Monthly Archives: November 2019

#YoungChangemakers: This Chote Master Is Enabling Children To Get Back To School

Chote Master’! That’s what Little Children from slum communities of Uttrakhand and Uttar Pradesh would call the zealous Anand Mishra the 15-year-old boy, a class 11 student from Lucknow. A named Anand earned for his relentless work in education, he has motivated more than 50,000 children to study through his program ‘Bal Chaupal’. 

Anand’s tryst with helping children get education began when he was a little boy of just 8. In 2012, when Anand visited the heritage site of Ellora, he was moved to see a child study amidst a street lamp in the temple. He then offered him Rs 500 through his father which the boy refused to take. Surprised by the selflessness the boy showed, he then asked the temple priest who requested the young boy to take his help. The event stayed in his heart and during his return to Lucknow, he saw many slum children loitering around who should have been in school.

He gathered a few such students and started studying with them. While initially, only a handful of students came to study with him, eventually, a lot more students started coming. With this he started ‘Bal Chapual’ that aims to educate children along with performing activities around sports and drama. Today, at least 100 children come to the study center in Lucknow. “I try to teach my friends in a friendly manner. Sharing interesting stories and organising games for them are some of the ways to make learning fun. I try to make sure that they don’t get bored. Some of these kids don’t like the way they are taught in school just because it is boring. This is also the reason some, even after being enrolled, don’t go to school regularly,” says Anand, in an interview in Your Story

The confident 15-year-old along with his parents who work in the UP police had initiated ‘Chalo Padho Abhiyan’ where they were inviting the educated to support the education of at least one child. Realising the need to support the education of the girl child, they also initiated a programme ‘Chalo Bahan, School Chalo’ which has been well received by the community.

As Anand wanted to get a deeper understanding of the education system, he travelled to around 150 rural villages to motivate children to study and helped 758 get enrolled in various schools. However, with the pressure of Class 11 and exams, Anand now visits the villages once a week and has people who regularly visit the study centre that ensures children are being educated.   

Anand’s work has been recognised not just by the locals but he has even been recognised by the Uttrakhand government, which awarded him with the Youth Icon award in 2015 and he has also been nominated for the International Peace Award Twice.  

Anand’s dream is to make everyone educated and his future plans include getting enrolled into an IIT and further help children to seek education. 

Being Raised Grandmother’s Daughters

Nontraditional families are no longer considered uncommon in our society. Many children are raised by their aunts and uncles, older siblings and distant relatives, and most are handed over to the care of their grandparents, while both parents set off to work each day.

The stories of children without parents often take a different narrative. It’s why Khuo and Lamveni call themselves their grandmother’s daughters, but still wonder what life would have been like with their mother around.

In the forest area of the Village of Chongchin, 100 kms from the District of Churachandpur in Manipur live Khuolnumhoih (Khuo) and Lamveni. 10 and 7 years old respectively, these sisters, lost their mother when they were much younger to a life-threatening illness, and their father decided to marry someone else, leaving them to the care of their grandmother. Their aged 65-year-old grandmother, Lhailam, works around the clock to raise her girls.

Unlike most future plans of young girls, Khuo and Lamveni are certain to care for their grandmother when she grows older. “I will study until 10th grade and then look after my grandmother. Anyway, we don’t have money for me to study beyond that,” says Khuo, who has decided she will continue to live in her village, focus her efforts on collecting wood and vegetables from the forest to earn a livelihood, but not get involved in farming, as she doesn’t like it!

On the flip side, Lamveni doesn’t like living in her village. “People are not good here,” she said, feeling the loss of her mother and her father leaving her too. “The people of the village don’t care for us,” she adds, knowing that all parents are busy raising their own children. Lamveni wants to grow up to be a nurse, and leave her village for further studies. “I will take my grandmother with me to the city and take good care of her!

The stress of raising her grand daughters with a meagre salary of 600 rupees a month is tiring for Lhailam, who often worries about their future. “I cannot even afford to take them to the hospital when they are ill. Hospital is too far away in city and I don’t have enough to pay for the doctor’s fees. I buy medicine from the medical store (over the counter) in the village and give them only that.” A woman of great courage and faith, she says, “till I am alive I will feed them and after me they will learn to take care of themselves. God will help them.”

Lhailam works to provide for her granddaughters, in the best of her capacity, and both Khuo & Lamveni love her dearly. But watching other children being cared for by their mothers, they long for their own, almost feeling a sense of emptiness without her presence.  

#YoungChangeMakers: Meet India’s 11-Year- Old Climate Activist – Ridhima Pandey

In August 2018, when the then 15-year-old Greta Thunbergsat alone outside the Swedish Parliament for her first school strike, who would have thought in just one year it would become such a big movement? In no time, climate crisis that was otherwise often considered intellectual became the talk of the town. Right from children and youth, to the people in power demanded a cleaner planet for a peaceful future. 

Did you know that alongside Greta, India’s very own girl from Uttrakhand filled the UN petition too? Meet 11-year-old Ridhima Pandey from Uttrakhand, who was one of the 16 children to have filled a legal complaint to protest the lack of government action against the climate summit. 

Six years ago, Ridhima, moved with her family from Nainital to Haridwar. “Every year in July, there is a festival called Kanwar Yatra, which incorporates and is held near the holy Ganges River. But recently, it is much hotter in the summer and winter months. The hotter temperatures have threatened the Ganges River, which now faces lowering water levels from recent droughts – challenging the continuation of the religious rituals that are centred around it.,” Ridhima says in the ChildrenVsClimateCrisis website.

“The few times it does rain, it rains very heavily. The rain causes the Ganges to reach the danger mark, threatening floods, and the increasingly intense rainstorms overwhelm the local infrastructure. In 2013, Ridhima and her family experienced one such devastating rainstorm in Haridwar that resulted in flooding and many casualties,” it adds. 

