Author Archives: admin

Lockdown Parenting: The Joys And The Struggles

The Coronavirus pandemic has upended parenting like never before. School closures, children without schedules,increased home chores, no office to escape to and maintianing physical and social distancing is the new normal. Parenting during these times comes with it’s own set of challenges and here’s some humour to get us by...

When you don’t know what’s more worrisome– the Coronavirus or your children at home 24/7

When you have a new normal to live by

When school is replaced by online games

When everything you will ever relate to shall become– Before Corona and After Corona

When conversations with your kids revolve around sneezing around the elbow

When your child touching his face worries you more than a squabble    

But we all know we’ll get through this!

A Day In The life Of Irula Tribal Children Of Dargas Hamlet

It is 7:30am on a Saturday morning. Colourful plastic pots line up around the only tap at the Irula tribal colony in Dargas, a hamlet in Thiruporur block of Kanchipuram district. The Irula tribe is classified as one of the six Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in Tamilnadu.

The single tap in Dargas hamlet supplies water to the entire community comprising 32 households. With just an hour or so of water supply, families take turns helping each other and filling their pots before the supply stops for the day. What they fill must last them the entire day, for all purposes.

The tap is located below the ground level where it is connected to an underground supply line. A small underground tank surrounds the tap. Once the supply starts, children enter the arena! Before heading off to school, children help fill water everyday. Some enter the tank to fill the pot, while some carry the pots to their homes filling up larger vessels.

Luckily for the middle school children in Dargas, their school recently shifted to a location closer to their hamlet. The younger children in primary school catch a private mini-bus that comes to the main road half-a-kilometer away, on missing which they walk a couple of kilometers to reach their school.

Despite children being enrolled in school, most do not complete schooling. Most children currently in school are first generation learners. Their parents are daily wage earners who depend on seasonal jobs on farms, at construction sites or other odd jobs to sustain. In comparison to others, children from extremely low-income groups like the Irulars of Dargas have to contend with meagre resources and inability of their parents to help them in their schoolwork.

To bridge this gap, Aid India, a non-profit working to improve learning outcomes for children runs daily after-school classes for primary and middle school children to support them in their learning. Motivated volunteers from the same community are trained to tutor the children. The classes happen in the open, where children learn English and Math. They also take part in weekly ‘Tinkering lab’ sessions where they learn basics of plumbing, cycle repair and cellphone repair.

As yet another day draws to a close, the Irulas of Dargas take recourse to tradition by making music. A bon fire is lit to warm up the membranes of their traditional instruments. Soon the entire community joins in. As adults take turns to sing impromptu songs teasing someone around them, the children join in the chorus repeating after them. With all troubles forgotten, the singing and dancing continues until late into the night. The children are active participants carrying forward a valuable part of their culture.

The Voice On The Wall II

Photo Credit: Ernest Zacharevica

“A wall is a very big weapon. It’s one of the nastiest things you can hit someone with,” said Banksy, one of the world’s most iconic, anonymous graffiti superheroes, who uses his art to speak for this generation. 

The street and its walls have long been a place to advocate and express personal, social and political opinions. From the historic role it has played as a meeting point for revolution, in the last few decades street walls has become the place, the medium and the message, increasingly being used as a tool for collective expression.

In times of public dissent and dismay, here’s looking at 5 artists across the world who use art to protest against the plight of children across the world. 

1. HAFIA SUBAY,YEMEN 

Haifa Subay depicts the cost of war, trying to bring the attention to exploitation of children and women in Yemen. “I wanted to send a message of peace, a plea to stop the fighting and alleviate the suffering caused by the ongoing war,” Subay told VOA from her home in Sanaa. Through her murals, one can see a mother protecting a malnourished child, a boy holding a leg he lost in a landmine, a child closing his ear with one hand and crying, amongst many others, all termed as #silent_victims. Subay’s art campaigns talk about the humanitarian and social consequences of child marriage, child soldiers amongst other issues. Initially, when she took to street art, most people were surprised seeing a woman raising her voice against the brutalities of war, but now she is slowly gained acceptance and hopes that peace in Yemen will eventually prevail. 

2. TONA, GERMANY  

Happy children peeping out of street corners and being playful is the signature style of anonymous artist Tona. From Hamburg, Germany, Tona’s work is not limited to his country, instead, can be seen in many Indian cities such as lhi, Mumbai, Hampi, Puducherry, Chandigarh, Visakhapatnam, Vashisht, Varanasi, Rishikesh, Kochi and Varkala. Contrary to the grim situation of the world, Tona’s work depicts the cheerful side of childhood. His motivation is to create a “dreamy, sensual and emotional perspective” to counter the cynical perception that “people are blinkered” and that the world is “unfair, mean and brutal”, he says in an interview with Scroll

3. TYLER, INDIA

Inspired by the work of Banksy, this anonymous street artist from Mumbai has bold and quirky takes on contemporary issues seen through his work on the abandoned walls of the city. “I work on topics that matter to common people. There are those who write letters to governments to solve issues, others write articles on news platforms,” Tyler told News18. “I create graffiti.” While covering a host of social issues, Tyler talks about the plight of children through Little Girls, which addresses the safety and protection of girls. “This one is actually an adaptation of a classic 1964 Norman Rockwell painting called “The Problem We all Live With”. The painting became a symbol of the Civil Rights movement in the US in the 60s. “To me, it has always reflected that little girls need to be protected by those in authority for their safety and rights to be ensured. I revisited the painting because in over five decades, nothing has changed. Little girls still need to be protected,” said Tyler in an interview to News 18.

4. ERNEST ZACHAREVIC, LITHUNIA 

This Lithuanian artist uses architecture, communities and cities all over the world to create art that intervenes with its urban surroundings (and it’s people). His works, including the famous, Little Children on a bicycle, are reflective and provocative, depicting introspective ideas on culture, childhood and the characteristics of a community. “I see my work more like a simple moment capturing everyday life rather than an elaborate narrative. this seems to work best with the subject of childhood nostalgia, a subject which features often in my work,” he says. 

5. ABU MALIK AL-SHAMI

Abu Malik al-Shami is a 22-year-old rebel who’s taking art to the front lines in his worn torn country- Syria. When the civil war was in full swing, al-Shami’s street art brought a ray of hope to the community of Darayya. “After the first painting on Darayya’s walls, I noticed the amount of happiness and optimism it spread on the faces of the blockaded people,” al-Shami told the non-profit, Syria Direct. “It made me feel the value of my work, its positive impact.” Back in 2014, his first mural to gain international attention depicted a young girl standing on top of a pile of skeletons to write the word “Hope” on a wall. A large chunk of his 30 murals, depict children, key characters of the ongoing war. 

Al-Shami’s artwork follows in the tradition of street artists like Banksy, but is also one example of the numerous Middle Eastern street artists who have used the power of art to make political statements. 

How Stories Can Change The World For Children

I recently read Neil Gaiman’s ‘Art Matters’ where he talks about how books and our imagination can change the world. I’ve been teaching literature to children for a couple of years and in the age of smartphones and Sparknotes, it has become virtually impossible to convince my students to read. Any prescribed novel has summaries online or even better for them, movie adaptations. I took it upon myself to make them read through class reading competitions, chapter wise reading logs, whatever it took. Some students still ask me why I was so insistent about them reading. My answer to them has been simple, reading changed my life. I want it to change theirs too.

Gaiman says, “Fiction builds empathy. Fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes. You’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.” That’s the truly amazing thing about stories. You can start a story and some hundred pages later, you aren’t the same person anymore. Stories and imagination are seen to belong to daydreamers and idealists. But what stories really hold within them is possibilities of what the world can be, the good, the bad and the truly ugly. Books take stories from history and bring them alive. They show such terrifying possibilities of our future that shake us to our very core because we see our dystopian novels coming alive every day.

Currently, the world is seized by protests across countries. Protests against climate change, against governments, against everything that is wrong with the world. All across the country, students are standing at the forefront of protests against the government. There is a reason these protests will always be led by the youth, by children and students. It’s because they read. They see the eerie similarities with what has happened in the past and how history is merely repeating itself. They read dystopian novels and know the madness our civilization can descend to. But their books also teach them about fighting for what is right. Books remind them that it takes one person to save a civilization, that teenagers can defeat Dark Lords and that dragons can be defeated. Fiction teaches us about strength and more importantly about empathy. It teaches us of those who are different from us and how sometimes even just one act of bravery and love, is enough to take down evil. Stories hold in their pages unending ideas and possibilities.

Reading can be the subtlest and strongest act of rebellion in a revolution. There’s a reason why the Nazis systematically destroyed books across Germany in the 1930s. There’s a reason why governments ban books and attack libraries. It’s because books spark revolution. Knowledge and imagination are our strongest weapons against hatred. Stories matter.

I end with a plea to parents and educators. Make your children read. Take them to libraries, start them off young. They will fall in love with books and it will change them forever. They will be smarter and more empathetic, with imaginations that make them see far beyond the darkness that this world is often shrouded in. Stories will teach them about good and evil, about perseverance and most importantly, about HOPE.

19 Reasons Why 2019 Makes Us Want To Fight Harder For Our Children

Childhood has changed, and we need to change our approaches along with it,” said Henrietta.H.Fore, UNICEF Executive Director in an open letter to children of the world.

As we enter a new decade, let’s look back at some of those major events that reflect how 2019 was not the year for India’s children, and reinstate our collective might to keep them safe.  

1. CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENT BILL

Photo – Economic Times

A Tibetan or a Rohingya child refugee in India is entitled to the Right to Education, just like any other Indian child. The best part of the constitution of India is that: One, it has envisioned all citizens as equal; and two, by ensuring that some fundamental rights are available irrespective of the national identity that the person holds- and that being non-sectarian, it has treated all non-citizens as equal; all legal refugees as equal; and all illegal immigrants as equal. And children of all these groups are respectively equal in respective circumstances. For, the Constitution has refused to dehumanize any child of any identity. All children have human rights and similar fundamental rights. But the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 acts as a violation of the Constitution of India, pushing into a grey area, the rights of children.

2. CHILDREN FOR CLIMATE  

Photo – Laurene Becquart/AFP

“I know many of you don’t want to listen to us – you say we are just children. But we’re only repeating the message of the united climate science”, said Greta Thunberg who created a worldwide movement by going on strike and demanding climate action. In almost a year, children from 2000 cities across the world including India took to the streets joined the movement too.

3. RISING CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN  

Photo – India Today

The much delayed NCRB data report revealed a grim situation for India’s children. With 350 crimes committed against children every day, prevention of such crimes, and investment in child protection to build safe spaces and environments for children needs to become the focus in the coming year.

4. THE WATER CRISIS

Photo – R Senthil Kumar/ PTI

While Bihar and Assam were flooded, washing away homes and leaving children homeless, the water crisis in Chennai, led to schools being shut, forcing children to stand in long queues to fill buckets of water. Drought, hit places like Marathwada region so hard, that children went days without access to drinking water.

5. INDIA’S CHILDREN NO MORE

Photo – AFP

The citizenship of many of India’s children and their families has come under a cloud owing to the recent National Register of Citizens (NRC). With no identity card, leading to no birth certificate, affecting school enrollments and no availing of other schemes and services, the discussion around NRC took it a step further by creating fear and insecurity, alleging children in Assam being stateless.

6. THE AIR POLLUTION EMERGENCY

Photo – PTI

When Delhi’s Air Quality Index worsened, wearing a mask and struggling to breathe clean air became the new normal. The pollution statistics analysed by India Today’s Data Intelligence Unit found that the city’s air was so toxic that children inhaled 10 cigarettes a day just by breathing. Elsewhere in the country, over 1 lakh children under the age of 5 die every year due to pollution, creating an air pollution emergency.

7. WHO IS FEEDING INDIA’S HUNGRY CHILDREN?

Photo – Unknown

According to the recent figures by the Global Hunger Index report, just 9.6 percent of all children between 6 and 23 months of age are fed a minimum acceptable diet. India’s child wasting rate is extremely high at 20.8 percent — the highest wasting rate of any country in this report for which data or estimates were available. Overall, India was ranked 102 on the list, below Pakistan (94), Bangladesh (88) and Nepal (73). How many more children will sleep without food for us to realise this should be priority?

8. BARRIERS TO INCLUSIVE EDUCATION   

Manisha in the classroom at her local school

With hardly 0.7 % seats filled for children with disabilities in private schools in Delhi, our education system is clearly not inclusive for all children, leaving 5,647 of these seats vacant due to lack of applications. Will inclusivity for children remain a dream unfulfilled?

9. ARTICLE 370 & THE CHILDREN OF KASHMIR

Photo- Getty Images

With the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir, children remained the most vulnerable and affected by violence in the troubled valley. Children remained away from schools, disconnected from their friends, confined to their homes and witness to daily violence. Caught in the crossfire,144 children under 18 years of age were picked up by police (children as young as 9-years-old were picked up under preventive detention) and detained ever since the lockdown.

10. THE ‘WELL-BEING OF CHILDREN’ INDEX

Photo – Scroll

India ranked 113 of 176 countries on an index that evaluates countries on the well-being of children. India’s rank was lower than Sri Lanka, Bhutan and China. The index evaluates countries on eight indicators to determine the wellbeing of children and teenagers (0-19 years): mortality among children under five years of age, malnutrition that stunts growth, lack of education, child labour, early marriage, adolescent births, and displacement by conflict and child homicide. Shouldn’t this report be a wake-up call for India’s priorities?

