. I am Anjali and I love to draw and paint. I am Mille and I am learning Kathak. I am Rabia and I love both cricket and football equally!

Q) Congratulations on reaching till the semi-finals! How was your experience?

A: Thank you! We were really happy that we played the semi-final match against Nepal. We had never even thought in our wildest dreams that one day, we would travel to England and represent India! It was a great feeling to participate in the first ever Street Child Cricket World Cup and play a match at Lord’s! We met people from diverse countries, cultures and made new friends. We learnt that to play a game we all need to be united, and put our best foot forward. For us, winning or losing became secondary.

Q) Tell us about your travel to England. How was it meeting different boys and girls from across the world? Did you make friends with them? Tell us about it.

A:It was fascinating for us to travel to England for a cricket match. But we found the airplane to be a boring place to be in for so long.  In a train, one can move freely at least! But we played many games and watched movies and it was fun to just watch the clouds move.

Upon reaching England, we saw how everything was so well organized and we felt street children finally had found a voice. We went sight-seeing and observed that England does not have people living on the streets! There were no injured people lying on the street as we have in India. They have good healthcare facilities. It is always so clean! England is beautiful and we saw the London Eye, Big Ben, Parliament, and Buckingham Palace amongst other things.

But you know, we did not go to just play cricket. We were representing all the street children in our country. There was a General Assembly that was held and we emphasized that the voice of street children mattered! We spoke about the need for right to education, gender equality, nutrition, right to have an identity, the right to have children attend school and not work to get to school- speaking about these issues, making our voices heard, being taken seriously became equally important to us! We believe that all children should get their rights.  We shall appeal to the government that the “Right to identity” is the most important right for street children. We realised this when getting our passports was a difficult task as we did not have all the documents in place. If street children do not have any documents, it will be difficult to get admission even to a school; we don’t have a formal record to say we exist. We will appeal to the government to ease this process for all street children.

Q) Who is your favourite cricketer? Why?

A: Dhoni, Malinga, Shikhar Dhawan, Dinesh Kartik, Andre Russel, Harbhajan these are some of the cricketers we love! We think all of these are focused, know their game and are good players to get inspired from.

Q) Dhoni or Virat? Who is the better captain? Why? Tell us about your team captain too.

A: We all think Dhoni is the best captain!  Dhoni is level-headed, patient, has good leadership qualities and he knows the strength of each player. We have never seen Dhoni come in the limelight as he does not seek too much media attention. This helps in the game as he is focused.

Our captain too was really good. Just because we were girls, he did not treat us any differently. He gave as an equal chance to play on the field and kept motivating us! The format of the Street Child World Cup is such that it had 4 balls in one over and everyone got an equal chance. We feel, that really helped us participate equally.

Q) Sachin or Virat? Who is the better batsman? Harbhajan or Bhumra? Who is the better bowler?

A: Sachin, any day! Harbhajan any day!

Q) Are you watching the World Cup this year? Which country do you believe has the best chances of winning? Why?

A: India! India is a strong team and they have worked hard and have won most of the matches. We think the World Cup Final will be between Indian and England, much like our Street Child World Cup match where Team South Indian and Team England went to the finals.

Q) What do you aspire to be when you grow up? A cricketer or something else? Why? What is it about cricket that you prefer over other sports?

A: I am Anjali and I want to become a nurse as I want to serve people and help them. I am Mille and I want to become a lawyer, I want to work for justice and reduce crime in our country. I am Rabia and I would love to play football. I am Rinky and I will become a fashion designer. I like to wear new clothes and I will stitch my own clothes!  We think that cricket gave us an opportunity to go ahead in England and we shall cherish this opportunity forever.

Q) Cricket as a sport unites our nation. How so?

A: In the game, the team has only one goal- To win against the opponent. This is the reason why people from diverse places, religions, languages and skills come together to form a team and make this happen. We feel that the team spirit in itself unities our nation when everyone wants India to win!  This is exactly why rich and poor, both alike come together on a television set to watch the cricket match!

Q) If you were captain and you had to pick the World Cup Team, who would you pick?

A: We shall have all our friends in the team! Anjali, Mille, Rabia, Rinky, Muskan, Jabir, Tarak, Irfan and Amit. If we had to choose outside of our friend circle we would pick Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Virat Kholi, Dinesh Kartik, Russel and Gautam Gambhir in our team!

Q) You must’ve grown up watching only men and boys playing international cricket. How was your experience in playing in mixed-gender teams? What are your thoughts on it? Why do you think (or not) that girls and boys playing together is important?

A: Yes! We have seen more boys and men play international cricket. Playing in a mixed gender team was actually the best thing that happened to us! We used to wake up at the same time as the boys and get into practice and routine. We did the same amount of push-ups the boys did and nobody stopped us from playing just because we were girls. There was a sense of equality and respect with the way boys treated us. We were on par with boys and so, we think it is important to have a mixed gender team. We realised girls are strong and no less than boys! Before this, we did not get an opportunity to explore our physical strength and speak up. We were equally part of the decision-making process and we felt that our voice mattered.

Q) Are you going to be watching the Women’s World Cup Cricket? Why/ Why not?

A: Yes! We will support the Indian women’s team! We anyway love Mithali Raj and admire her game. I think when we support the Women’s World Cup Cricket, it will only encourage more and more girls to participate and take sports seriously. More than that, we feel girls should just enjoy playing a game.

Q) Tell us the best thing about playing cricket? What is the most fun part about it? What have you learnt from playing cricket?

A: We learnt the importance of how a routine can help us become better at what we do.

We learnt why discipline matters to work towards a goal.

We learnt that team spirit is important to win a game!

We learnt why it is important to be punctual and have self-discipline.

We learnt how eating a healthy balanced diet can help build stamina.

We learnt that our voice matters!

Q) Is cricket compulsory in schools? Should it be? Why so?

A: We think sports should be made compulsory in school. Cricket can be one of the optional sports so that children can choose what sport they want to pick. Some children may like football more than cricket. Not everyone has access to a cricket stadium and the equipment is expensive. If schools can have that fees waived off and talk to the government, cricket can become an affordable game that is accessible to street children. This will ensure that no child is denied playing a sport due to lack of funds.

 Q) How has your life changed after going for the Street World Cup?

A: Earlier, street children were not taken seriously and we never got a platform or a voice to speak about our issues and rights. We all had great difficulty to get our passports made because we did not have all the documents needed to create a passport. You only tell us, what about the children who were raised on the streets? How will they get documents for proof of address or even a birth certificate?

It is for the first time we realised why having a document is important and is linked to Right to Identity. When we went to England, we participated in the General Assembly where all children were given three days to discuss the pressing issues that we faced. For us, Right to Identity came out strongly. Moving ahead, we’d like to urge the government to ease the documentation process for street children.

Apart from that, we went to England; we were treated with respect and dignity. We played a match at Lord’s and went all the way to England for the first time! Sometimes, we still can’t believe that all of this actually happened!  But beyond the game, we met important dignitaries and had breakfast with them, they showered their love and spoke to us and we felt we mattered.