Her bio in the website also stated, “I want a better future. I want to save my future. I want to save our future. I want to save the future of all the children and all people of future generations.”
However, this isn’t her first foray into environmental activism. When Ridhima was just 9, she filled a petition post the Uttrakhand floods where she had asked the government to prepare a carbon budget and a climate recovery plan.In her petition, she argued that “India is one of the most vulnerable countries to be affected by climate change”.

Ridhima got interested in climate change, when her father, wildlife conversationalist started talking to her about global warming because she was always curious about the environment. Ridhima is starting her own non-profit group on climate action. “I don’t want to suffer, because it’s our right to have cleaner water, to live in a healthy environment, to have cleaner air,” she said. “And they” – governments around the world – “are violating our rights,” said Ridhima in an interview.

#YoungChangemakers – Meet Payal Working To Abolish Child Marriage In Rajasthan

At the tender age of 11, when most children are busy with their daily dose of homework, little Payal had to fight the most difficult battle with her own parents. Hailing from Hinsla village which is 100 km from Jaipur, she relented against being married off and was able to stop her child marriage by raising her voice against her parents will. At 11, she did not know what child marriage meant, but she had heard her mentors speak about the ill effects of child marriage and she immediately reported it to Sumedha Kailash, a well-known child rights activist who helped her negotiate with her parents to stop the child marriage. Ever since then, Payal Jangid has tirelessly worked to eradicate child marriage in her village and the nearby villages. 

The gritty 17-year-old has mobilised groups of children to fight against the caste, panchayat system and societal systems to win the battle against child marriage. She has not only stopped parents from forcing their children to get into child marriage, but urged them to send their daughters to school. 

Payal was elected as the leader of the child parliament; a youth forum that escalates issues to the Mayor.Earlier in September this year, Payal became the first Indian to receive the changemaker award by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2017, she also received the Young Achiever Award by Reebok

In a video posted on the international NGO’s Twitter account, Payal described, “We have a lot of problems in our village, especially girls are not allowed to go out and study and they are married off early. Even I was forced to get married.”

Talking about the initiatives, she added, “We would organise rallies, posters, paint walls, go house to house, speak to the families. We had to work really hard to make the elders realise that they were prohibiting us from getting our education.”

In Rajasthan and many parts of India, child marriage is still seen as a ritual more than a crime. According to the fourth National Family Health Survey (2015-16) of India, 27% of females are less than 18 years are married off and in Rajasthan alone the percentage of girls is 35. Payal is carving a path and inspiring more and more girls to remain in schools instead of getting married.

Gayatri Nadar: Dharavi's only female rapper

#YoungChangemakers: This Gully Girl is Dharavi’s Only Female Rapper

“Ladko ke beech mein main hoon ek stree mera naam hai Gayatri.” That’s how 16-year-old Gayatri Naddar, Dharavi’s only female hip hop artist introduces herself. The feisty teenager adopted her alter ego- ‘’Iccy Fire’ because being on stage makes her look cool and she performs with a fire in her belly. Gayatri’s music questions the gendered stereotypes, the challenges that she faces growing up in a conservative society which has a different set of rules for boys and girls. 

Hip-hop was an alien term for Gayatri until she first heard a few guys at an annual function beatbox and she wondered what the sound was called. Her curiosity led her to join free classes held by the Dharavi Art Project, an organisation that teaches rap, music and graffiti to children of Dharavi. 

“Ladka log(rap) kar rahe the jabhi mereko bhi laga ki main bhi kar sakti hoon. So maine jaake un logo se poocha ki yeh kaise kartain hain? Woh log bol rahain the- Tu ladki hai, tu yeh nahi kar paayegi. Lekin main unko boli -Main yeh kar paaongi! Maine ek saal main beatboxing aur rap seekh gayi,” shares Gayatri, in a video in Quint. 

However, Gayatri’s journey hasn’t been all that easy. She faced resistance from her parents who did not consider rap as a “good” form of music and often associated with drugs and substance abuse. She would bunk school and tuition to be able to attend the practice sessions. However, with the constant motivation from Dharavi Art Project, her parents realised that rap was all about self-expression than substance abuse. 

“When I started, I was the only girl in a group full of guys, which led to a feeling of guilt. I am a South Indian girl toh aise allowed nahi hai, aise bahar jaana (we aren’t allowed to engage in activities like this and go outside)Bahar log sochte hai ki hip-hop sirf drugs aur nashe ke bare mein hai, toh beti log ka naam kharab hoga (People have misconceptions that hip-hop is all about drugs and alcohol and that letting their daughter do it will spoil her perception in society),” she shares in an interview with Vice.

Today, Gayatri has had several stage performances and the once shy and reticent girl has found her expression through rap. 

While the movie Gully Boy has popularised the underground movement in India, the rawness of rap is not new to Dharavi, often said to be the birthplace of Hip Hop where many found expression through it. However, it is still a genre picked up by more by boys and men than girls. 

What’s the reason for this one would wonder and Dolly Rateshwar one of the founding members of the Dharavi Art Project had seemed to have a fair explanation for this in the article in Vice. “Dharavi was considered to be an aggressive place, and domestic violence and drug influence is present even today. So, parents are more protective about their daughters compared to their sons,” She further adds, “If you see the layout of ghettos like this, houses are very close to each other so there’s no privacy and whatever is being spoken about in one house is easily audible to the neighbour next door. So girls are informed to keep themselves low. That pressure remains on them.”

While Gayatri has been the first female rapper from Dharavi amidst all the baintai’s (brothers), other gully girls too can get inspired. Well because Apna Time Aayega!