11. THE MISSING CHILDREN WEB

Photo – Scroll

While Orissa was recovering from Cyclone Fani, at least 300 children from 3 districts of the state had gone missing. Despite several schemes and projects to protect children from trafficking, many children go missing without a trace, most often to never be found again.

12. GROOMING GIRLS FOR ABUSE

Photo – Unknown

Poverty and caste discrimination mean that children in Sagar Gram, a village in Madhya Pradesh, are being groomed by their own families for abuse. In this village, where girls outnumber boys, girls are made to earn a living by becoming sex-workers at the age of 11 years. While the village passed a law of death penalty for anyone who rapes a child under 18, and a jail term for abuse of children under 18, the social customs make it difficult to follow the law. With a deep patriarchal culture in India, girls are often pushed into situations that are abusive and exploitative.

13. VICTIMS OF A RAPE CULTURE OR LOATHSOME PARENTING?

Photo – Hindustan Times

For two years, every weekend a 12-year-old was raped by around 30 men some known to her father, some not known, for money. Acting upon a tip-off from the child’s school, the matter was taken up by the Child Welfare Committee who appointed a counsellor to talk to the girl. The girl was rescued and sent to a child shelter home for counseling and protection. Many cases of protectors turning perpetrators continue to emerge across the country, putting a serious threat to the safety and protection of girls, and the rape culture showing no sign of abating.

14. TEENS & TRAUMA

Photo – ILO

A 15 year old girl hung herself in her hostel room in Maharashtra, another minor girl in Tikamgarh, MP, was fed up of being eve-teased and committed suicide, a class 11 boy in Ludhiana killed himself due to mental harassment in school despite being a bright student…these are only a few of the cases that reflect how young Indians are grappling with anxiety, depression and other mental health problems that need prevention and early intervention.

15. DEATH BY ENCEPHALITIS

Photo – STR/AFP via Getty Images

In June this year, an encephalitis outbreak in Muzzaffarpur district, Bihar, resulted in the hospitalisation of 672 children, and the death of 162 children. While the primary cause has been attributed to natural toxins in lychees (a fruit grown abundantly in the region), a study initiated by the Government, indicated the root cause as a link between acute malnutrition amongst the children and the fruit.

16. LOOPHOLES IN THE POCSO ACT

Photo – Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP

Including death penalty as punishment as part of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill of 2019 was a step that could potentially weaken the act, reducing the number of cases reported and the possibility of the murder of the victim. Further, there has been no amendment to provide for compensation of victims, and no strong solution for reducing pendency of cases. In 2016 according to the NCRB Data, 36,022 cases were recorded under the Act, of which 89 % cases were pending trial. This clearly indicates that the loopholes in the Act were not addressed.

17. BUDGET TOO LITTLE

Photo – Unknown

A meagre 0.5 % increase in the budget for children that is less than the low share of 5% that the National Plan for Action for Children had recommended, shows that prevention of child protection violations amongst children, is not a priority. In a trillion-dollar economy, the share of children in this budget stood at a mere 3.2%. Another cause of worry is the cut back in allocations to schemes that deal with the ordeals of child labourers, as per the budget analysis by HAQ.

18. WHATSAPP, VIOLENCE & SCHOOL TEENS

Photo – Unicef

Eight Mumbai students were suspended from an International Board school for the horrific content on their WhatsApp chats: sex, violence, homophobia. The chat transcripts amongst the teenage boys is an alarming reminder of the widespread use of violent and sexually explicit language in popular media, especially online. Young girls and boys are highly influenced by what they read, hear and watch, making it imperative that parents monitor the content children should be exposed to.

19. CHILDREN OR WEDDING PLANNERS?

Photo – Unknown

Bihar is the fifth poorest state and ranks lowest on school attendance. With 2.07 million workers aged between 5 and 17, the state accounts for 10.7% of India’s underage workforce and has the second highest number of child and adolescent workers. Weddings in India account for a $16 billion-dollar industry, with children between 12- 17 years providing cheap labour at weddings in and around Bihar, states an India spend report. With loopholes in the child labour law, implementation falls through and millions of children continue to work long hours, instead of being in school.

#InternationalDayOfTheGirlChild

2.3 Million Indian Children Not Vaccinated for Measles, Second Highest After Nigeria

With a whopping 2.3 million children unvaccinated for measles, India becomes the second highest country next to Nigeria.

How Marginalised Villagers In Belwa Are Fighting For Their Children’s Rights

That’s what the power of community can do… Send children back to school, ask relevant questions to people in power and protect vulnerable children.

How these 5 children are making the world a better place.

From advocating for child rights, climate action to performing a surgery at the age of 9, these children and youth are striving to make a difference.

Children in Delhi smoke 10 cigarettes a day just by breathing

Children in Delhi smoke 10 cigarettes a day just by breathing. What are your thoughts on Delhi’s toxic air quality and the high levels of pollution?

My wish is for India to eliminate child malnutrition, says Bill Gates

“If there was one wish I had for India, it would be to get rid of malnutrition because that reduces the potential of those kids so dramatically and their ability to provide and learn are reduced. It’s like 15 IQ points go away,” says #BillGates

Meet Tamil Nadu’s Child Heroes

Be it fighting for free education, discrimination or child marriage, these #ChildHeros prove that they are changing the world. #MondayMotivation

15-Year-Old Shafali Verma Just Broke Sachin Tendulkar’s International Cricket Record

Shafali Varma, the 15-year-old batswoman became the youngest Indian to score a half-century in international cricket, beating Tendulaks’s 30-year-old record.

In India, children often inherit crime, says Justice Chandrachud

Delivering the keynote address at the fifth National #JuvenileJustice Consultation, Justice Chandrachud said that in India, children often “inherit crime” — they are born into unfortunate circumstances which push them into substance abuse and violence.

The best children’s books of 2019 for all ages

From mental health to the climate crisis, children’s books are tackling relevant topics. Here are some children’s book for all ages

How India’s Most Important Law for Children’s Safety is Leading to Unsafe Abortions Among Teenagers

The conflict of the POCSO and the MTP Act is making doctors hesitant to provide services to girls under 18 due to fear of prosecution, and apprehensive teenaged girls are forced to seek unsafe abortion measures.
The POCSO Act, although a very important one, is now turning out to be a hurdle for these young girls. On one side is the state’s zeal to protect young girls from the risk of child marriage, young pregnancy and sexual exploitation. On the other side is a question of rights related to choice and decriminalisation of sexual activities of young people

350 Crimes Committed Against Children Every Day in India in 2017, UP, MP Top the List: Report

The NCRB data reveals 350 crimes against children committed every day, a whopping 20 percent increase in crimes against children over 2016-2017.
Certainly a need to increase investments in child protection with a focus on prevention and facilitate the creation of a conducive, safe environment.

Seven-Year-Old Mumbai Girl Built An App To Help Deaf Kids Easily Learn Sign Language

A 7-year-old develops an app that could help train hearing-impaired people in sign language from their own homes.
Here’s some inspiration to kick start your Monday

Innovative field research in India helped Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo win Nobel Price in economics

For the last two decades, Nobel Laureates’ and economists Abhijeet Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michale Kremer have looked at experiment-based field research to eliminate global poverty. Incidentally, one of their early works was trying to understand the poor learning outcomes of children in schools in India. This #InternationalDayForTheEradicationOfPoverty we hope their path-breaking work will continue to help children of the world.

Interview: Kids Around the World Photographed Surrounded by Their Weekly Diet

Photographer #GreggSegal set out to discover what a week’s worth of food looked like for children around the world. These stunning food photos captured themes of nutrition, class and culture. #WorldFoodDay

The Open is No Place for India’s Children to Go

“Children are persons too, and as such, entitled to not only justice but also protection. Yes, this hinges on essentialising children as both vulnerable and innocent, but would we rather see them as intentionally, mischievously and consciously violating a social code in a condition where no facilities such as toilets exist? Are we making a case for deviant behaviour in a context where the children do not know any other practice except defecating in the open?” In light of recent incidents, read this piece by a Professor at Hyderbad University, who compels us to ask if we have failed our children as a nation?

India Cricketer Shafali Verma Grew Up Training in Guise of Boy

Shafali Verma had to chop her hair short, so she could look like a boy, since no cricket academy in Rohtak would enroll a young girl. When she took the field, at 15, she became the youngest Indian cricketer to play a T20I.
This #InternationalGirlChildDay, let’s pledge to empower every girl so that she never has to pretend to be a boy.

The lingering impact of bullying

Clinical Psychologist Sonali Gupta talks about the lingering impact of bullying that begins in childhood and continues into adulthood.
Do you recall any such incident where you were bullied? Share with us in the comments section.

Delhi: For 5,600 private school seats for disabled, education dept receives 44 applications

With hardly 0.7 % seats filled for children with disabilities in private schools in Delhi, our education system is clearly not inclusive for children with disabilities. What can we do to create disabled-friendly schooling systems?

#GoodNews: This 17-yr-old Won Gates Foundation Award Along With PM

Meet 17-year-old Payal Jangid who became the first Indian teenager to win an award by the Gates Foundation on her work to eradicate child marriage and child labour.
When children become changemakers, we know there is hope!

#CitizenshipAmendmentAct – Are All Refugee Children Equal? Not Anymore.

Views of the author are personal, and not the views of the organizations he is associated with.

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to meet a group of children from Rohingya families. They were amongst those who were legally allowed to stay in the country as refugees, with proper identity cards. For this, they were very grateful to the Government of India. In an hour-long discussion with them, I wanted to know about their needs and aspirations. What was the most important desire that these children had? Guess? It was not about good education or sanitation nor good playground facilities not even good access to livelihood for their parents. They said, “Apne watan waapas jaana hai.” (I want to go back to my country) They were very grateful for having got a place to live, but they did miss their homeland. They were aware that they are not ‘citizens’ of the country they were living now. They also knew that their choice of religion was a determinant – both in their homeland and in India. “What food did you like eating the most back in Myanmar?” I asked them. Among others they mentioned enthusiastically, they skeptically mentioned ‘beef’, that struck me quite hard… Was there hesitation to mention the word stemming from a sense of fear? Or was it because they had come to respect the local sentiment in their new place of stay?

A few months ago, I also met young people from refugee families from Tibet. There living conditions were not comparable to those of Rohingya families. Having lived in India many years, many in this community were born as refugees in this country. The difference I noticed in this community was that, although they did not have access to all their basic needs like education, they were still able to articulate their needs, without an inherent sentiment of fear. A number of them had never seen their homeland, but their homeland came in their every conversation, and imagination. For them too, their longing to go back home, was primary.

With interactions with both the communities, I was left thinking… Were these people eager to go back to their homeland? Or do they want a Government that represents them? I felt a hesitancy in the way they had to ‘request’ for things, even if requests were actually accepted. It seemed like they would probably be happier if they could be able to ‘demand’, even if those demands get rejected.

The refugee children in particular, spoke in measured words, fearing not just what they were expressing, but also the manner in which they expressed. Their requesting tone almost revealed their compromised dignity… a frailty that appears starkly when expressed by children. This is when I understood the real meaning of ‘citizenship’. It is about one’s human right to negotiate one’s basic entitlements as human beings from the society, with all dignity, confidence and ownership. 

Citizenship can best be understood from those who are not yet citizens, and are deprived. There are of course those who are citizens, yet deprived and discriminated. But, they at least could have the voice to demand. Unfortunately, the human rights discourse, especially of non-citizens, is very inadequate. This is despite the fact that the Constitution of India guarantees a number of fundamental rights even to non-citizens. Not many know, that a Bangladeshi migrant in India is entitled to the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 20, 21, 21A, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 and 28. A Tibetan or a Rohingya child refugee in India is entitled to the Right to Education, just like any other Indian child. The best part of the constitution of India is that: One, it has envisioned all citizens as equal; and two, by ensuring that some fundamental rights are available irrespective of the national identity that the person hold s- and that being non-sectarian, it has treated all non-citizens as equal; all legal refugees as equal; and all illegal immigrants as equal. And children of all these groups are respectively equal in respective circumstances. For, the Constitution has refused to dehumanize any child of any identity. All children have human rights and similar fundamental rights.

Is the Citizens Amendment Act, 2019 a violation of the social fabric of the Constitution of India? Legally, only the judiciary, and, that too, an independent judiciary, under Article 32 or 226, can decide whether this Act is a violation or not. It is however important to understand how it is going to influence the debates around ‘citizenship’. What does the Act do? The Citizens Amendment Act, 2019, gives eligibility for Indian citizenship to illegal migrants who are Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, and who entered India on or before 31 December 2014. The Act does not grant eligibility irrespective of religion or the neighbouring country where persecution is taking place. The resultant is a debate – whether all non-citizens in India are equal in the eyes of the Constitution of India? Whether all illegal migrants are equal in terms of their entitlements? Whether the law treats all religiously persecuted illegal immigrants equally? After this Act, they are probably not equal anymore. Being an Indian citizen is a Status entitling her all the fundamental rights. Now, a religiously persecuted Hindu child migrant from Bangladesh has more entitlement to become Indian citizen than a religiously persecuted Hindu child migrant from Sri Lanka. Now, an Ahmadiyya Muslim child migrant from Pakistan is less entitled than a Hindu migrant from the same country. The government indicates that it does not affect the current citizenry of the country in anyway. The point is – is it not the beginning of redefining of citizenship from the lens of religious affiliation? Is it not true that ‘religious identity’ of the person is becoming the primary basis for understanding persecution? Importantly, is this not singling out one religion, and becomes one more attempt to breed sectarianism in the citizenship debate? Sectarianism has a potential to ‘rob’ the ‘citizenship’ of the community of that identity. It reaffirms the constant labelling of the identity in regular discussions- so much that a child grows into that discourse – and accepts that as normal. Will it not be disastrous if a Hindu child starts growing up thinking Muslim child is of lesser citizen? Worse, if a Muslim child grows up thinking she herself is a lesser citizen? She will probably grow up similar to a Tibetan or a Rohingya child in India, which itself is unconstitutional. 