Earlier, people used to think that street children are not talented but we never got a platform to show our talent. It is only when we came back from England, now everyone knows us. We have developed our personality and are confident!

We are also more disciplined, are punctual and are on time. I think this is what learning a sport did to us. We are thankful and proud to get this opportunity.

You can read what the Boys Team of North India had to share with us here.

#PlayMatters – “More Girls Should Play Cricket!” Say Boys At Azad Maidan

Q) Who do you think is going to win the Cricket World Cup?

A: India! (in unison)

Q) Why?

A: Aryan – Because India has got Virat Kohli!

Durvesh – And even Hardik Pandya!

Sarthak – Everyone is training hard and playing well… so I feel India is going to win.

Q) Who are your favourite players?

A: Virat Kohli! (in unison)

Durvesh – Hardik Pandya!

Q) Why Kohli?

A: Aryan – I really love his batting.

Q) And why Pandya?

Durvesh – Because Pandya hits helicopter shot. He can keep hitting fours and sixes non-stop.

Q) Do you also watch women’s cricket matches?

A: Sarthak – Yes! But I do not know any of the players’ name.

Q) What do you feel about boys and girls playing cricket together?

A: Aryan – Cricket is a game which can be easily played by boys and girls together.

Durvesh – More girls should play cricket.

Sarthak – And it’ll be more fun.

Q) And what other games/sports do you play apart from cricket?

A: Football! (in unison)

Durvesh – I love playing football more than cricket. I came today to play cricket because he asked me to. (giggles)

Sarthak – Even I love football. Pogba is my favourite.

Aryan – I also play Kabaddi.

Durvesh – And I like to swim as well. I love playing everything. I am an all-rounder just like Pandya.

Q) Why do you like playing Cricket more than any other sports?

A: Aryan – Cricket has so many things… batting, fielding, bowling.

Sarthak – I enjoy hitting sixes.

Durvesh – And I love bowling and fielding. But at times, I misfield and drop catches.

Q) So you all come to play cricket here every Sunday? Do you also play cricket at school?

A: Yes! (in unison)

Sarthak – Sometimes, we also play at Cooperage ground.

Durvesh – We three are from different schools.

Q) Then how did you become friends?

A: Aryan – We stay in the same building and I guess we became fast friends while playing cricket only.

Q) So do you play in your building premises?

A: Sarthak – Sometimes. But we don’t like playing cricket there.

Aryan – We are scared of playing there… what if we break someone windows glass.

Durvesh – That is why we all come here. And I especially love this ground as I can hit very long sixes like Pandya. (everyone laughs)

#PlayMatters – Where Children Play Cricket

Every child in India will have remnants of their childhood linked to the game of cricket. Along the banks of the ganges, during the shutdowns in Kashmir, across the open fields in Bihar, in the narrow bastis of Dharavi and Chandni Chowk, and during monsoon in Mumbai, the culture of cricket is inherent in every corner of India. In a game, almost synonymous to a religion in our country, there are no boundaries of gender, age or caste… the only boundaries that matter are the sixes and fours. 

For the children of India, this Sunday morning ritual calls for – dividing players into teams, setting up make-shift wickets at the batting end, segregating the colony or basti into boundaries for the ‘sixers’, using local lingo picked up from the older players, tossing with a one-rupee coin and finally, playing a long, passion-filled game of cricket. 

This World Cup Cricket, don’t miss this photo-essay, that exuberates in every frame, the joy children find in playing their favourite game despite no place to play.

Any empty space is a cricket pitch…

Picture Credits : Mahesh Kumar

Be it in narrow alleys

Picture Credits : Unknown

Across railway tracks…

Picture Credits : Danish Siddiqui

Or on sandy beaches..

Picture Credits : Unknown

Perfectly acceptable substitutes for stumps are…

Picture Credits : Unknown

Bamboo sticks, tires, bricks, stones or even firecracker boxes..

Picture Credits : Getty Images

Tin pieces from demolished rooftops

Picture Credits : Mukhtar Khan

Police shields …

Picture Credits : Basit Zargar

And empty liquor bottles..

Picture Credits : Unknown

Discarded chairs or Chalk drawings on walls… 

Picture Credits : Unknown

Card board boxes, leaves and cloth pieces act well as knee pads…

Picture Credits : Reddit

Boundary walls are…

Picture Credits : Vivek Prakash

Entrances to temples…

Picture Credits : Sanjay Austa

Rocky Mountains sides…

Picture Credits : Matthew Lewis

The insides of a truck

Picture Credits : Unknown

Thatched roofs and mud walls…

Picture Credits : Unknown

Or even riversides and lakes

Picture Credits : Anupam Nath

But nothing stops children from finding ways to play their favourite game

Picture Credits : Unknown

#PlayMatters – In Conversation With Sudeshna Chatterjee, On Promoting A Child’s Right To Play

Urbanist, researcher, and planning and development professional who uses her knowledge and expertise to work with diverse stakeholders and institutions to create safe urban communities, and inclusive and resilient cities, Sudeshna Chatterjee has also been on the 14-member panel that drafted the General Comment on the right to play, and worked determinedly to build a more cohesive and coherent voice on every child’s right to play.

As CEO of Action for Children’s Environments and Board Member at International Play Association, her unique contribution to advocating for safe and friendly spaces for children to play and thrive, has played a significant role in India and across the world.

In conversation with the power-lady whose vision and ambition are gaining momentum in addressing a huge challenge in the child rights agenda – play.

Q) Tell us about your extensive work in research, urban design and planning and in promoting a child’s right to play.

A: I vividly remember 8-year-old Soham with his droopy, dreamy eyes. The year was 1998 and I was doing fieldwork in Calcutta for my master’s dissertation in Urban Design at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi on the topic of “Child in the City”. I had asked children from different neighbourhoods to draw and describe their favourite places in their local environment and Soham had drawn the upper floors of a high-rise building, the crowns of coconut palms, and a young boy in an upper balcony staring at the floating clouds above. It was such a poignant portrayal of an urban child, trapped in an apartment high above the noisy, traffic filled streets, with no permission to play outside, no one to play with and no safe space to play in the neighbourhood. My master’s dissertation was the starting point of a twenty-year journey in which I have explored with children and many organizations different aspects of what makes cities, neighbourhoods, schools and open spaces child-friendly. The saying “It is a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together,” is definitely true in my case. I am the founder and CEO of the non-profit Action for Children’s Environments (ACE) based in New Delhi, India. ACE seeks to fill a vital gap in development practice by offering cross-sectoral urban expertise including policy, planning, and design expertise to make cities more safe, inclusive, resilient and livable for all

I was trained as an architect and urban designer, and finished a PhD in Community and Environmental Design under Robin Moore, a pioneer in the research and design of children’s environments, from North Carolina State University, USA. My PhD dissertation deconstructed the idea of the child friendly city and had the central hypothesis that from an Environment-Behaviour perspective, a child friendly city can only be studied as a disaggregation, made up of numerous and interlocking child friendly places with which children engage and develop emotional and affective bonds through exploration in the everyday environments of neighbourhoods and cities. The primary vehicle of children’s exploration of and engagement with places is play in its many forms.