For us, what should be frightening is not that there were a few who approved the bill wholeheartedly, but there were many of us who remained silent when the Government introduced the bill and get it passed in both Houses of the Parliament in successive days. Does the ‘silence’ not symbolize the existence of fear among citizens that opposing the government would be perceived or projected as opposing the nation? What is worse is that our children are growing up within this politics of silence. Young children in a grip of collective silence should worry many of us – for what goes inside their mind now could dominate their personality when they acquire ‘power’ to negotiate with the Society. They need to fight fear. We need to remember the words of Tagore, “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls; Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”

#ThisAbilityMatters – On Raising A Child With Hearing Impairment

Many parents of children with disabilities, feel deep anxiety and fear the lack of opportunities available for their children in a world apathetic towards them. Parents associated with Save The Children’s Project Dhvani have had similar struggles… From being thrown into a life that seems like a losing battle, discovering details of their child’s disability, equipping themselves with knowledge and tools to help their child, seeking advice and guidance for the way forward, learning to focus on their child’s abilities rather than disabilities and nurturing their child to deal with the outside world.

Here are stories of struggles and strength, shared by 4 parents of children with hearing impairment, that emphasise the need for early intervention and a change of culture towards differently abled children in our society.

#ThisAbilityMatters is a co-created campaign with Save The Children India that aims to push the discourse on the need for self-reliance and independence of India’s disabled children.

RAHUL GUPTA

My daughter Komal was born in 2015 Today, she is 4.5 years old. We realized that Komal seemed to have an auditory issue, when she was 2 years old, as she never responded to any of our shout outs. We had a niggling feeling because children her age had already started speaking. We heard about the BERA test for the first time from the doctor, when we took Komal for a routine check-up. We immediately took the tests, and the results we received were bleak, indicating that Komal suffered from severe hearing loss (over 60%). Regardless of our limited sources, we consulted an ENT doctor, and after conducting an MRI and CT scans, she confirmed the status of Komal’s condition. We were shattered, but did not lose hope.

That was when we heard about the Dhvani program at Save The Children India, and decided to try our luck here. After the initial diagnosis, Komal was fitted with a Cochlear Implant. It took her a while to adjust, but Komal, always being a happy child, bounced back in no time, and is now like any other happy, carefree child of her age. As parents, we always want the best for our children. Initially, we were terrified at the thought of Komal being side-lined owing to her auditory disability. With support and guidance from the teachers at Dhvani, we felt reassured, and changed our perspective towards our child being differently abled.

MINAL SHAH

Our son Raj is 5 years old. Raj was always a very happy and healthy baby, and we never suspected what was in store for us. At the age of 3, when Raj was down with a bad bout of fever, we had to take him to an ENT, and while there, we were shocked to be told that our little son suffered from congenital auditory problems, with over 50% hearing loss in both ears. We were devastated! To add insult to injury, we were short on funds for his treatment and the adequate knowledge on the best way forward. Days turned into months, until we heard about Project Dhvani at Save The Children India, from acquaintances at the ENT clinic.

Excited at the prospect of providing a fresh lease of life to Raj, we took him to the Dhvani centre. He underwent a cochlear implant procedure, and since then, has not stopped smiling. We are forever grateful for the guidance and support that we received at Dhvani, about the cochlear implant process. The teachers at Dhvani were extremely patient with my child and taught him well and prepared him for an equal footing in a regular school. Raj is now a very active child, with a keen interest in sports and arts. We as parents have made sure that we treat Raj like any other child, not letting him feel ‘different’ from the rest of the children around him.

NIRMAL NARWILKAR

My son Pratham, was 3 years old and he wasn’t speaking at all. We got concerned and spoke to our pediatrician. He recommended the BERA test for Pratham, which revealed that he had hearing impairment. We visited multiple hospitals in the hope that the results would change, but much to our dismay the results were the same everywhere. The doctors directed us towards a cochlear implant that would help our child hear, and also recommended Project Dhvani that would help us through the process and assist Pratham in hearing and speaking.

1 year later, Pratham was fitted with a cochlear implant. Post-operation Pratham attended the verbal auditory sessions at Dhvani for two years, where he picked up speaking and hearing during and experts guided us to a special school in Byculla. Excelling in school, Pratham was moved to a regular school shortly after.

Today, our confident and popular (amongst his friends) 10-year-old, loves outdoor games and dancing, wants to grow up and start his own business, and is as normal as any other child. We have immense gratitude for the teachers and staff at Project Dhvani who made our journey comfortable and who helped Pratham reach his optimum to get into a good school, and hand-held us through altering our misconceptions on hearing impairment.

RASIKA PATEL

Rashmi is our first child. When she was a mere 2.5 years old, through various tests, we learnt about her hearing impairment. We were shattered on learning this initially, but after a journey of 1.5 years, our story has a different ending.

Project Dhvani and its experts had a significant role in counselling and guiding us through this difficult journey. We had no idea how to deal with this situation, leave alone understand about speech therapy and the other remedial steps that needs to be taken for a child with hearing impairment. The CT and MRI scans revealed that Rashmi has Incomplete Partition Type I. The doctors tried a hearing aid device for about 3-4 months to see if Rashmi recovers, but the results were not encouraging. Rashmi did not improve on the speech and hearing front either. Then she underwent the cochlear implant surgery and the implant was activated 10 days after the surgery. She immediately started to respond to the sounds and noises around her.

After the implant and the sessions Rashmi slowly started to identify with our voices, she learnt short words like mama, papa, dada, paani, etc. It’s been one year since then and she has started communicating in 2-3 words. Nowadays, Rashmi is slowly picking up her writing skills too. She has an inquisitive nature just like other children, and loves to dance to different music beats.

Rashmi was adamant and stubborn before the operation. Her attention span was short and we had to take her out every twenty minutes to stop her from crying. She couldn’t understand much of what was happening around. In fact, we also couldn’t understand clearly what she wanted. But after the implant, the subsequent therapy sessions and with our counselling we have seen remarkable changes. Now, we understand each other better and she listens to what we say. She asks for water and food whenever she’s thirsty and hungry too.

We delayed Rashmi’s diagnosis thinking that everything was normal. We were hoping she’d pick up talking soon. But I realize that we were wrong and we were late. We came to Dhvani when Rashmi was 2.5 years old, but we should have brought her much earlier. Her progress would have been faster than what it is now. I feel that every parent should get the hearing test done at the earliest so that any abnormality is addressed at the earliest.

#ThisAbilityMatters – Their Disability? Or Mine?

#ThisAbilityMatters is a co-created campaign with Save The Children India that aims to push the discourse on the need for self-reliance and independence of India’s disabled children.

The first day I walked into Save The Children India in BKC, Mumbai, I wondered what it would be like to be on the same campus as a school for children with disability. I’d never worked with people with disabilities before, and I had a few kindly thoughts in my head regarding the special school; thoughts that over the past four months have rearranged themselves to form a much more realistic narrative about a childhood in which disability plays a role.

  • Children with hearing impairments will be quiet, I thought.

But they’re not! They use sounds – laughter, annoyance, sorrow – and signs. So the school is full of a different kind of sound. They stand around in the corridors during recess pulling each other’s legs, gossiping about each other or their teachers, playing games. Before school they play, organize small games for the younger children and sometimes slump down half asleep – clearly the day is going to be spent drowsing in class for some! Let’s be honest we’ve all had those days and some of us still do!

  • Children with disability are kind to each other.

Hah! They’re children! Sometimes they’re kind to each other. Sometimes they shove each other. Sometimes there’s bullying.

One time, a child who also has an intellectual disability simply stopped on the stairs while going up to class after assembly. The children behind him waited. And waited. Chatted with each other. Then the child just behind him gave him a shove – go on! This child simply became even more still on the stairs. Refusing to move. There was a commotion further down the line with shoving and pushing and somewhat rude comments.

In a minute another child from the back of the line came forward and just moved the line around the child who was still on the stairs.

The teacher soon arrived and allowed the child time to decide what he wanted to do.

Another time I found two adolescent girls in a vehement discussion – clearly annoyed with each other. There was some shoving involved. Other children stepped in and broke it up.

Moral of the story – as with all groups of children, here too there’s all kinds of childhood behaviours. To expect otherwise is to reduce these children to their disability and deny them their right to being children.

  • Parents of children with disability struggle to cope with them.

Yes, they do. But again that’s only one part of the narrative. Parents invest in small and beautiful ways in their children – spending a whole school day with the younger ones for instance, learning how to enable them to participate in a world of speech and language through an Aural Oral Communication Programme. Or taking the older ones to the local hairdresser to have their hair streaked. Or braiding their daughter’s hair carefully and elaborately on a special occasion. And yes, they often comment on the challenge they face especially to have their child socialize in family and neighbourhood gatherings. But more than that, they enjoy their children; play with them; scold them; cuddle them. Why on earth would I expect it to be any different!

  • Children with disability are natural artists.

You know what – many of them are as much artists as I am. And that’s not saying much at all! No. Those with disabilities are not ‘naturally’ given to ‘alternative occupations’. Many of them are very interested in Maths, in languages or science. Many have academic aspirations.  Some are really good at drawing. Others are simply trying to find their interest and talent the same as I was, at that age.

  • Children with disability need kindness.

Yes. They do. As do all children. But they also need stimulation – games, music, competition, science exhibitions, maths kits….the same kind of holistic focus that we’re arguing is necessary in mainstream schooling. Part of our challenge is that we’re simply not investing enough in their intellectual growth – they’re curious and wanting to learn more. We need to step up.

My main takeaway from my own experience and observation is this – that even the most well-meaning among us tends to be reductive about children who have disability. The child becomes the ‘deaf child’, the ‘slow child’, and sometimes even the ‘thick child’. There is fear in engaging with them as they approach puberty and develop sexual preferences – as though it is distasteful for them to have sexual urges or fantasies as they grow through adolescence.  And there is a reluctance to scold, and a cringing when we see someone else scold, a child with disability.

Why?

I’m teaching myself to see beyond the hearing impairment and the intellectual disability. To respect each child’s individuality. To engage in conversation. To ask questions. To join them in play sessions. And to confess that I can’t draw to save my life and watch them confess as well, before we turn to admire the work of their drawing teacher.

#ThisAbilityMatters – Experts Speak On Building An Inclusive World For India’s Children

Children with disabilities are missing from mainstream discussions on education and employment, climate change and conflict, elections and evolving technology, sexual rights and sustainable development goals. How then do we expect Inclusive India to become a reality?

Working with children with disabilities, leaders of reputed organizations, take a deeper look at how we can address the gaps and make India truly inclusive for it’s children.

#ThisAbilityMatters is a co-created campaign with Save The Children India that aims to push the discourse on the need for self-reliance and independence of India’s disabled children.

JAIVAKEEL FOUNDATION

We need to build a world where children are defined by their abilities and not their disabilities.”- Archana Chandra, CEO, Jaivakeel Foundation

UMMEED CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER

“A child is much more than his/her disability” – Shamin Mehrotra, Director – School Outreach Services & Mental Health Therapist, Ummeed Child Development Center

SAVE THE CHILDREN INDIA

“We need to remove all the barriers that are limiting equitable participation of children with disabilities.” –  Farida Bagasrawala, Director, Special Care Centre, Save The Children India.

#ThisAbilityMatters – “One Day, I Will Become A Big Guy,” Proclaims Amir.

Q. What is your name, age, where do you live?

A. I am Amir, a 17-year-old studying in class 10. I live in Santacruz.

Q. Tell us about your family and friends. Who is your best friend? Why?

A. I live with my four brothers and one sister and my mother and father. I am the youngest of all and the most loved. My best friend is Azam because we both study and draw together.

Q. What do you like doing in your free time?

A. I love playing cricket, being with my friends and roaming around with them especially in Andheri and Bandra.

Q. What are your hobbies?

A. I love playing cricket, being with my friends and roaming around especially in Andheri and Bandra.

Q. How do you come to school? Do you like coming here? Tell us what you like the most?

A.I stay in Santacruz so I first take the train till Bandra, get off the train and take a bus to reach Bandra Kurla Complex. I like coming to school because I get to play carom and cricket at school.

Q. What do you come here and do? Which is your favourite/least favourite subject?

A. We first have the prayer in school, then we are served breakfast after which we study and play. Any sports activity is my most favourite thing to do. I love playing carom and cricket in school as it is my favourite thing.

Q. Tell us your favourite subject.

A. Math and History are two of my favourite subjects.

I will go to college, learn English and one day, I will become a big guy. I shall work in a mall and I also plan to go outside of India. I will go to Saudi Arabia.