With maturing age and abilities children seek out places further and further away from their home base and seek out opportunities for play, fun and freedom typically in the company of friends. Free play which is the only self-structured spontaneous behaviour in childhood allows children to make sense of the world around them and define their place in the world. As experts have pointed out play enables children to move from dependence to independence, competence and in many cases, resilience. This is now an important thread of my work on child friendly cities and we at Action for Children’s Environments (ACE) through a consortium of partners are hosting a major international conference on the theme of Play and Resilience in India next year: the 21st IPA Triennial World Conference in Jaipur, November 4-7, 2020.

Q) How do you believe the right to play is intrinsically linked to creating safe urban communities, that are inclusive and resilient cities for children?

A: In 2016, the International Play Association (IPA) developed a concept paper for the Day of General Discussion, UNCRC on the topic of children’s right to play in relation to the right to a healthy environment. I had contributed to that paper along with many international experts and I will draw from it here. As a board member of IPA let me first introduce IPA’s position on play: Play is a vital and fundamental part of the human experience; it is important to the lives of children in that it gives them pleasure, is essential to their healthy physical and mental growth, and enhances their ability to function in the culture and society in which they are born (IPA Declaration, 2014). We know that children play anywhere and everywhere as opportunities present themselves. These could be in a well-designed play space in the neighbourhood park or a railway track next to their squatters. Children’s play and indeed children’s well-being are closely related to and dependent on the quality of spaces and places they inhabit and the social relationships they enjoy in them. The nature of play is very much shaped by the context in which play happens.

The New Urban agenda makes clear the need to create a mutually reinforcing relationship between urbanization and development as parallel vehicles for sustainable development. With 70 per cent of the world’s populations living in cities by 2050, the development of this relationship in the short term is critical if we are to be adequately prepared for meeting the demands that will be placed on future urban populations. Over 1 billion people globally are living in slums and informal settlements. Children growing up in these settlements are at a disadvantage due to the inadequacies in their physical and often social environments. Promoting the child’s right to play by making available space, time, resources and permission to play in public places will help to fulfil one important SDG target (#11.7: By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities) for children everywhere and especially for those living in inadequate housing.

Planning, designing and providing safe yet thrilling play spaces that promote and protect children’s rights, is a challenge. The tendency is often to over design and sanitize, to take away all risks from children’s play. Yet children seek out risks to manage and create challenges through play. In the higher-income countries there is a growing awareness today to take a risk-benefit approach to play provisions which recognizes the benefits of certain manageable risks and incorporating them in play space design. Unless we respect the abilities of children to negotiate manageable risk, we will rob them of the vital benefits of free play. However, in low-income countries including in India, the risks that children face in the places they play due to lack of formal provisions for play are often not manageable at an individual level without support of the adult duty bearers of children’s rights. While provision of safe space to play does not fully address the right to play, it is an important compensatory factor when children would otherwise be forced to play in hostile, unhealthy and or hazardous environments as in the case of slum dwelling children.  Creating safe, inclusive and resilient cities would involve providing safe but fun, thrilling and child-friendly, age and culturally appropriate play spaces for children. It is also important to take into account access conditions to promote independent mobility and free play of children in the planning and management of the public realm of the city. Such an approach is fundamental to both inclusive urbanization and child-centred development.

Q) Your report “Access to Play for Children in Situations of Crisis” is the first of its kind. Do share with us some of the key insights from the report.

A: It was a real privilege to lead IPA’s Access to Play in Crisis projects as it for the first time allowed us to dive deep and understand play or the lack of it in situations of natural and man-made disasters, humanitarian and everyday crisis. The case studies in six countries (India, Japan, Lebanon, Nepal, Thailand and Turkey) show that children were able to transact with their environments and develop meaningful relationships with peers and places when they had access to play, typically in very unsafe places, whether after natural disasters, humanitarian crisis or in the context of everyday crisis of poverty and marginalization. In almost all the contexts, when children were asked what play meant to them, the overwhelming theme appeared to be that play allowed them to have “fun, friendships and freedom”. The myriad forms of play that was witnessed in these many different situations of crisis across the world speak to the capacity of children to ‘overcome adversity, survive stress and rise above disadvantage’ (the very definition of resilient children by Rutter, 1979) while partaking of the pleasure of childhood. In the situations where we saw the most access to play in the wider geographic area had supportive adults (not saying don’t play was also a big support in most contexts). Other factors that contributed to play included numerous spaces with rich environmental affordances with varying degrees of risk which children learned to manage, and less restrictions on children’s time. Under these conditions play emerged as a living resource for children that allowed them to bond with places and create parallel worlds for escaping the harsh and scary real one. Play prepared children to bounce forward from the crisis.

A word of caution when we talk about play as a resilience building tool. Even as the children who played freely and creatively in the most challenging of environments emerge as resilient beings, as Luthar and Goldstein (2004) noted, “If children are faced with continuing and severe assaults from the external environment, then they simply cannot sustain resilience adaptation over time—regardless of how much they are helped to believe in themselves, how intelligent they are, or how well they learn to regulate their emotions”. Risk reduction and management cannot be the sole responsibility of individuals and communities, the state has a significant role to play in this. The General Comment 17 emphasized on this and recommended that States should take active measures to restore and protect the rights under article 31 in post-conflict and disaster situations, including, inter alia:

  • Encouraging play and creative expression to promote resilience and psychological healing;
  • Creating or restoring safe spaces, including schools, where children from diverse backgrounds can participate in play and recreation as part of the normalization of their lives (Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2013: 19)

To know more about the report, please read here.

Q) You were part of the 14-member international committee that drafted the General Comment on Article 31 of the UNCRC, referred to as the ‘Play’ Article. How has (or not) the Government of India incorporated the spirit of this article in addressing this as a right for all children?

A: The recent development in this space is encouraging. There is now recognition of play for the first time in plans and policies for children in India. ACE had reviewed the draft National Policy for Children 2013 as well as the National Plan of Action for Children 2016 and given substantial inputs on the right to play. It is great to see that reflected in the new policies and plans.

For example: National Policy for Children (2013), under “Education and Development” has the Clause xii: Review, develop and sustain age-specific initiatives, services and programmes for safe spaces for play, sports, recreation, leisure, cultural and scientific activities for children in neighbourhoods, schools and other institutions.

And the National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Policy (2013) says: The Government shall ensure the provision of safe, child-friendly and developmentally appropriate play and learning materials and appropriate play spaces by appropriate instruments and instructions in ECCE settings.

Q) With increasing urbanization, cramped living spaces, and complex city governance structures, especially in big cities, what ideas would you recommend to address a child’s right to play? 

A: The solutions have to come from first understanding that our cities are failing children and then being proactive about participatory visioning and dialogue including all stakeholders: children, adolescents, youth parents, teachers, government, urban planners, designers and the civil society organizations. Promoting child friendly cities which enables outdoor play of children fulfils many SDG goals and targets for governments including most notably healthy lives and well-being for all at all ages; inclusive and equitable quality education; resilient infrastructure; inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities; peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.