Q. When do you feel Happy? Sad? Scared? Angry?

A. I feel sad when girls do not talk to me! From all the girlfriends that I have, Muskan is my favourite friend. She is beautiful and so good at drawing!

Q. India is an independent country. Did you know that? What does that mean?

A. Yes! That means that no one is ruling us and that we are all free now.

Q. What does freedom mean to you?

A. I feel free when I am on my own and when I am with my friends as there are no restrictions.

Q. Tell us what you love, what inspires you? Or Who inspires you? Why?

A. I love Virat Kholi because he is the best! I did not feel sad when India lost the World Cup, because it is a game.

Q. If you had given a superpower, what would you like to do/change about your life?

A. I would become Shah Rukh Khan for a day.

#ThisAbilityMatters is a co-created campaign with Save The Children India that aims to push the discourse on the need for self-reliance and independence of India’s disabled children.

#ThisAbilityMatters – “I Want To Become A Doctor When I Grow Up,” Asserts Humza.

Q. What is your name, age? Where do you live?

A.  I am Hamza, I am 11 years old and live in Dharavi.

Q. Tell us about your family and friends. Who is your best friend? Why?

A. I have two sisters and my parents in my house. Mehak, Palak and Heena are my best friends as we are always together! 

Q. What do you like doing in your free time?

A. I love to dance

Q. How do you come to the centre? Do you like coming here? Tell us what you like the most. 

A. I take the school bus and I love coming to school! I like playing in school. 

Q. What do you come here and do? Which is your favourite/ least favourite part? 

A.  Once we reach here, we pray, then we get breakfast in the canteen and then we head to our class. I love when I am dancing in school! 

Q. Tell us your favourite subject.

A. I love English 

Q. What do you want to be when you grow up? Why?

A. I want to become a doctor as I would want to help other people. 

Q. What makes you happy? Sad? Scared? Angry? 

A. I do not like it when someone takes my seat in class and that makes me angry. 

Q. Tell us what you love, what/who inspires you? Why?           

A. I love food and I wish to keep eating always!

#ThisAbilityMatters is a co-created campaign with Save The Children India that aims to push the discourse on the need for self-reliance and independence of India’s disabled children.

#ThisAbilityMatters – “I Love My School Because I Have Friends Here,” Reveals Mantasha.

Q. What is your name, age? Where do you live?

A.  I am Mantasha, I am 15-year old and living in Bandra.

Q. Tell us about your family and friends. Who is your best friend? Why?

A. I come by school bus or sometimes walk and come to school. At home, I live with my parents, grandparents and four brothers. I have many friends such as Ridhi, Rekha, Umesalma, Maharooq. Some of them are with me on the school bus and we talk a lot!

Q. What do you like doing in your free time?

A. I love talking to my friends especially when teachers are not around.

Q. How do you come to the centre? Do you like coming here? Tell us what you like the most.

A. I take the school bus to reach here. I love playing badminton here.

Q. What do you come here and do? Which is your favourite/ least favourite part?

A. I come here and study and meet my friends and I have so many friends in school! I like everything here but I struggle using the skipping rope.

Q. Tell us your favourite subject.

A. I like Math because it is so much fun!

Q. What do you want to be when you grow up? Why?

A. I want to go to college, learn how to use the computer and work.

Q. What makes you happy? Sad? Scared? Angry?

A. I am happy when I can understand all the subjects that are taught in school, but I am scared of insects and do not like them.

Q. Tell us what you love, what inspires you or who inspires you? Why?          

A. I love movies! Alia Bhat and Varun Dhawan are my favourites!

Q. If you had one superpower, what would you like to do/change about your life?

A. I would win all the matches in Badminton!

#ThisAbilityMatters is a co-created campaign with Save The Children India that aims to push the discourse on the need for self-reliance and independence of India’s disabled children.

#ThisAbilityMatters – “I Want To Become a Doctor When I Grow Up,” Says Mehak.

Q. What is your name, age? Where do you live?

A.  I am Mehak, I am 11-years-old living in Dharavi.

Q. Tell us about your family and friends. Who is your best friend? Why?

A. In my house, I have my parents and siblings. Humza, Falak, Chavni are my friends because we do everything together.

Q. What do you like doing in your free time?

A. I like playing carrom.

Q. How do you come to the centre? Do you like coming here? Tell us what you like the most.

A. I take a bus to come to school, I like school, but sometimes I get bored as it requires to me get up early and come to school.

Q. What do you come here and do? Which is your favourite/ least favourite part?

A. I come here to study and meet my friends. I like all my friends and also like drawing.

Q. Tell us your favourite subject

A. Maths is my favourite subject.

Q. What do you want to be when you grow up? Why?

A. I want to become a doctor because I’d like to help people!

Q. What makes you happy? Sad? Scared? Angry?

A. I do not like waking up in the morning every day and I feel angry.

Q. If you had one superpower, what would you like to do/change about your life?

A. I will play without any restrictions!

#ThisAbilityMatters is a co-created campaign with Save The Children India that aims to push the discourse on the need for self-reliance and independence of India’s disabled children.

#ThisAbilityMatters – “I Love Drawing,” Shares Shifan.

Q. What is your name, age? Where do you live?

A.  I am Shifan, I am 15-years-old living and I live in Bandra.

Q. Tell us about your family and friends. Who is your best friend? Why?

A. I stay with Ammi, Abu, and I have my 3 siblings. Ayush is my best friend because I can talk with him about.

Q. What do you like doing in your free time?

A. I like to watch movies.

Q. How do you come to the centre? Do you like coming here? Tell us what you like the most.

A. I take a BEST bus to come to school. I like school because it is a nice place to study. I like drawing the most in school.

Q. What do you come here and do? Which is your favourite/ least favourite part?

A. I come here to study and I also get very tasty and healthy food!

Q. Tell us your favourite subject.

A. Drawing!

Q. What do you want to be when you grow up? Why?

A. I will grow up and do a job soon!

Q. What makes you happy? Sad? Scared? Angry?

A. I like being with my friends and like coming to school.

Q. If you had one superpower, what would you like to do/change about your life?

A. I will keep playing.

#ThisAbilityMatters is a co-created campaign with Save The Children India that aims to push the discourse on the need for self-reliance and independence of India’s disabled children.

#ThisAbilityMatters – “I Will Become a Hero When I Grow Up! Declares Danish.

Q. What is your name, age? Where do you live?

A.  I am Danish Siddique, I am 19 years old and I live in Bandra.

Q. Tell us about your family and friends. Who is your best friend? Why?

A. In my house, I have my Ammi, Abu, and three siblings. I am the youngest of all. Osama is my best friend as he is my childhood friend. 

Q. What do you like doing in your free time?

A. I like watching TV, movies and I love all Salman Khan Movies.

Q. How do you come to the centre? Do you like coming here? Tell us what you like the most.

A. I take a bus to reach the school. I like to study and play.

Q. What do you come here and do? Which is your favourite/ least favourite part?

A. We come here and first do our prayers and have a banana. Post that we study. I like all the food that we get here and dal chawal is my favourite. My least favourite thing to do is play table tennis. It is so difficult and I cannot play the sport.

Q. Tell us your favourite subject

A. I love both English and Hindi.

Q. What do you want to be when you grow up? Why?

A. I will either become a hero or run by own business.

Q. What makes you happy? Sad? Scared? Angry?

A I feel angry and sad whenever I have a fight with my friends. I am the happiest when I am being mischievous or studying in class. I get good grades and always come first in my class.

Q. India is an independent country. Did you know that? What does that mean?

A. Yes, I know that India is a free country and it is an independent country.

Q. What does independence mean to you?

A. I do not like it when someone tells me what to do and I feel sad. For me, being independent means being on my own without any restrictions.

Q. Tell us what you love, what inspires you or who inspires you? Why?          

A. Shah Rukh Khan! He is my inspiration     

Q. If you had one superpower, what would you like to do/change about your life?

A. I will do lots of mischief and never want to be caught for it!

#ThisAbilityMatters is a co-created campaign with Save The Children India that aims to push the discourse on the need for self-reliance and independence of India’s disabled children.

#ThisAbilityMatters – “I Wish To Go To College” Rekha Tells Us.

Q. What is your name, age? Where do you live?

A.  I am Rekha, 18-year old living in Chunabhati.

Q. Tell us about your family and friends. Who is your best friend? Why?

A. I have a big family and we are 10 members including my grandparents, siblings and parents. My best friend is Umesalma because we have been friends for so long and we do everything together!

Q. What do you like doing in your free time?

A. Badminton! I love playing Badminton.

Q. How do you come to the centre? Do you like coming here? Tell us what you like the most.

A. I take local transport and change two buses. First I take 505 and then I take the 10 or 7 number bus. Trains are always crowded and I prefer coming to school by bus.

Q. What do you come here and do? Which is your favourite/ least favourite part?

A. Learning English is my favourite part of coming to school

Q. Tell us your favourite subject

A. English and Maths.

Q. What do you want to be when you grow up? Why?

A. I will first go to college and then earn lots of money! I also wish to work in a beauty parlour.

Q. What makes you happy? Sad? Scared? Angry?

A. Coming to school makes me happy!

Q. Tell us what you love, what inspires you or who inspires you? Why?           

A. Ranveer Singh! He is so good.    

Q. If you had one superpower, what would you like to do/change about your life?

A. I am good at running so I would want to win every race I participate in!

#ThisAbilityMatters is a co-created campaign with Save The Children India that aims to push the discourse on the need for self-reliance and independence of India’s disabled children.

#ThisAbilityMatters – “I Will Rule the World,” Says 15-Year-Old Abhujar

Q. What is your name, age? Where do you live?

A.  I am Abhujar, 15-year old living in Bandra.

Q. Tell us about your family and friends. Who is your best friend? Why?

A. I have two sisters and my parents. I am the youngest but the naughtiest of all!

Viraj, Prateek, Abdul, Kudir, Atharv all of these are my best friend as we do everything together!

Q. What do you like doing in your free time?

A. I love to cycle with my friends, play cricket, football and table tennis till late evening. Post dinner, I am glued to the television and love watching Aladin.

Q. How do you come to the centre? Do you like coming here? Tell us what you like the most.

A. I take the local transport and come to school in the BEST bus. I love coming to school because the studies are good, I have my friends here and also like the food. We get everything from Dal Chawal, Biryani to Pulav.

Q. What do you come here and do? Which is your favourite/ least favourite part?

A. I was recently shifted to a new class and got separated from all my friends. I do not like it. I like playing cricket. Dhoni is my ekdum ‘Ek number’!

Q. Tell us your favourite subject

A. Currently, I am learning to make spices in school and I like that.

Q. What do you want to be when you grow up? Why?

A. I want to become a cricketer or I will become a businessman!

Q. What makes you happy? Sad? Scared? Angry?

A. I like being naughty and teasing all children, however, now I do not do that because then parents come to school and compliant about me!

Q. Tell us what you love, what inspires you or who inspires you? Why?          

A. I love Dhoni!

Q. India is an independent country. Did you know that? What does that mean?

A. Yes, India was first ruled by the British and now it is a free country!

Q. What does freedom mean to you?

A. Freedom means to do things the way I like them.

Q. If you had one superpower, what would you like to do/change about your life?

A. I will rule the world! I will fight and win over everyone!

#ThisAbilityMatters is a co-created campaign with Save The Children India that aims to push the discourse on the need for self-reliance and independence of India’s disabled children.

#ThisAbilityMatters – Rising Above Society’s Stereotypes, Pravin’s Journey In Challenging His Disability & Becoming A Role Model To His Son

“I am not broken nor a problem to solve, I am not a learning tool to make you more evolved,

“I’m a passion and a person, I have ambition, love and drive,

“I could be free of all the shackles you draw on me in your mind if you’d let me be.”

Tilly Moses

#ThisAbilityMatters is a co-created campaign with Save The Children India that aims to push the discourse on the need for self-reliance and independence of India’s disabled children.

Nishant Pravin Bambarkar dreams of being India’s best teacher when he finishes school. “I’ll be the top painter and will teach painting to my students,” says the gusty 17 year old with an ear-to-ear smile. “I have been learning to paint from baba from the time I was little and I feel he is the best teacher. But I want to be even better than him, the bestest in fact.” Nishant’s teacher and father, Pravin Dattaram Bambarkar, unlike most other teachers was born with congenital deafness. Pravin taught and guided his son Nishant, who has normal hearing ability, with sign language and expressions.  

Pravin lost his father at a very young age. Without a breadwinner, the family of five – Pravin, his two younger siblings along with his mother and grandmother – were left forlorn. His mother and grandmother took up menial jobs that would hardly provide even the bare minimum to raise the children. The circumstances drove Pravin’s mother into severe depression and she was unable to continue working. A few years later, his grandmother passed away, leaving the children to the help of their neighbours, who provided them with food and clothing for some time.

Pravin was brought face to face with Save The Children India. Had he been initiated into our program in his early years, his progress would’ve been much quicker. His journey in dealing with his inability to hear, took him through a series of highs and lows. From learning sign language, completion of an informal education, to obtaining a Diploma in drawing and painting from a government run Vocational Rehabilitation Centre, Pravin’s spirit to never give up, lifted him from a life of dependency.

After his Diploma, Pravin took up several ad hoc jobs to support his family. He was exploited and cheated by most of his employers who either under paid him or made him work extra hours without compensation. Frustrated with this treatment, he approached Vipula Kadri at his alma mater at Save The Children India. With a fair chance on several projects, Pravin did exceptionally well on the work he took on.