Many cities across the world are committing to making child friendly cities such as the “My City Too” initiative by Earth Day Canada and 8 80 Cities to develop a strategy that advances outdoor free play and independent mobility for children across the city of Toronto. Canada ranks 25th out of 41 countries in overall child and youth well-being. According to UNICEF, lack of child-led, outdoor play and independent mobility contribute significantly to these rankings. Over the course of 2019, both organizations will convene Toronto families and children, municipal leaders, and child advocates to gain insight into the opportunities and challenges in providing children with access to outdoor free play and independent mobility. These conversations will inform a strategy for Toronto to establish itself as a child-friendly city that actively supports outdoor free play and independent mobility.

Q) Tell us about new innovative approaches to promote the right to play in India and across the world.

A: One of the innovative approaches that I am very excited about is the global Outdoor Classroom Day campaign by Semble (formerly Project Dirt) and backed by Unilever. ACE works on this campaign in India as we believe that the school offers a vital opportunity for play in children’s everyday lives by providing access to safe spaces, peers, and resources for play. This is especially important for girls and vulnerable children who often do not have parental permission to play in the neighbourhood outdoors. This global campaign advocates for celebrating and inspiring play and learning outside the classroom and to inspire schools everywhere to make outdoor learning and play part of every day. It shows that outdoor play at school helps develop healthy, curious and active kids who are better connected to their environment. It brings together evidence that shows that time outdoors is particularly important for children’s mental health – reducing stress, giving a sense of calm and simply making them happier.

Over 2 million children around the world went outdoors in 2018 on Outdoor Classroom Day! On November 7, 2019 thousands of schools across the world including in India will be celebrating outdoor learning and play. Schools who participate in OC Day talk about the positive impact it has on both students and teachers. It helps to develop a culture of learning without walls and outdoor play and physical activities of children every day.

Unilever is part of the Real Play Coalition that was formed at Davos in 2018 by four corporates: Lego Foundation, Unilever’s Dirt is Good brand, IKEA and National Geographic. Their mission is to create a movement that prioritises the importance of play as not something that only lets children be children, but as something that sparks the fire for a child’s development and learning.

Sign up here to participate in Outdoor Classroom Day!

Q) What advocacy efforts are underway in India to acknowledge and act on a child’s right to play? Give us ideas that need to be advocated for in order to change attitudes towards the importance of play in childhood.

A: Government and civil society, with these new policies, want to promote play both in the context of education as well as in all everyday settings of children involving parents and communities including for most vulnerable children across India. Some excellent projects have been piloted by civil society groups in diverse geographies but they need scale up.

The Smart Cities Initiative is committing to making cities child friendly in India. A very welcome initiative. Providing adequate parks and playgrounds is an important component of that. But how do we advocate for meaningful contextually relevant play opportunities for say slum children within high-density low-quality environments? If we make more playgrounds, how do we make them inclusive where all children irrespective of class, caste and ethnicity can play freely? How do we make these play spaces climate resilient and culturally appropriate? How do we replicate best practices of promoting community based indigenous play even for the most vulnerable children and reach scale? How do we sensitize adults and society to the value and need for play in childhood so that parents and communities become champions of play and protect, preserve and promote children’s free play? These are some of the questions that we are grappling with. In order to find answers to some of these questions and chart new pathways to solutions we are hosting the 21st IPA Triennial World Conference in Jaipur (Nov 4-7, 2020) to provide the right momentum to seriously promote play and provide access to play for all children in India. This conference will bring together government, civil society and private sector actors from across the world for four wonderful days to share knowledge and best practices, advocate, demonstrate and champion children’s play.

#PlayMatters – 5 Young Sportspersons In India You Must Follow

The current generation of young Indian sportspersons have not only helped India make a mark in the global sports arena, but also set inspiring examples for the next generation, reiterating the growing importance of a sports and play culture across the country.

From the introduction of Khelo India, a clear sign of support from the Government to push a sports culture, advocacy for a sports curriculum across schools, sports linked education scholarships, to mixed-gender teams and the sudden wave of sporting leagues, all are indicators that a sporting revolution of sorts is sweeping through India.

Sports and play when introduced at a young age, are hugely impactful in shaping lives of children, teaching them valuable life lessons, providing opportunity to learn and grow, promoting equality and team work, and providing a sense of freedom, much needed in developing into well-rounded adults.

Many children and youth have been positively impacted by their chosen sport, some have excelled at it, others have found their passion and still others a means of expression. As we are gear up for the World Cup Cricket finals, here’s a look at the youth sports icons who inspire us everyday.

1. JEMIMAH RODRIGUES, 18 – CRICKET

Picture Courtesy : AFP

“As the Indian team is playing right now, it will inspire Indian girls to take up the bat and there shall be many more academies for women’s cricket in India. There are many girls who come on the ground and tell us they want to start playing cricket. So things are definitely changing and it is only going to get better over the coming years.”

Mumbai based Jemimah Rodrigues became news when she scored a double century only when she was a 16-year-old. Under her father’s guidance, she started practicing at Shivaji Park when she was only 4 years old. Jemimah was denied access to a cricket academy in Bandra because it considered an ‘only boys sport’, but today no one can stop her. With 5 years of national level experience under her belt, she made her international debut in February 2018, at the age of 17 years. Known for her explosive batting style, she was awarded the best Woman Cricketer in Junior Domestic cricket by BCCI. When cricket tires her, she picks up the hockey stick or goes to her guitar, her companion on every tour.

2.  MANU BHAKER, 17 – SHOOTING

Picture Courtesy : PTI

“This medal will motivate me to reach greater heights in the future, and I dedicate this to my family and coaches who have been supportive throughout,” said Manu Baker, on becoming the youngest Indian shooter to win World Cup gold. 

Focused, uncluttered and courageous is how one can describes the Haryana girl Manu Bhaker, an Indian shooter who represented India at the 2018 ISSF World Cup and won two gold medals becoming the youngest Indian to win a gold medal at the World Cup. At the age of 16, she also won a gold medal in the Women’s 10 m air pistol event at 2018 Commonwealth Games. Manu got a push when India’s interest in youth-driven games rose with the government’s Khelo India, a national programme for the development of sports. Manu spoke fearlessly on the shooting prize money that was promised to her by the Haryana Sports Minister, as she felt the government was playing “games” with her.

Being a shooter was not accidental for Manu, as she was inspired by her grandfather, a soldier in the Indian Regiment military who had witnessed the 1962 Indo- China war. Manu was naturally drawn to sports and until the age of 14, she excelled in Thang Ta or Huyen langlon, a Manipuri martial art. She was also good at boxing, tennis and skating, winning medals at the national games in these events. Manu has recently applied to Delhi University for her college education.