Meanwhile, Pravin completed his formal education along with another vocational technical course from a government institute. Today he is employed as an Assistant Teacher with the Special Care Centre at Save The Children India and has been passionately teaching arts and crafts to the children with special needs at the school.

Pravin has a natural gift of the arts and took to pottery, painting and ikebana just like a fish takes to water. He is the only Indian who has represented India in all the above three categories at the International Abilympics in India, Bordeaux (France), South Korea and Shizouka (Japan). Contestants from more than 35 countries vie for the top three spots in these competition. He won bronze at the International Abilympics 2005 in the pottery category and was also given the award by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. He has won several other competitions and his achievements have been recognized by the state and central governments. 

Today, Pravin is married to Nalini who is also an alumni of the special school run by Save The Children India, They have two loving sons, Nishant (17 years) and Pranav (11 years), with normal hearing abilities. Both of them have grown up being taught in sign language. Inspired by his father, Pravin’s elder son has chosen fine arts as his subject for his graduate studies. Nishant says, “Sign language must be made mandatory in all schools so that there’s no barrier between the hearing impaired and other people.”  

#ThisAbilityMatters – Decoding Project Dhvani & It’s Work On The Invisible Condition Of Hearing-Impairment With Children

It was the dream of Mrs. Vipula Kadri, Founder & National Director, Save The Children India, that the organization start an early intervention program for hearing impaired infants and children. Her foresight led to the incubation of Program Dhvani, to identify and treat hearing loss in early childhood, helping children with hearing impairment listen, learn, talk and be integrated into society.

In conversation with Akanksha Dhuri, Program Head of Dhvani, whose 10 years of association with the Early Intervention Centre for Hearing Impaired (since it’s inception) gives us insight and understanding on the urgent need for early intervention amongst children.

#ThisAbilityMatters is a co-created campaign with Save The Children India that aims to push the discourse on the need for self-reliance and independence of India’s disabled children.

Q) Describe for us the current scenario in context to children and disabilities in India.

A: According to WHO (2018) data, the prevalence of hearing impairment (HI) in India is around 6.3% (63 million people suffering from significant auditory loss). The estimated prevalence of adult-onset deafness in India is 7.6% and childhood-onset deafness is 2%.

Hearing loss is identified in about 3 in 1,000 new-borns and by the time the child is ready to start school it increases to about 1 in 300 children. This increase can be attributed to a range of factors including (1) failure to detect at birth (2) progressive hearing loss in either or both ears or (3) trauma, infections, etc.

Hearing loss is often treated as a ‘low-profile’ disability as it cannot be seen or easily identified, thus resulting in low awareness. Commonly referred to as an ‘invisible’ condition, the most credible approach to ensure that children suffering from hearing loss can be identified and treated at an early stage, is to get every new-born screened for possible symptoms at birth. Implemented across most developing countries, the Universal New-born Hearing Screening (UNHS) is a medical test for early detection of congenital hearing loss, to manage the condition in an effective way.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 60 percent of hearing loss in children under 15 years of age is preventable. Unless intervened, hearing loss in early childhood has direct impact on communication, literacy, learning, social & emotional development, educational attainment and future employment opportunities. Children who are identified and receive appropriate intervention early are more likely to demonstrate language development within the normal range by the time they enter school.

Over the past two decades, dramatic improvements in hearing screening technology have significantly lowered the age at which children with hearing loss can be identified. However, there is lack of awareness of the interventions and services available. At the same time these services and surgical interventions are expensive for people from less privileged background, lending to the numbers in India.

Q) Tell us about Program Dhvani and why it was conceptualized. How does this program fulfil the gaps in the system (for children)?

A:Lack of services of mandatory new-born hearing screening and delay in the identification and treatment of congenital auditory impairment can adversely affect the quality of life, in terms of language acquisition, social interaction, and emotional development, education, and employment prospects of children in their later years. There is an urgent need to sensitize expectant parents and families, family doctors, pediatricians and gynecologists to strongly recommend a neonatal hearing screening for every new-born.

Save The Children India has been running a Special School for children with hearing impairment for the last 30 years. However, over a period of time it has been realized that by the time children are enrolled (at the age of 5 and above) in the Special School, the critical period of their development is wasted. By then children already develop their own sign language and signing system to communicate despite having the potential to develop spoken language and verbal communication skills. This condition then becomes difficult to reverse. But if hearing loss is detected and intervened at an early stage, these children can develop speech, language and communication skills naturally.

Recognizing this need, we initiated Dhvani in 2010 – an early intervention centre for children from all strata of society. Dhvani provides easy access to valuable services of testing and early diagnosis, treatment like cochlear implant, counseling, training, amongst others, that can help transform the life of the hearing-impaired children.

Q) Program Dhvani uses state of the art technology to provide a more holistic service for children. Elaborate in context to technology used globally.

A: Dhvani provides a bouquet of solutions and services to fulfil the needs of children with hearing impairment under one roof. It strives to develop communication skills of hearing impaired children at the foundation stage so that they can be mainstreamed into society. This is streamlined by the use of new and effective tech at every stage in early intervention.

For early diagnosis, we use modern day technology like audiological equipment and sound proof rooms, accurate audiological evaluation and comprehensive audiological test battery that include Infant Hearing Screening Program (using OAE/AABR techniques), Pure Tone Audiometry (AC/BC Unaided/Aided), Tympanometry, Speech Audiometry (Unaided/Aided), MAPPING & trouble shooting of hearing aids and speech processors, CI assisted audiometry.

For early amplification, once diagnosed as having hearing loss in either or both ears, and after consulting with ENT specialists he/she will be fitted with good quality digital hearing aids. Additionally, under early intervention, we provide access to qualified & experienced auditory verbal therapy specialists who conduct individual therapy sessions & follow globally accepted auditory verbal therapy approaches. Dhvani uses standardised guidelines & principles coupled with scientific diagnostic methods to emphasize on listening and speaking naturally.

A more holistic approach for the progress of children with hearing impairment includes, early implantation, pre- and post-cochlear implant management for those children who are not showing desired progress. Counseling for parents, family support and guidance for caretakers of hearing impaired children is a key function to ensure an improved ecosystem of care. Experienced special educators assist parents on the selection of the school, medium, board, etc., through Dhvani’s School Readiness Programme on an individual and group basis, that helps children with their overall education.

Q) How do you integrate different stakeholders in creating a conducive environment for children? 

A: 1. Parents & Family: For any successful intervention, involvement of parents and the extended family members is very crucial. Dhvani follows the proven best practices of Auditory Verbal Therapy through customized plans and sessions where parents are partners in this journey. 

2. Professionals: Dhvani involves other professionals for comprehensive evaluation of children. It works towards creating awareness about hearing impairment and its effects on early childhood development. Dhvani invites and seeks opportunities to train professionals through various workshops.

Q) Why is mainstreaming of disabled children important at an early stage?

A: The purpose of mainstreaming is to help children with hearing impairment adjust to being with their normal hearing peers and to help them adapt to the demands of a regular-education in the classrooms. It also helps students follow the same curriculum as non-disabled peers, equipping them access to the same opportunities in the future.

It teaches all students compassion, acceptance, collaboration and patience – life-long skills that will better prepare them for the future.

Q) What remains to be done in relation to policy and law? 

A: There is a lack of public awareness about hearing impairment and its treatment in general. Infant hearing screening needs to be made universal/ mandatory through policy and law.

Q) What do you believe are gaps in the current context? 

A: There are multiple reasons for gaps in the current context. From over population, limited number of trained professionals, lack of awareness on the specific issue, lack of standardized protocols for management of children with hearing impairment by parents and professionals, lack of early detection facilities and limited access for majority of the population, to name a few.

Q) If Program Dhvani were to scale, which issues in particular would it advocate at a national level? And how?

A: Program Dhvani aims to make New Born Hearing Screening mandatory at a national level. We aim to advocate for this by conducting free Infant Hearing Screening Camps during the first week of every month, by promoting our programme through partnerships with various organizations, creating awareness through community outreach programmes and campaigns and conducting regular workshops for medical and non-medical professionals.  

Q) What are the long-term aspirations for Program Dhvani?

A: The aspirations of Dhvani is to keep in mind the engagement of key stakeholders, access to basic services for children with hearing impairment, and scaling up to reach more children.

From 2020-2024 we aim to have infant screening in place, expand our geographical reach in Mumbai and Maharashtra, undertake training for parents and professionals to build a conducive ecosystem for children with hearing impairment and a hub that allows for the convergence of the best services and practices for effective early intervention.

Our impact: 5000+ infants will be screened for hearing impairment, 1000 Pre-School children will be screened for early childhood/ acquired hearing impairment, 100% mainstreaming of children into reputed schools in Mumbai, 200 children will benefit from the overall program, 300+ doctors and healthcare professionals will be trained through online training courses and we shall conduct 30 camps for public and community awareness.

Q) Share with us a story of a child who was mainstreamed because of Program Dhvani.

The story of Aariz is best told through his mother’s words.

My son Aariz was born on 6th November, 2012. When Aariz was 15 months old, we took him for a vaccination. The doctor asked me how many meaningful words he could speak. We responded saying he was just babbling, and spoke no meaningful words at the time. She displayed suspicion about Aariz having a hearing impairment. But we never felt this, as Aariz was responding to some sounds. The pediatric then advised us to get few tests done. The results were a big blow to me and my family, and my fears had come true. It was difficult to accept that Aariz would not hear and speak like us.

Our disbelief and disappointment, led us to undertake the tests again at several hospitals, hoping that the report would be negated. Unfortunately, all the reports from different hospitals matched, leaving us shattered. Aariz was diagnosed with severe bilateral sensorineural hearing loss.

We had no idea what this meant and what we would do. How would Aariz survive with his disability in this world? This thought would keep my husband and me up all night. We would sit together and cry, praying to God for a miracle.

On a consultation with Dr. Milind Kirtane, he advised us to visit Dhvani at Save The Children India. In August, 2014 we started Aariz’s audiology and language therapy sessions. Soon after, when Aariz was almost 2 years old, he was fitted with hearing aids. I still remember the day my child heard sounds for the first time! Our first session was fantastic and a real breath of fresh air. With the help and encouragement of the passionate staff and specialists at Dhvani, their advice and the resources at the centre, we immediately felt like a part of Dhvani who were on a journey to get my child to listen and talk. Aariz would get excited when he knew it was time for therapy at Dhvani. 

After 3-4 months of getting his hearing aids, Aariz started getting used to various sounds. A play way method was used during the training and language therapy started in English. Aariz was encouraged to vocalize and slowly he started listening to various sounds. He responded well and started making quick progress. Gradually, Aariz started talking in one word utterances and we were on cloud nine hearing our child speak. By the time Aariz was 3.5 years old, he was able to speak in simple 3 to 4 words sentences. At that time, we enrolled him in a preschool. Aariz was quick to learn different concepts and he made overwhelming progress. 

Today, Aariz is 7 years old, goes to a reputed regular school. He is doing quite well and participates in poem recitation, sports, dance competitions. etc. without any fear, just like other children. He loves reading books. He writes well and is showing remarkable progress in academics. He has interest in sports, he goes to skating, drawing and craft classes. His confidence level has risen.  He can now listen like any other child of his age and speak clearly and confidently in long sentences in Hindi as well as in English. He comprehends complex commands and can effortlessly carry out story narration. Everyday Aariz learns new things and shares it with me. 

I cannot be more proud of my son overcame who translated his disability into his ability. My family and I are over the moon. Though the initial journey was tough, our family is blessed with a very supportive network of friends and of course everyone at Dhvani. Now, I feel I have gained experience to help others who are in the same position as Aariz and I were once in. This has motivated me so much that I have enrolled for a special education course, to help other children too.

I hope that Aariz’z story will spread awareness about early identification and intervention so that every child with hearing impairment can achieve successful inclusion in society. I also hope to motivate parents to work harder and provide good home training for their children since the rehabilitation of children with hearing impairment is a long-term process. 

#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! 

These Handwritten Letters By Children Will Make You Reminiscent Of Your Free-Spirited Childhood Days

How many times have you approached a top-notch CEO with advice on your own venture without thinking twice? How many times have you been moved by a recent catastrophe, and reached out to the President of your country to offer help? As adults, most of us second guess even sending out an important email, with an inherent apprehension of what the other person might think.

Fortunately, many children don’t come with these apprehensions, instead the assurance in oneself, aspiration for change and a fearless attitude demanding a better world. 

Here’s 5 letters from children to people in positions of influence, that might inspire you to pick up your ink pot too…

1.  A 10-YEAR OLD WRITES A LETTER TO THE CEO OF QUANTAS AIRLINES

 “I’m Alex Jacquot, a 10-year-old boy (please take me seriously) and I want to start an airline,’’ read a handwritten letter addressed by a confident 10-year-old to the CEO of Quantas Airline, Alan Joyce. Most likely, adults would perhaps err on the side of caution, fret over reaching out to a CEO of a multi-national organisation, despite having a solid plan, work experience and numbers showcasing a good value proposition, but the tongue in cheek reply by Alan Joyce didn’t deter Alex from writing to him again.

2. A 12-YEAR OLD KASHMIRI GIRL, KULSUM BANO’S LETTER TO J.K.ROWLING

When 12-year-old Kulsum Bano, studying in Haji Public School wrote an essay on how the Harry Potter author was an inspiration not only because of her writing but also because of her struggles and difficulties that she overcame, she had no idea that she would get a reply from the author. One of the teachers shared Kulsum’s handwritten essay on twitter, which caught J.K Rowling’s attention and she replied to the tweet almost instantly. Weeks later, she even sent tons of Harry Potter goodies not just for Kulsum but the entire class. There was also a personalised note for Kulsum that made the entire class elated with joy.

Picture Courtesy: Haji Public School

3. 11-YEAR OLD ARUSHI WRITES TO PM MODI FOR A CLEANER SURROUNDING

In her letter to PM Modi, Aarushi, who studies in Class VI in St Xaviers School High School in Harayana’s Gurugram wrote, “I am so happy that once again you are the Prime Minister. I have a request that when I go to my school, I see a lot of rubbish waste near it. I want that you should encourage people to clean the surroundings. If I will have to clean it, I will surely.”

“And please write a letter yourself and reply,” she further requested the Prime Minister.

In his response, PM Modi assured her of their Governments commitment for a progressive India.

Photo – Ravinder Yadav/ Twitter

4. A YOUNG EMINEM FAN OPENS UP TO HIM ABOUT BEING BULLIED

“I was bullied at school, was alone at school, was depressed, and must learn to speak. But you gave me the power,” said a German child in a letter to the popular rapper Eminem. Having been through a similar situation in life, he replied to the boy saying “Stay Strong,” knowing well that his music and life story would help many people out of difficult situations, especially children.

Photo: Twitter

5. A PLEA TO PRESIDENT OBAMA TO ALLOW A REFUGEE CHILD SPACE IN 6 YEAR OLD ALEX’S HOME

Source: White House

“Remember the boy who was picked up by the ambulance in Syria? Can you please go get him and bring him to my home?,” said six-year-old Alex from New York in a letter to the Prseident Barack Obama asking for Omran, the refugee boy to be resettled in his home.

This letter was praised by Obama at his speech at the United Nations, The humanity that a young child can display, who hasn’t learned to be cynical, or suspicious, or fearful of other people because of where they’re from, or how they look, or how they pray, and who just understands the notion of treating somebody that is like him with compassion, with kindness — we can all learn from Alex.”

Have you read any letters from children that make a plea for a better world? Send them to us at contact@leher.org.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg on the #1 thing people can do to help mitigate climate change

“… I think what we should do as individuals is to use the power of democracy and make our voices heard and to make sure that the people in power actually cannot continue to ignore this,” says 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg on #1 thing people can do to help mitigate climate change.

An Open Letter to the world’s children

Childhood has changed, and we need to change our approaches along with it,” said Henrietta.H.Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. Read this open letter to know why there is both hope and worry for children of the world.

If you are a parent, teacher or an organisation share with us the new approaches you have adopted in working with children.

Fridays for Future: How Students From Across India Protested Against Climate Change Today

“Activism works. So act. See you on the streets!” These words echoed by 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg has inspired children and youth from more than 2000 cities across the world to participate in the Global Climate Strike

Here’s how children from India are making their voice heard by striking against the Climate Crisis.

 

#InternationalGirlChildDay – Sheetal Shares Her Journey Of Strength, Self-Defence & Winning A Gold Medal

This is one part of a three-part narrative in collaboration with Leher and MukkaMaar is a non-profit organisation that empowers young girls and envisages ending gender-based violence through its comprehensive 3-year self-defence training program.

1. How was life before MukkaMaar?

Ans: Before I joined MukkaMaar, I was very weak. I would just play with my friend and while away my time aimlessly. Even if I would fall or get hurt by mistake, I’d sit and cry for a long time. I used to also feel scared whenever I would go anywhere. My parents were scared to send me out alone. More so, even our thinking was negative and orthodox.

2. How did you come to know about MukkaMaar?

Ans: My father used to put up a Chinese Bhel stall and I would help him in managing the stall. One day, I was walking on the beach with my friend where I saw several girls practising Karate. There was a Sir who was teaching them and I wanted to talk to him. However, since I had to visit my village in the next two days, I waited for some time. After coming back from the village, I then joined the ‘Karate’ Classes.’ Later, Ishita Didi asked me, “What are learning over here?” I replied, “We are learning Karate.” To that Ishita didi said, “No, we are learning Martial Arts. For me, it is basically learning self defence for girls.

3. How has people’s thinking changed now?

Ans: Earlier, my father did not allow me to go for this class. He often asked me what I will achieve by learning martial arts. I would say “I will become a strong and powerful girl.” However, my father disagreed with me and would not allow me. Even my neighbours in our colony felt the same.

Everyone asked me to study well in school to get good grades in exams. It was my uncle who requested my father to send me to the class and I started learning Martial Arts.

After a few days, my friend Pooja told me to come to Aamad Studio to practice. I went there and we used to practice a lot. There was an upcoming tournament but I wasn’t ready for it. However, Swameshwar Sir, our teacher guided me and advised me by saying that I have to use the same punches and kicks in the tournament that I practice in class. I thought about it for a while and realised that I could do it. Later, I came back with two gold medals and a silver medal that I won in the fights. Everyone in my colony was extremely happy for me.  Even they wereencouraged to send their children to learn Martial arts and I remember telling one aunty from my colony ‘sabar ka fal meetha hota hai.’

4. How has your life changed since then?

Ans: I used to feel very weak. After a lot of practice, I have now become strong.

5. Can girls learn martial arts?

Ans: Yes, all the girls must learn self-defense for themselves.

6. Describe MukkaMaar in one word.

Ans: Strong, Hausla, Himmat

7. Tell us your State level story.

Ans: We went to Aurangabad and checked in at the hotel. After two hours we got out of our room, but when we went inside the room was very dirty and we cleaned the room. We were very tired due to travelling. We went to take a bath but there was a long line for using the bath. After taking the bath we roamed around to see the place and it was beautiful.

In the evening, we got very hungry. There were two groups – girls who play from the suburbs the others from the city. We had to wait for a long time to get our food but the city girls got it easily. Soon, we went to check our weight. At night, we didn’t get food to eat- the lady refused to make food for us. One of the girls suggested that there was a temple where we could get food so we went there. The food was very spicy so we spent our night without eating enough food.  Next day, we had our fights. I won five fights but lost one of them. I got a silver medal but I was happy.

#InternationalGirlChildDay – Soni Learns New Life Skills & Represents Mumbai At State-Level Martial Arts

This is one part of a three-part narrative in collaboration with Leher and MukkaMaar is a non-profit organisation that empowers young girls and envisages ending gender-based violence through its comprehensive 3-year self-defence training program. 

1.Tell us about your life before MukkaMaar.

Ans: MukkaMaar me aane se pehle mai yeh sochti thi ki jo bhi mummy papa bolte hai, woh sabh sahi bolte hai, ki ladkiyon ko shaam ke baad ghar se nahi nikalna chahiye. Ladkiyon ko ghar ka kaam seekhna chahiye, taaki jab uski shaadi ho, usko ghar ke sab kaam aane chahiye.

MukkaMaar se pehle, mera jeevan aisa tha ki main school aur tuitions jaati thi, aur ghar ka kaam karti thi. Ghar ka kaam jaise khaana banana, kapde dhona aur jhadu-pochha karna. Mujhe kahin bhi, doston ke saath, ghoomne nahi diya jaata tha.

2. How did you find about about MukkaMaar? What encouraged you to join? 

Ans: MukkaMaar ke baare mein meri mummy ko unke madam ne bataya, jo Ishita di ki dost hain. Unhone mummy se, poocha,“Aapki beti kya karti hai? Toh mummy ne kahaa,“Kuch nahi.”  Phir unhone mummy ko kaha, “Aap apni beti ko martial arts sikhao, usse aapki beti ko koi pareshaani nahi hogi, aur voh kahi bhi akele ja payegi.” Issi liye maine martial arts seekhna shuroo kiya. Par kuch samay baad maine chod diya, kyunki mummy bolne lagi, “Kya karegi seekh kar yeh Martial Arts?”

MukkaMaar har BMC school mein sikhane aata hai, toh jab mere school main bhi aaye, maine phir se shuru kar diya! Yeh martial arts abhi tak chal raha hai, aur aage bhi chalta rahega.

3. How did your parents, peer and community react to you learning self-defence? What was their initial reaction? Has their outlook changed? If so, how?

Ans: Jaise-jaise duniyab adal rahi hai, vaise-vaise soch bhi badal rahi hai. Log ladkiyon ko itna kuch bolte hain aur apne aap ko sab Bhagwan samjhte hai. Par unhe ye nahi patta hai ki agar ladki nahi hoti toh hum log bhi nahi hote. Toh log ab ye soch rahe hai ki haan jo hum kar sakte hai woh har ek ladki kar sakti hai. Jaise garden me ladke log jaate hai khelne toh ladkiyan kyu nahi? Agar ladke raat me kabhi bhi ghar par aa sakte hai toh ladkiyan kyu nahi?

4. How did MukkaMaar & self-defence change your life?

Ans: Pehle jo log bolte the, main vaisa hi karti thi. Mujhe yeh sunne ko milta tha ‘Ghar se ladkiyaan bahar nahi jaayegi. Bahar ka kaam nahi karegi. Zyada padhai nahi karegi’. Ab toh main yeh bilkul follow nahi karti hoon, kyunki maine self-defence seekha hua hai.Ab mujhe mere mummy, papa kuch nahi bolte. Har ladki ko khud ke liye martial arts seekhna chaiyee.

Jab maine martial arts karna shuru kiya, toh competitions me khelna shuru kiya, aur medals laane bhi shuroo ho gaye the.Isse meri family bahut khush ho gayi,aur unhone yeh mehsoos kiya ki – Haan meri beti ne kuch kiya hai khudh ke liye. Ab, mummy papa yeh bolte hain ki meri beti sahi disha mein jaa rahi hai. Ab woh mujhe kahi bhi jaane dete hai aur yeh nahi sochte hai ki raat hai ya din. Aur ye nahi dekhte hai ki main ladka hoon ya ladki- bas jaane dete hai kahi bhi…

5. Do you think all girls should learn self-defence? Why?

Ans: Haan! Haan! Ladkiyon ko martial arts karna chahiye kyunki aaj-kal toh bahut zyada rape aur crime hote hai. Martial Arts se sab ladkiyan apna self-defence khud kar sakti hain. Par yeh bhi sach hai ki har ladki ke mummy yaa papa bahar nahi jaane dete hai. Kyunki unko dar lagta hai ki unki ladki ke saath kuch ladke (rape) naa kar de. Ladkiyaan jab self-defence seekh legi toh woh ghar main baithi nahi rahegi. Issiliye har ladki ko martial arts karna chahiye.

6. Narrate one incident where you had to use your self-defense skills

Ans: Ek din hum log school se garden main khelne gaye kyuki uss din school ka half day tha. Wahan garden me do teen ladke hum ladkiyon ko dekh kar seetee bajaa rahe thye.Maine doston ka kahaa, “Chalo ghar jaate hai.” Fir,maine socha ki aaj un ladko ko ignore kar doongi toh kalse ladkiyan kuch kar nahi paayengi. Toh mai gayi un ladko ke paas aur maine kahaa, “Seeti kyun bajaa rahe ho? Unn ladko ne kaha, “Meri marzi mera mu”. Maine kahaa, “Mere hath mere pe se bajaa dungi seedha.”  Toh sab ladkiyon ko prerna mile ki ab humme chup nahi rehna hai.

7. Describe MukkaMaar in one word. 

Ans: “Competition”, “Defense” “Coach” “For girls”.

8. Tell us your state level story?

Ans: Main Kandivili main 2 medals lane ke baad, state level khelne ke liye Aurangabad main select hui thi. Hamme tabhi pata chala ki state level fight ke liye humme bahut zayda practice karni padegi. Mujhe yaad hai ki hum sab 6 August 2018, ko raat 9 baje ke train pakad kar Aurangabad ke liye nikle the. Humne train main bahut masti ki thi. Hum logon ko seat ki problem hui thi aur humme do logon ko ek seat par baithe aur use par sona pada. Hum subah 4.30- 5.30 baje tak Aurangabad main pahunch gaye. Hum wahan se ek gadi me baith kar hotel main karib 7 baje pahunche. Wahan par hum 2 ghante bahar bethe rahe kyunki room ki safai ho rahi thi. Phir hum wahan se kuch samay baad room main gaye aur fatafat weight check ke liye ready hue. Jab breakfast ka time aaya, toh main khana nahi kha rahi thi kyunki mujhe lag raha tha ki mera weight badh jaayega. Mujhe tab sir ne samjhaya ki humme weight se fight nahi karni hai, humme bas fight karna hai, chahe koi bhi kg main khelo. Maine uske baad hi breakfast kiya.Phir hum practice karne lagain weight ghatane ki.

Jab hum weight check karne ke liye gaye, toh sab apni apni category main chale gayain. Pur meri category full ho gayi aur mujhe bahut bura laga ki jo fight 2 main 2 medal laya hau usko 45 kg main nahi khila rahain hai aur jo fight main 3-4 medals layain usko 45 kg main khila rahin hai.