3.  ARYAN JOSHI,16 – CHESS 

Picture Courtesy : Unknown

“It is mostly about imagination. With the modifications, we identify better. I want to pursue a career in chess. I am training hard under coach Raghunandan Gokhale, I take his classes on Skype mostly. I want more coaching and want to participate in more international tournaments to improve ratings.”

16-year-old Aryan never let challenges come in the way of pursuing his passion for chess. Being partially blind was something he took in his stride. Despite his partial vision, he says he does everything like any other child, just that his approach may differ. Aryan’s interest in the game began when he sat with his brother and father who were playing. It was a special board, that allows visually impaired persons to touch individual sockets that he learnt his game.

Aryan’s ambition is to become an International Master in chess and a Grand Master, a feat that no visually challenged Indian as ever achieved. Aryan feels chess is the only game where blind people are at the same level as others. He has represented India in the World Team Championship for Indian blind chess.

As advised by doctors, for stimulation, Aryan pursues swimming and won 4 gold medals at the Maharashtra Paralympic Swimming Association and won 1 gold and 2 silver at the National Paralympic Swimming Championship. For Aryan, swimming is his passion and he wants to pursue chess internationally.

4.  SWASTIKA GHOSH, 16 – TABLE TENNIS 

Picture Courtesy : ITTF

“My dream is to win an Olympic Gold medal for India.”

Mumbai based paddler; Swastika Ghosh was part of team India that won gold at the South Asian Table Tennis Championship. Receiving a scholarship from Virat Kohli Foundation, it helped her progress and get better at her game at an International level. She also captained the Indian sub-junior team for the South Asian Federation Games held in Pakistan. Swastika first received the All India Rank-1 in the under-12 table tennis category, after winning the National Ranking Central Zone Table Tennis Championship in Gandhidham, Gujarat in 2013

Swastika’s father, Sandeep Ghosh is also her coach and mentor. Last year, Swastika was not included in the Ultimate Table Tennis (UTT) and this made both of them upset. Swastika sought an an explanation, for not being considered for the league.

5.  AADIL BEDI, 18 – GOLF

Picture Courtesy : Aadil Bedi Twitter Handle

“No matter where you get admission, IIT, UPENN or DU, no matter how fit your muscles are, it all comes down to how you treat others,” said Aadil in his High school graduation speech at his school in Chandigarh.

Chandigarh based Aadil Bedi developed a passion for golf when he was four-years-old. It was in Kuwait when Aadil visited his maternal uncle that he got acquainted with the sport. At an early age, Aadil was certain that he wanted to become a golfer and envisaged designing good golf courses.

Aadil became the youngest player to make the cut for the Indian golf team for the Asian Games that were held in Indonesia in 2018. Aiming to qualify for the 2020 Olympics, he is focused on his game and is grateful to the support received by Virat Kohli Foundation in mentoring and training him.

#PlayMatters – Cricket In The Time Of Conflict

In a situation of perpetual conflict, children are held hostage within the four walls of their homes, exposed to prolonged periods of violence and curfew. They suffer the loss of loved ones – family members and friends who never make it back home. Homebound due to indefinite shutdown of schools and colleges, hartals, disengaged internet services, closed shops and playgrounds, they have little outlet for expression.

Children carry a fair load of the struggles in a conflict region, with not much to look forward to. Yet, the myriad forms of play that children can invent in situations of conflict, reflect a child’s resilience to deal with adversity, survive stress and rise above difficult times, if given the chance. “Children have a spontaneous urge to play and participate in recreational activities and will seek out opportunities to do so in the most unfavourable environments. However, certain conditions need to be assured, in accordance with children’s evolving capacities, if they are to realize their rights under Article 31 to the optimum extent.” (Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2013:10)

World Cup Cricket fever is gripping the agitated Kashmir Valley too, providing momentary refuge from reality, especially for its youth and children.

Here’s a photo-essay that underscores why play matters in reviving childhoods, when violence and conflict are gnawing away at the lives of children, every day, proving that the sun never sets on cricket season.

In the deep lanes of Safa Kadal a neighbourhood in the old city of Srinagar, boys play cricket, away from the crosshairs of the troops…

Photo : AP

In refugee camps in Muzaffarabad…

Photo : Roohan Ahmed/SAMAA Digital

During frequent shutdowns and curfews across the region…

Photo : Faisal Khan/Anadolu Agency

They rush to the nearest playground for a game of cricket…

Photo : AFP

Or at the Idgah in Tral, when school remains shut for months on end, and their right to education is hindered by the ongoing violence…

Photo : Sonia Sarkar

Under the shadow of Kashmir’s Zabarwan mountain range…

Photo : Saqib Majeed

On roofs top of old homes in the war-torn city…

Photo : Unknown

In sprawling fields on the outskirts of Srinagar…

Photo : Sportskeeda

Across the saffron fields of Pampore…

Photo : Sajad Rafeeq

And in the Lidderwath Valley of Pahalgam…

Photo : The Citizen

Together, with the jawans and policemen…

Photo : Unknown

And young girls in headscarves..

Photo : Associated Press

And boys in pherans…

Photo : Unknown

Even on a rainy day in Kashmir, with the military as an ever-present backdrop for their game, children find a way to play cricket.

Photo : Getty Images

Be it playing on the frozen interiors of the Dal lake..

Photo : Excelsior/Shakeel

On a slippery pitch on the hill roads of snow-capped Pahalgam, with make shift bats, an open road and players in coats…

Photo : Sportskeeda

On snow-fields at Heerpora along Mughal Road…

Photo : Excelsior/Younis Khaliq

At sub-zero temperatures with heavy snowfall…

Photo : Muneeb Ul Islam/The Quint

Nothing dissuades children from playing cricket across Kashmir…

Photo : Unknown

#PlayMatters – Monisha Finds An Equal Footing In Her Community Through The Game Of Cricket

“If you respect us, you will listen to us and if you listen to us, you will protect us. So please protect us!” said Monisha as a representative of her team at the Street Child Cricket World Cup, held in England in May 2019.

Born and raised on the street, 14-year-old Monisha knew the everyday challenge of living on the street… from encountering drunk men who hovered around during the night as she made her way to the toilet, or always being worried about her safety, Monisha’s life was not easy. In 2016, when her father passed away, her mother started working as house help to support her two children. With no choice but to leave her children unsupervised, she constantly worried about them. Monisha and her sibling has no alternative but to look after themselves.

Karunalaya, a non profit organization working for the protection and development of street children, used sports and play as an intervention tool for vulnerable children, providing them opportunity to play and hone their skills. Being a street child herself, Monisha was identified by Karunalaya and thus began her journey from the street to the Street Child Cricket World Cup.

For a girl who didn’t have much hope for a bright future, participating in the Street Child Cricket World Cup, was a life changing experience. A potent voice at this gathering, Monisha shared her thoughts and concerns for children like herself, demanding global attention and action for the same.

What the opportunity to play and win a game (mixed-gender) of cricket did for Monisha might never find the appropriate words, but it gave her wings, a new perspective to life and the courage to dream, not a luxury afforded by many street children across India.

Team South India is a mixed-gender team comprising 4 girls and 4 boys from Chennai and Mumbai, supported by Magic Bus and Karunalaya.

Q) Tell us about yourself, what do you like doing in your free time?

A: I am Monisha I love playing games with children in my neighbourhood and interacting with them.

Q) Congratulations on winning the first ever Street Child World Cup! How was your experience?

A: I was happy to win the final match over every other team! You know, I also got an opportunity to represent the voice of all the street children in India when I spoke at the General Assembly organised for all of us! I suddenly felt so responsible for myself and every other child and person living on the streets. I got a voice, was appreciated for putting my thoughts before so many people, I felt responsible for myself and all children and people living on the streets. I think street children should be given respect and taken seriously.

Q) Tell us about your travel to England. How was it meeting different boys and girls from across the world? Did you make friends with them?

A: Everything was just so perfect in England! I became good friends with the team from England. It was so cold in there, and the team gave me extra blankets to ensure I stayed warm. I also fell ill in England and was worried about my health and performance. A friend from the England team gave me medicines and took care of me. It was nice to see someone I do not even know to reach out and help me in another country.

Q) Who is your favourite cricketer? Why?

A: My all-time favourite cricketer is Ganguly! Under his captaincy, India achieved great heights. He also gave Dhoni a chance to flourish.

Q) Dhoni or Virat? Who is the better captain? Why? Tell us about your team captain too.

A: Dhoni! I think if any cricketer made a mistake, he did not get aggressive, instead he would motivate the team. He worked silently, never tried to hog the media limelight and was patient. Under his captaincy, I think India won two World Cups!  He even worked hard as the captain of Chennai Super Kings and took them through many victories. I love Dhoni! Our captain is also like Dhoni, patient and constantly motivating us.

Q) Sachin or Virat? Who is the better batsman? Harbhajan or Bhumra? Who is the better bowler?

A: Sachin! Bhumra is the best bowler!

Q) Are you watching the World Cup this year? Which country do you believe has the best chances of winning? Why?

A: Yes! I think Australia is a great team and skilled in their game! England is good too!

Q) What do you aspire to be when you grow up? A cricketer or something else? Why? What is it about cricket that you prefer over other sports?

A: I will become an IPS officer so that I can work at the policy level to help street children and people from my community. I will continue playing cricket and shall keep the passion of the game alive! I like playing football too….but it will always be cricket first.

Q) If you were captain and you had to pick the World Cup Team, who all would you pick?

A: I will have my friends Nagalakshmi, Paulraj, Surya and Guna in the team. Along with them, I would like to pick Ganguly, Hardik Pandya, Sehwag, too!

Q) You must’ve grown up watching only men and boys playing international cricket. How was your experience in playing in mixed-gender teams? What are your thoughts on it? Why do you think (or not) that girls and boys playing together is important?

A: Yes! I have never seen girls and boys play a match together. It shows the equality of gender and how girls are capable of doing what they want to. You know, in India I feel, girls are highly discriminated towards. But while playing a game of cricket, both are equal as we have only one common goal- To win the match!

Q) Are you going to be watching the Women’s World Cup Cricket? Why/ Why not?

A: Yes! Of course, I will be watching the Women’s World Cup Cricket. In my community, we all watch the matches together on one television set. Last time too, my brothers saw the match and told me about women cricketers such as Mithali Raj. I got inspired by watching women sportsperson achieving great heights and it motivated me to focus on my game.

Q) Tell us the best thing about playing cricket? What is the most fun part about it? What have you learnt from playing cricket?

A: I never knew I was a good bowler. I thought I couldn’t play with any other competitive team and maybe this would just remain a hobby. But now, I am so much more confident. It was a great experience for me to speak on the stage without fear. I am happy to have played on the Lord’s ground!

Q) Is cricket compulsory in schools? Should it be? Why so?

A: It should definitely be made compulsory. I have studied at a girl’s school and we do have several sports and games available other than cricket. If we have cricket, it will help me practice and it will also benefit other children.

Q) How has your life changed after going for the Street World Cup?

A: I have immense self-respect for myself and now, I know my real worth! Earlier, a few people discouraged me, discriminated towards me because I was a girl, but now, they are supportive and encouraging of my wish to play cricket! I am proud to have come this far. Now, even the police talks to us with respect and we finally have an identity.

#PlayMatters – Nagalaxmi Finds Inspiration In Mitali Raj To Represent India In Mixed-Gender Cricket

Raised in a shelter home run by Karunalaya, a nonprofit organization working for the protection and development of street children, Nagalaxmi never let her circumstances come in the way of picking up the bat and ball to excel in the sport of cricket.

Being born in Madurai, Nagalaxmi’s mother abandoned her and three siblings, leaving them with her grandmother, who in turn grandmother sent two of the girls to shelter home, keeping the boys under her care.

Ever since, the shelter home has been Nagalaxmi’s only home. Here is where she prepared to participate in the first Street Child World Cup held in England earlier this year. Being a part of Team South India, her consistency, practice, focus and rigorous training for almost a year made her an asset to the team.

Today, Nagalaxmi is proud to have the power of choice to make her own decisions, something she realised when she played a match in a mixed-gender team. She aspires to become a social worker and help children and people from her community to fulfil their rights and find an identity.

Team South India is a mixed-gender team comprising 4 girls and 4 boys from Chennai and Mumbai, supported by Magic Bus and Karunalaya.

Q) Tell us your name, what do you like doing in your free time?

A: I am Nagalaxmi. I love playing football in my free time!

Q) Congratulations on winning the first ever Street Child World Cup! How was your experience?

A: I am so proud and happy to be winning the first ever Street Child World Cup. I never thought I would represent India and go this far; this is such a beautiful feeling.

Q) Tell us about your travel to England. How was it meeting different boys and girls from across the world? Did you make friends with them? Tell us about it.

A: I was fascinated to meet people from different countries, cultures and have conversations with people from diverse backgrounds. The team from Tanzania was the best as they were extremely friendly. You know, everyone was nice to us.

Q) Who is your favourite cricketer? Why? 

A: Mithali Raj! She plays so well and I can resonate with her journey, her struggle to be the best at her game. For me, she is on par with Virat Kohli and I look up to her because she followed her passion to become a cricketer. It is my dream to become a cricketer like her.

Q) Dhoni or Virat? Who is the better captain? Why? Tell us about your team captain too.

A: Dhoni! I think he treats each player with respect and holds the team together. Our team captain too was just like him, he lead the team well and always supported us. Even our vice-captain was nice, he would never scold us, was patient and we learnt a lot from him.

Q) Sachin or Virat? Who is the better batsman? Harbhajan or Bhumra? Who is the better bowler?

A: Sachin, for sure! He is like God! Bhumra is a better bowler!

Q) Are you watching the World Cup this year? Which country do you believe has the best chances of winning? Why?

A: I do not have access to a TV to follow the World Cup this year…

Q) What do you aspire to be when you grow up? A cricketer or something else? Why? What is it about cricket that you prefer over other sports?