Mujhe bohot bura laga ki jo fight 2 medal laya hai usko 45kg me nahi khila rahe hai aur jo fight 3-4 medals laya hai woh sab 45 kg me khel rahe hai.Toh sir ne kaha “Ki tu khele gi ya nahi?”Maine kahaa, “Sir main kheloo gi, koi bhi kg main kyunki main Mumbai se Aurangabad khelne ke liye hi aayi hoon.” Satara ke coach the, unka 45 kg main ek slot khali tha aur main Mumbai se Satara ke liye weight check karne gayi thi.Maine dekha ki mera weight toh 44 kg hai toh mujhe 4 kg badhana pada.Maine tab ek litre paani piya, 3 sweater pehni aur 2-3 phone apne jeb me daali.Toh mera weight 46 kg hua.Fir main 48 kg me pehla round kehli.Tab main, pehla round jeeti, dusra round main mere saath cheating hogayi thi, par koi baat nahi. Yeh mera pehli baar tha, kyunki koi-koi toh 4/5 baar jaa ke bhi haar ke aa jaate hai. Aurangabad main MukkaMaar ke 3 girls ko zyada problem hui kyunki hum log suburban se khele the aur city vaalo ko problem nahi hui. Jo jo suburban se the, usko na toh khana na toh paani mila.

9. If you had to encourage girls in your community, city and country to learn self-defense, what is the one thing you would say to them to convince them?

Ans: Main ladkiyon ko boloongi ki mujhe dekh lo – Mai kaisi thi aur ab kaisi hoon!

#InternationalGirlChildDay – Shreya Finds A New Sense Of Freedom Through Martial Arts

This is one part of a three-part narrative in collaboration with Leher and MukkaMaar is a non-profit organisation that empowers young girls and envisages ending gender-based violence through its comprehensive 3-year self-defence training program. 

1. What do you know about Martial Arts?

Ans: Martial arts is one of the most popular and well-known art forms. It is good for self-defence. It’s safe, easy to learn, requires little space and is very effective if done right. Martial art’s training aims to result in several benefits to trainers such as their physical, mental, emotional health. Martial arts improve people’s physical fitness, i.e, boosted strength, stamina, speed, flexibility, movement, coordination etc. as the whole body is exercised and the entire muscular system is activated. Bruce Lee is the father of martial arts.

2. Tell us about your life before you joined MukkaMaar.

Ans: My life before joining MukkaMaar was too difficult and stressful. Whenever I used to go out alone, I used to feel very scared. At that time too, there were many cases of children getting kidnapped. I have heard stories where the kidnappers would brutally hurt the children and make them forcibly beg for money or work in factories etc. My parents used to be too scared to send me anywhere after hearing about such cases. In fact, before joining Mukkamaar, I was also scared to talk to boys. I used to always fear that the boys were way stronger and powerful than me and if we would ever get into any kind of disputes, they could use their strength against me.

3. How did you find about about MukkaMaar? What encouraged you to join? 

Ans: Then, one of my sisters (Sheetal) told me about MukkaMaar. I think she has really changed herself too after joining this institution. She generally practices her kicks and punching exercises at home. Looking at her, I was encouraged to learn this form of art.

4. How did your parents, peer and community react to you learning self-defence? What was their initial reaction? Has their outlook/ opinion changed? If so, how?

Ans: Nevertheless, elderly people always had the same orthodox thinking. They thought that girls should only work at home instead of going outside, doing any extracurricular or outdoor activities. They thought that girls should only be doing household chores in their future.  However, I think day by day people’s mindset is changing and eventually, both boys and girls are getting equal importance.  My sister has won many medals, looking at her achievements, many people from our neighbourhood also started sending their daughters to this class. Now, the majority of the people in our neighbourhood have changed their thinking. It’s true that only academic studies aren’t important.

5. How did MukkaMaar & self-defence change your life?

Ans: I have changed a lot after joining MukkaMaar. Now, even my parents aren’t reluctant to allow us to go anywhere. At first, I used to feel very lazy and wasn’t strong enough to bare minor pains. But today I don’t get weak by any small sicknesses. I have also improved my coordination, speed and strength. I have got a new sense of freedom, no fear, no stress. This is all due to MukkaMaar and Ishita Didi. She taught all of us how to overcome our shyness and fear.

6. Narrate one incident where you had to use your self-defence skills

Ans: I remember that one day, me and my friends were taking a stroll along the beachside. One of my friends challenged me to how much I had learned so far in martial arts. I showed him a typical kick that we learnt in class and he was startled. That was quite a funny incident.

7. Do you think all girls should learn self-defence? Why?

Ans: Yes, of course, all girls should learn martial arts for their own self-defence.  Any form of martial arts if learnt well with mental and physical awareness, lot of practice and conditioning can be effective against attackers (street attacks)

Nowadays, we can see that there are many things that girls can do, that boys cannot. All girls have the right to do everything they have wished to do or go anywhere they want to. Girls are strong. All parents should change their orthodox stereotypical thinking for their girls.

8. Describe MukkarMaar in one word. 

Ans: According to me if MukkaMaar wasn’t there, my life would have no use. It has taught me positive thinking in life.  In short, MukkaMaar is my ‘Manzil’, ‘Hausla’, ‘Zid’ and hard work!

9. If you had to encourage girls in your community, city and country to learn self-defence, what is the one thing you would say to them to convince them?

Ans: I want to prove to everyone that girls also are very powerful. I want to raise the name and stage of MukkaMaar, our beloved Ishita didi, and all those who support this! I also aspire to get a chance to showcase my talent, get medals, certificates and awards. I want to become famous and give autographs to my fans. Although, I really hope that my parents allow me to keep continuing this class since I have my 10th-grade boards coming up soon. But I am very glad to have Ishita didi in my life who taught me each and everything. She should always be with me, alongside, so no-one can stop me from keeping on. Thank you Ishita didi for this programme that you conduct, for the studio, for everything!

#BackToSchool- Bitter Sweet Memories Of School Days

A new term takes us all back to our school days. Making new friends and catching up with old ones, getting bullied by seniors and punished for no real reason, having a crush on a classmate and dealing with the awkwardness of everyone knowing, curiously sitting through sex-ed class and not understanding anything, buckling under pressure during exams and forgetting everything learnt the day after…the circle of life at school might seem endless, until one day you no longer go back to school.

Here’s what the good ol’ days felt like until you grew up…

WHEN YOU WERE DRAGGED OUT OF YOUR BED TO GET READY FOR SCHOOL

BUT ON MOST DAYS, YOU DIDN’T FEEL LIKE

WHEN YOU DISLIKED BEING AT SCHOOL

BECAUSE IT WAS A LAND OF DO’S & DON’T’S

WHEN YOU HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO SIT THROUGH A BORING CLASS

BUT REJOICED EVERYTIME THE BELL RANG

TO DIG INTO YOUR LUNCH BOX

WHEN YOU WERE BULLIED IN SCHOOL FOR THE FIRST TIME

AND YOUR FOE TURNED INTO YOUR FRIEND

WHEN THE CLASS ON SEX EDUCATION…

WAS MORE AWKWARD FOR YOUR TEACHER THAN YOU

WHEN THE FEAR OF EXAM RESULTS WAS ALL-CONSUMING

BUT YOU’RE JUST RELIEVED THAT IT’S OVER!

WHEN YOU FIND OUT YOUR CRUSH IS DATING SOMEONE ELSE

BUT CAN’T GET OVER HER ANYWAY

WHEN YOU REALISE THAT GETTING OUT OF SCHOOL REQUIRES PASS MARKS

AND THE DAY TO LEAVE SCHOOL FINALLY ARRIVES!

BUT THE THOUGHT OF GOING TO COLLEGE, HITS HARD

AND YOU WISH YOU COULD GO BACK TO SCHOOL

Indian Ads That Appeal To Parents To Ease Exam Pressure On Children

Exams are close. Terrifyingly close. So close, in fact, that they’re around the corner with a frying pan waiting to smack you in the face. Every student knows the struggle. The relentless pressure placed on young shoulders. The unfair and daunting results expected of us. Our uncles and aunts are oblivious; our teachers think we’re being dramatic and our parents only want the very best grades. 

No one seems to understand the unyielding pressure we face except, various famous brands throughout India. Mental health, depression, anxiety and suicide have all been talked about and discussed in context to growing exam pressure. But the current view toward exam pressure continues to be mere nonchalance. Brands have released campaigns asking parents to release the pressure, conducting social experiments or presenting real-life scenarios that are all too familiar, successfully starting a conversation around this issue, giving it a voice and weight.

Let’s take a look at seven brands who have released brilliantly influential campaigns.

     1. #RELEASETHEPRESSURE, MIRINDA

This powerful advertisement depicts several teenagers writing open letters to their parents asking them for a break, to stop checking up on them every thirty minutes, to stop yelling at them to study and to stop the pressure. The parents are invited to read the letters in a highly dramatized fashion, showing regret and sadness at the expectations they have placed upon their children. This advertisement by Mirinda tries to create the awareness that a little break can go a long way in easing exam pressure and stress from the minds of young students. It has a simple message “No more pressure panti, only pagal panti.” This ad opened up an important discussion on this grave issue of exam stress amongst large numbers of young people.

    2. #FUNDA CLEAR HAIN, EXTRAMARKS 

The ‘Funda clear hai’ campaign by Extramarks was slightly on the comedic side. With exams nearing, parents can get even more harrowed than the children themselves. It showed various children telling their parents to relax and ‘chill’ because they’ve got all their studies under control. The campaign also talks about a more dynamic style of learning. Extramarks encouraged students to use more visual aid, practice tests and a variety of other such tools to enjoy the process of learning. The essential impact that this campaign had was to let children know they shouldn’t spend hours slaving over books. They should study smart, and then go and have fun!

     3. #THE EXAM COLLECTION, BOURNVITA

‘One t-shirt doesn’t fit everyone.’ This brilliant and insightful ad campaign by Bournvita perfectly captures the cage that most children feel they are trapped in. The campaign begins with people entering a popular fashion store that had all of its original clothes removed and replaced by plain black XL shirts. All black. All XL. The customers were furious, and asked to speak to the manager. And out came the children. They told the adults of their aspirations, and how their parents were pushing them to be something else. Just like a black XL shirt doesn’t fit everyone, these children aren’t all one piece of clothing. They’re all different, with different hopes and they deserve to be recognized, heard and make their own choices. This ad campaign helped some parents open their eyes, and look beyond the marks to where their children’s dreams lie.

Don’t miss their Tayyari har exam ki ad, that questions parents if they are chasing the right thing when it comes to their children’s education.

4. #DAD, WHAT IF I FAIL? JAAGORE

This is a simple advertisement, but one that touches the heart for sure. It shows a young boy and his father hurrying to get the boys’ results. On the way, the father stops to buy ice cream, and the son is confused by his father’s nonchalance, as his results are about to come out. ‘Dad, what if I fail?’ he asks, clearly afraid. ‘It’s okay’ the father replies, as he pays for the ice cream. Sometimes, as children we seek such immense approval from our parents and most of the times they don’t even know it. Sometimes, we need our parents to simply tell us it’s okay. The campaign evocatively tells parents that academic excellence does not determine a child’s capabilities to succeed and to relieve children of the stress caused by the need to excel in academics. Being successful in life is not limited by grades and marks in school or college.

5. #GIFT THE BELIEF, LENOVO

Children often have the tendency to take one decision as covenant law. One bad grade, one rejection letter and we are left drowning and gasping for air. Lenovo saw that, and made this campaign. It depicts several parents, at their various places of work simply talking about failure. They failed too. They got rejection letters too. And you know what- it didn’t matter. Children watch this campaign and this is what they see and learn. That one B grade you got, it won’t matter. That rejection letter you got from your Top University won’t matter. There will be other grades; other universities and you will be fine. The primary message from parents (who were once children) to their children is – no matter what happens, believe in yourself, because you and your life are beyond bad grades and rejection letters. You may fail, but is failure not a part of life?

6. #PARENTS LEARN VALUABLE EXAM LESSONS, CELLO

I’m sure most children have thought in a bitter anger ‘why don’t you give the same exam I am giving’ at their parents. Well, Cello did exactly that. They asked parents to write the same exam that their sixth-grade children were writing, and as you’ve probably guessed, the children did better. It was an eye opener for the parents who for the first time really and wholly understood what their children go through by being placed in their shoes. This ad campaign is an appeal to all parents to understand that examinations and tests aren’t an easy feat to master, and the undue pressure by parents only stresses their children out. This ad is an appeal to parents to reduce the expectations they place upon the shoulders of their children.

The Drummer Girls Of Dahisar – How A Dhol Set 12-Year-Old Asmi Free

“I got inspired by my aunt who played the dhol and seeing her love for it made me join our pathak (group that plays together) two years ago. I knew it would be heavy but I had no idea how heavy it was until I tied it around me. Initially, my entire body would ache and it felt difficult and I wondered if I would ever be able to be get the beats and rhythm right. Luckily for me, my family was extremely supportive and I never heard them say, “Ladki ho kar dhol kyun bajana hai.”

With their support, practice and a little dedication, today I can say with pride that I am good at it. With every performance, I realised the good vibes and energy the dhol brought in my life. I kept up with the consistency and our group was invited by one of the cultural organisations in Spain where we played the Dhol Tasha on the streets and the stage! The exposure and the recognition we got was the best thing that happened to me.