A: I will either become a cricketer or a social worker. I want to help people so that they get their rights and a platform to showcase their talent. If I become a social worker, I will be able to help children from the streets and communities. I hope more children like me get an opportunity to go to England and get the exposure I did.

Q) If you were captain and you had to pick the World Cup Team, who would you pick? 

A: My team will have a mix of my friends, male and female cricketers, retired cricketers and some talented cricketers who play in the league matches. Apart from me in the team, my friend Paulraj will also be in the team. I will have Mithali Raj, Smriti Mandhana, Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kholi, Dada (Saurav Ganguly), Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mani Kumar.

Q) You must’ve grown up watching only men and boys playing international cricket. How was your experience in playing in mixed-gender teams? What are your thoughts on it? Why do you think (or not) that girls and boys playing together is important?

A: Yes, I have only known about men and boys playing cricket. Playing in a mixed gender team made me realise that both men and women are equal. As a girl, I was given power and had full control over my decisions. It shows that both, men and women are equal. I was at par with all players including the boys and that made my performance better and it boosted my confidence.

Q) Are you going to be watching the Women’s World Cup Cricket? Why/ Why not?

A: I do not have access to a TV to watch the match regularly… I do want to watch the Women’s World Cup, but I do not think I can watch it.

Q) Tell us the best thing about playing cricket? What is the most fun part about it? What have you learnt from playing cricket? 

A: Everything was so good about playing the match! I never knew I was a good bowler. Even in the final match, I bowled well and we were able to win the match! One thing I learnt while playing cricket was to never give up and that anything can happen till the end of the game. Many people appreciated me because I won the Street Child World Cup Trophy. It developed confidence in me.

Q) Is cricket compulsory in schools? Should it be? Why so?

A: I think cricket should be made compulsory in schools. In my school, there are many games available to us, but not cricket. If that happens, I will get time to practice and get better at my game…

Q) How has your life changed after going for the Street World Cup?

A: You know, more than me, my sister was happier to see me reach this far. I am proud to see her happy. I do not have parents and so, going to England, playing the match and winning the first ever Street Child World Cup was a big thing in my life. It also helped me get admission in college under the sports quota. Now, if I study well and get an even better education, it will help me go a long way in my life.

#PlayMatters – From Child Labourer To Cricket Star, Surya’s Determined Journey Off The Streets

Surya had to drop out from school when he was just 11 years. It was also the same year his father passed away and his mother started working as a cook in a hotel. His unfortunate circumstances forced him to work as a child labourer in Chennai and Punjab, where he faced grave exploitation from his employers despite working 15 hours in a day. Surya learnt early on in life, that if he continued as a labourer, we wouldn’t have much of a future. It is why he ran away from his workplace and reached the railway station in Chennai.

Surya’s rescue by Karunalaya, a nonprofit organization working for the protection and development of street children, helped him with find a shelter home to live in. His interface with sports and play through the organizations program, helped him bring discipline, focus and routine into his life, key takeaways and skills during his cricket practice sessions over a year. Despite a difficult childhood, 14-year-old Surya Prakash was a key player in the South India Team that represented the country at the Street Child Cricket World Cup in England earlier this year. 

Winning the cup was one of the happiest moments in his life.

Team South India is a mixed-gender team comprising 4 girls and 4 boys from Chennai and Mumbai, supported by Magic Bus and Karunalaya.

Q) Tell us your name, what do you like doing in your free time?

A: I am Suryaprakash but you can call me Surya. I like playing cricket and football. I love to draw too.

Q) Congratulations on winning the first ever Street Child World Cup! How was your experience?

A: I learnt a lot and this was a great experience. It was tough for me to get up early in the morning, exercise and practice every day. However, winning the match was an amazing feeling and the hard work paid off!

Q) Tell us about your travel to England. How was it meeting different boys and girls from across the world? Did you make friends with them? Tell us about it.

A: I was happy to make friends from so many countries! I understand and can speak in Hindi. (Being in Chennai, most people speak Tamil) and that helped me to interact with many people. That apart, it was a great experience to travel by air for the first time in my life.

Q) Who is your favourite cricketer? Why?

A: Bhumra! I think he is the world’s best bowler!

Q) Dhoni or Virat? Who is the better captain? Why? Tell us about your team captain too.

A: Dhoni, any day! He is the best. Our team captain gave everyone an equal chance and he treated all of us equally.

Q) Sachin or Virat? Who is the better batsman? Harbhajan or Bhumra? Who is the better bowler?

A: Sachin is just the best! Bhumra is the best!

Q) Are you watching the World Cup this year? Which country do you believe has the best chances of winning? Why?

A: Yes, I am watching the match! I think India will win the match. They have been consistent and there is no stopping from them from taking the World Cup!

Q) What do you aspire to be when you grow up? A cricketer or something else? Why? What is it about cricket that you prefer over other sports?

A: I want to get enrolled in the Indian Army or Police force. I like Cricket, but you know it is not an easy game. One needs a lot of hard work and dedication to be consistent at it!

Q) If you were captain and you had to pick the World Cup Team, who all would you pick?

A: I would have my friends Paulraj, Monisha, Nagalakshmi, Ifran, Mani and along with them, I would also have cricketers such as Dhoni, Bhumra and Hardik Pandya in my team. I think this will be a fun team!

Q) You must’ve grown up watching only men and boys playing international cricket. How was your experience in playing in mixed-gender teams? What are your thoughts on it? Why do you think (or not) that girls and boys playing together is important?

A: Yes! I have always grown up watching men and boys play cricket. I think the best thing about playing mixed-gender cricket was the realisation that girls are on par with boys! Everyone is equal and there is no basis for gender discrimination. Girls in our team were so good at bowling!

Q) Are you going to be watching the Women’s World Cup Cricket? Why/ Why not?

A: I know of Indian women cricketer’s but I was not aware that the Women’s World Cup is broadcasted on television. But now that I know and have got myself into the game, I will definitely try and watch the Women’s World Cup!

Q) Tell us the best thing about playing cricket? What is the most fun part about it? What have you learnt from playing cricket?

A: It was a new experience for me to learn the game of cricket. I realised I am a strong bowler in the field and I need to focus on that. But along with that, I learnt why consistency and hard work is important in life. I have gained both physical and mental strength in the game.

Q) Is cricket compulsory in schools? Should it be? Why so?

A: It should be made compulsory in schools! Almost everyone plays cricket in India be it in the gully or with friends. So why should it not be part of a subject taught in school?

Q) How has your life changed after going for the Street World Cup?

A: I felt happy that our team photos were all over the media! I felt we and all street children finally got the attention we deserved. For me, the biggest take away was the practice sessions that helped me to get the discipline into my life. But now, I have to keep working on my skills and get better with each passing day. Only then will I be able to say that the game brought a real difference to my life.

#PlayMatters – Team Captain, Paulraj Finds An Identity Beyond Being A Street Child

17- year-old Paulraj was born and raised on the streets of Chennai. His parents run a tiffin shop and have a roadside stall in the city. To make ends meet, Paulraj would do loading and unloading of goods, in Chennai by waking up at 4 am every day. Born into poverty, he could not afford to buy himself a cricket kit, but his determination and love for the game, kept him focused on his end goal.

When he came in contact with Karunalaya, a nonprofit organization working for the protection and development of street children, his passion for cricket found a means to be translated into reality. Paulraj’s resolve to excel in the sport took him to England where he not only led the team as it’s captain, but also ensured that India won the Street Child World Cup.

For Paulraj, the victory at the Street Child World Cup meant more than just bringing home the Cup, it was also a lifetime opportunity to raise awareness on issues faced by millions of street children in India.

Team South India is a mixed-gender team comprising 4 girls and 4 boys from Chennai and Mumbai, supported by Magic Bus and Karunalaya.

Q) Tell us your name, what do you like doing in your free time?

A: I am Paul Raj and I love playing video games in my free time!

Q) Congratulations on winning the first ever Street Child World Cup! How was your experience?

A: I am so happy to have won the Street Child World Cup and it was a great feeling to have won the match against England! Not just me, even people from the community were proud of me. Our victory was a victory for them too!

Q) Tell us about your travel to England. How was it meeting different boys and girls from across the world? Did you make friends with them? Tell us about it.

A: It was such a great experience as it exceeded my expectations. I bonded really well with the team from Nepal. We have now become great friends. I was a bit shy to talk to other teams, but with the children from Nepal, it was easy and comfortable.

Q) Who is your favourite cricketer? Why? 

A: Dhoni ! He has been a great captain, his helicopter shot is just amazing, along with that he is also a good wicket keeper. I think he is the BEST!

Q) Dhoni or Virat? Who is the better captain? Why? Tell us about your team captain too.

A: Dhoni for sure! I think Dhoni gives a chance to young players, always gets the team together and plays fair. I love Dhoni! I was the captain of the team, maybe my friends will be able to answer this question better!

Q) Sachin or Virat? Who is the better batsman? Harbhajan or Bhumra? Who is the better bowler?

A: I love Virat more than Sachin. I like Bhumra more than Harbhajan!

Q) Are you watching the World Cup this year? Which country do you believe has the best chances of winning? Why?

A: Of Course, I am watching the World Cup! I think 3 of the teams are strong contenders – Australia is a brilliant team and they have won several World Cup trophies before. Australians are skilled in both bowling and batting. Our Indian team is united and they support each other. I also think even though New Zealand has never won a World Cup, they too are doing well.

Q) What do you aspire to be when you grow up? A cricketer or something else? Why? What is it about cricket that you prefer over other sports?

A: I got interested in the game of cricket when I saw my brother play the sport… I definitely want to become a cricketer! I learnt that one needs a lot of practice to get better in the game! This consistency also helps in everyday life as it makes us disciplined.

Q) If you were captain and you had to pick the World Cup Team, who all would you pick?

A: I shall obviously be part of the team. I will also have Dhoni, Bhumra, Kuldeep Yadav, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kholi, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvanesh Kumar and Mani Kumar in my team!

Q) You must’ve grown up watching only men and boys playing international cricket. How was your experience in playing in mixed-gender teams? What are your thoughts on it? Why do you think (or not) that girls and boys playing together is important?

A: Yes! I have grown watching only men and boys playing international cricket. I think it is important to have a mixed gender match because it shows equality of both – girls and boys. Girls are equally powerful; they should be given more of an opportunity to play. In our team, girls were both good at batting and bowling! They have the same skills as we boys have. So, why should we not play together?

Q) Are you going to be watching the Women’s World Cup Cricket? Why/ Why not?

A: Of course, I want to watch the match. However, I do not know when the series will be on television and if I will have the time to watch the entire match, What if I am busy with my studies then? I will definitely catch the highlights of the match with my friends…

Q) Tell us the best thing about playing cricket? What is the most fun part about it? What have you learnt from playing cricket?

A: The best part about playing cricket is learning so many techniques. I learnt how to be focused, disciplined and the importance of consistency. I loved when I hit a six, the feeling was so good!

Q) Is cricket compulsory in schools? Should it be? Why so?

A: We have many games in my school, but we also need cricket as a game to keep practicing our skills. If the school provides us with cricket coaching, it will become a great way for children to get trained and pick up the skills!

Q) How has your life changed after going for the Street World Cup?

A: Everything is so different now. Playing at Lord’s was a great feeling and I got to represent my country! For me, to go there as a street kid and represent the voices of all street children was a big achievement! I got a platform to showcase my talent at an international level and I sometimes wonder if I am living a dream. Now, people are better aware of the issues that children on the street face every day. I think, the platform helped in spreading awareness. Everyone around- my school, parents and even people in my community are happy and proud of me. I love the appreciation that came my way. Today, I am more than just a street child. You know, participating in the Street Child World Cup also helped me get admission and enroll in a college under the sports quota.

#MumbaiRains – Children Coping With Mumbai’s Perennial Rain

Heavy monsoon rains have paralysed Mumbai city once again. Flooded, waterlogged streets, collapsed homes and shanties, disrupted land, air and road traffic, and shut schools, are becoming the norm with each passing year, and the city struggles to cope with the annual torrential rains.

“Mujhe bahar nikalo,” was the repeated plea of a 15-year-old girl stuck under the debris of a collapsed wall in Malad, who didn’t make it after hours under the debris. A 3-year-old boy was amongst the three people who lost their lives when the wall of a school crashed their homes in Kalyan. And the stories of childhoods affected by the uncontrollable climatic changes, are becoming commonplace, as the epic floods become part of the landscape.

With many children unable to make it to their exam centres, parents wading through knee-deep water to fetch their children from school, school bus routes changing to avoid collapsed bridges, laboring through flooded streets to make it home, contracting water-borne diseases, stranded with strangers across the city, and coming home to washed away personal belongings, coping with floods is only just the beginning.  

Here’s a photo-essay of children attempting to make their way back home, as the Mumbai Rains bring their daily lives to a standstill.

Children walk in knee-deep water near a dangerous man-hole

Photo – Kamlesh Pednekar

Returning from school in Kurla, boys share their umbrella as a cover from the torrential rains

Photo – Hemant Padalkar/DNA

Children play in a puddle of water outside their school in Dadar, as they wait for their parents to arrive

Photo – Rediff

In soaked school uniforms and with bent umbrellas children battle the prolonged downpour

Photo – PTI

A boy carries his little sister, as he stumbles through Mumbai’s flooded streets

Photo – Unknown

Children climb on bus stands to protect themselves against rising water levels

Photo – Unknown

With no help in sight, children wade through Dadar’s submerged streets

Photo – PTI

A failed drainage system forces children to action through overflowing gutters

Photo – REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

A father carries his daughter on his back to avoid any contact with dirt filled rain water

Photo – AP

With announcements of schools being closed, students in Sion head homewards

Photo – Kunal Patil/HT

A young boy walks over waterlogged railway tracks after getting off a stalled train

Photo – Vivek Prakash/Reuters

A man holds his infant high above his head as he strides towards his home

Photo – AP