Earlier, I faced resistance from my tuition teacher who did not understand my love for the dhol. She felt it created unnecessary noise pollution and diverted my attention from studies, but after seeing our Spain performance she has accepted that the dhol is very much a part of me.

Today, I am able to explore a different side of me whenever I wear the dhol and I love the way I have grown with every performance. Playing the dhol sets me free! I am glad that members in our group mentored me and did not discriminate against me just because I was a girl. I think fewer girls take up the dhol because they think it is only for boys. But I think that’s a myth- A dhol is for everyone! I wish more girls take up this as a hobby, because playing the dhol is more powerful than one can imagine. I would like to say only one thing to all the girls -Girl power is the best power. Just go for it. It may sound scary at the first but soon, it will become the best thing in your life!”

-As shared by Asmi, a class 7 student from Dahisar who loves craft apart from playing the dhol.

The Drummer Girls Of Dahisar – How the Dhol Gave Voice To 17-Year-Old Lubdha

“When I was in Class 9, I had seen a Dhol Tasha performance in our locality and wanted to learn to play the dhol. Shortly, I shared with my mother my inclination towards learning the dhol. She insisted that I concentrate on my studies and for some time, I buried my desire to learn the instrument. However, year after year, I would see others perform and that thirst in me was alive. I knew someday I would take up playing the dhol.

I reached Class 10 when we learnt that my mom was diagnosed with Cancer. The circumstances at home did not allow me to take up Dhol-Tasha. Last year, after my mother recovered fully, I again persisted that I wanted to join the pathak. She finally agreed and here I am waiting to perform for the second time during Ganesh Chaturthi. When I am immersed in the beats of the dhol, I realize it was worth the wait. The dholis heavy and it has to be tied in a particular way to the back, if not, it can lead to severe back pain. Once I found my comfort spot around the waist, it was easier for me to practice.

To me, playing the dhol seems like a dream come true and it has given me a voice which was somewhere lost amidst the responsibilities.

Like me, I hope more girls can participate in the Dhol Tasha groups. I feel fewer girls participate in the Dhol Tasha may be because they face resistance from their family. Actually we perform on the streets during festivals such as Ganesh Chathurti and Gudi Padwa and maybe parents feel it is not safe to send their children out there. A few of my friends want to join our group, few have got permission from their home and some are still waiting to chip away the resistance… To them I would say that learning the dhol can bring joy, it is safe, and you can visit our pathak along with your parents. I feel that this is the time to encourage girls and let them take up their passion unbridled. If they are not able to come out of their shell, how will they even grow? So girls, come, join us!”

-As shared by Lubdha, a commerce student who loves drama and music.

The Drummer Girls Of Dahisar-How 12-year-Old Vainavi Embraced The Playfulness Of The Dhol

“Every time I saw a Dhol-Tasha performance in my locality during festivals such as Ganesh Chaturthi, the thunderous sound of the dhol would light up every part of my body. I saw both men and women play the dhol with such joy that it moved something within me. Two years ago, when I turned 10, I told my mother about my desire to try my hands on the dhol. Obviously, my mother was taken aback and her first reaction was, “I do not doubt your capabilities and I know you wish to play the dhol, but how will you manage the weight of the dhol?”

Even though my mother’s concerns were reasonable, I went ahead with it anyway because once I decide something, I have to do it, no matter what., I approached our pathak (community group that performs) and asked if I could join the group. Despite me being the youngest and the first girl who approached them, they welcomed me and I am glad I was not refused just because I was a tiny girl. Everyone in the group was kind, encouraged me and I never felt like an outsider.

I was the only girl in the group and there were times I felt scared as I was not able to pick the beats and manage the weight of the dhol. My first dhol weighed 10 kg that was almost one fourth of my body weight. My entire body would pain and I had developed severe back pain. I would not share about the pain at home as I did not want to upset my parents. I feared that they would tell me to leave playing the dhol.

Eventually, after almost a year of practice, I got comfortable, was able to pick up the rhythm and got used to the weight of the Dhol. During my first performance, my parents felt proud of me and today, they tell me, “Go and play the dhol. You are meant for it. Do not be at home all the time!”

This encouraged me and last year, we were invited to Spain to represent our Indian culture. Our National Anthem was sung towards the end of the performance, we got a standing ovation and it was a proud moment for us. Today, after three years of playing the dhol, I am a confident dhol player and now, I am a senior member of the group where I even teach the new batch.

The dhol to me is the most playful thing that came in my life. All I need to hear is one tap of the tasha and I can play it for an entire day. I urge everyone to try their hand at playing  the dhol to realize how much fun it is.. Playing the dhol is not just a boy’s job and in our new batch, there are more girls and women now than men and boys. Isn’t that a great thing? To all the girls out there, I would like to say – You can do this too! Never give up; if you are passionate about learning to play the dhol,nothing can come your way.”

-As shared by Vainavi, a class 7 student who enjoys belly dancing and loves the company of her three dogs when she not practising playing the dhol.

The Drummer Girls Of Dahisar: How The Dhol Carved Out A Personal Space For 13-year-old Suhani

 

“I used to see girls perform in the Dhol-Tasha  and wondered, how do they manage the weight? What if I try playing it? Will I succeed? What if I fail? All these questions kept me confused but once I decided to give it my best shot, I never looked back. It has been less than two years and I can proudly say that I discovered myself all over again.

I remember the first time I held the dhol, I got it all wrong. I was holding the stick in my left hand and a senior member from our group tied the dholthe wrong way because he assumed I was left-handed. Unable to understand what was happening, I got nervous and was not able to perform. The group helped me practice and tie the dholthe right way and slowly it increased my confidence.

After months of practice, it was time for my first performance, but unfortunately due to the chaos, my dhol, a size smaller than the rest, was left in the truck. By the time someone helped me get my dhol, I was left with only 15 minutes to perform and it made me sad, I was also missing from photographs. However, during my next performance, I ensured I had the right dhol and playing it for a crowd on the streets of Mumbai made me feel proud of my achievements.

Playing the dhol is a feeling that I cannot express in words, it is beyond my imagination, I only know that the dhol has given me a sense of purpose and passion. Dhol to me signifies the enthusiasm of life. Another thing that I like about the dhol is that there is no right or wrong when I am playing, there is no one to tell me why am I being loud or making a loud sound on my dhol.

There is no space for any judgement. This is a space where I can be myself and get fully engrossed with my dhol. It is not just that, even the subtle things such as making eye contact with each other, grooving to the beats is something I look forward each time I have the dhol tied to me and perform in my group.

I think it is a myth that only boys can play the dhol. Why stop the girls if they can manage the weight of the dhol?  In our group everyone is treated equally. I only have one message to all the girls who want to play the dhol– “Always do things that you like and you will automatically be good at what you do. I would also like to add that never be satisfied with what you have and only once you push yourself, you will get better at what you do.”

-As shared by Suhani, a Class 8 student who loves theatre apart from her love for dhol

The Drummer Girls Of Dahisar – The Strength Of A Community

Dhol Pathak groups play a major role in lending a fervour to the 11-day Ganpati festival in the city. Till recently a male preserve it has of late been infiltrated by young women and even little girls.

In the bustling part of Dahisar in North Mumbai, girls as young as 12 tie 10-15 kg dhols around their tiny waist to gather for long hours of arduous practice sessions often starting early morning and continuing till late in the night.. The sessions take place in an isolated spot next to a crematorium and beyond the reach of street lights. Yet fear or lack of safety has not deterred their enthusiasm to prove their mettle and match their troupe beat for beat, strike for strike. The girls are part of Swardgandhar, a Dhol Tasha group that began in 2014 with an intention to get a scattered community together through the dhol. While initially, only men were part of the group, gradually, women too joined the group.

For these young girls, the dhol is more than just a musical instrument; it epitomises a sense of freedom, ability to be themselves and give a platform to their creativity. The dhol has become an extension of a safe non-judgemental space.

The credit here goes to an entire community that came together to support the girls to perform the thunderous dhol with a sense of pride and enthusiasm. For instance, 50-year-old Hema Ravi, software engineering professional acted as a role model for the girls to take up playing the dhol tasha. Men too reached out to support the girls and made sure to drop them home after every practice session. They also ensured a crowd control by creating a human chain to ensure girls could perform freely. It takes a village, doesn’t it? This vibrant Dahisar community sure acts as an inspiration.

In an age where celebrity selfies of father-daughter duos have become the hallmark of women’s empowerment campaigns, the drummer girls of Dahisar offer a far more striking example of gender biases being demolished one beat at a time
Beginning tomorrow, we bring to you four such first-hand experiences of girls on how they feel about playing the dhol, and what it means to them.

This piece is inspired from a story seen in Arre. You can watch the original video here.

The Lost Child: Suno India and Firstpost present a podcast on the country’s child shelter homes.

“Why are shelter homes underfunded and not staffed sufficiently? Why is family restoration through counselling and support not a big priority for the government? What is being done to help children in shelter homes to cope?” Here’s what ‘Lost Child’, attempts to highlight in a new podcast series.

About time the dialogue moved from reporting cases of neglect and abuse to asking the right question on the condition of shelter homes in India.

Son’s rejection from 42 schools made this mom start a ‘home’ for special kids

When a son’s rejection from 42 schools made this determined mother stronger to start a home for special children

Indian Ads That Challenge A World Where Children Are Not Equal

Advertising plays a big role in acting as an agent for social change. The way we think, understand and act is closely linked to the information and stories we consume through mass media. While unrealistic, unhealthy advertising can have very real, harmful effects on our behaviour, advertising with positive messages, depicting an inclusive picture of society can also impact us for good.

A growing trend of advertising with social messages, is challenging age-old norms and beliefs, making way for an inclusive, egalitarian society. Many brands are addressing looming social issues, promoting the need for healthy, safe childhoods, changing mindsets and attitudes of people towards children. 

Here are some Indian advertisements that challenge a world where children are not equal.

1. #SHARETHELOAD BY ARIEL (2019)

“Are we teaching our sons what we have been teaching our daughters?” asks detergent brand Airel, in its series of #ShareTheLoad. This 2.5 minute advertisement hits the right chord by addressing gender equality that begins at home, at an early age, where expectations for household chores are a task assigned to girls and not boys. Challenging this patriarchal norm, the protagonist (mother) of the advertisement, sets the pace for a more equal home, by teaching her son to help out with daily chores like laundry.

2. #LOOKBEYONDMARKS BY CADBURY BOURNVITA (2019)

Understanding well the idiom ‘One size does not fit all’, Bournvita took a progressive stance on why children must have the freedom to make a choice for their careers, by playing out a social experiment for parents.

The ad opens in an apparel store, where patrons (parents) come in to buy clothes, to realise that only black XL size t-shirts are available for sale. Startled and annoyed at the lack of options, many of them ask to speak with the manager. These clueless customers are greeted by a child (playing the manager) who asks questions like, “Can you imagine how I feel when I do not get choices for my career? If I am interested in dance, why am I still pressured to score 90 %? Does everyone need to be a topper?”

“Every child deserves a choice beyond marks. This exam time, #LookBeyondMarks,” says the ad, juxtaposing the lack of choice available to parents in an apparel vis a via the lack of choice in career options for children, giving them a hint of what children feel when parents pre-decide how they must live their lives.

3. #LADKIHAATHSENIKALJAAYEGI BY MAHINDRA RISE (2019)

This advertisement aims to dispel the misconceptions around girl child education, by taking on a fresh view on the phrase “Ladki Haath Se Nikal Jayegi”. With the objective to demonstrate the opportunities that result from educating a girl child, this advertisement breaks down patriarchal norms that hinder a girl’s place in society, and every aspect of her life. The rap song, encourages girls to make their own choices, live fearlessly and courageously, busting misconceptions that have held them back.

4. #SHAVINGSTEREOTYPES BY GILETTE (2019)

Breaking away from the gender-specific roles, the ad based on a true story aims to inspire the next generation of men by breaking stereotypes. Interestingly, the ad is shown through a young boy’s perspective, who is surprised to see two girls taking up a razor in a barber shop. Confused by this, he quickly asks his father, “Bapu, yeh ladki hoke ustra chalayegi?” to which his father replies saying that a razor wouldn’t know the difference between a boy and a girl.

The ad begins with the statement, “Bapu kehtain hai, bacche jo dekhtain hai, usse se seekhtain hai.” The son has grown up seeing a disparity in gender roles clearly defined by society where the mother is the nurturer, and the father is the provider and the daughter helps the mother in household chores. This in turn, becomes his reality too. The ad not only talks about patriarchy but also shows how a changed mindset in men can support girls in making choices for their own lives.

5. #GIFTTHEMDREAMS BY LENOVO (2018)

Youngsters today lead a very stressful life; with immense pressure to perform well in academics and get admitted in a top college. Lenovo’s #GiftThemBelief delves into this issue and highlights that it doesn’t matter if a child’s marks are low, since marks alone cannot decide one’s future, instead it is the power of belief and dreams, that is the mantra for one’s success.

Aimed at helping parents look beyond marks and colleges, helping children focus on their natural instincts and passions, will eventually fulfil their ultimate dream.

6. #TOUCHOFCARE BY VICKS (2018)

This film by Vicks, captures how the power of care, a strong support system can go a long way in helping a child become comfortable with who they are, and come face to face with complexities and realities of life. It shows the discrimination a child growing up with a rare condition has to go through from a not so supportive society. The film narrates the story of Nisha, the protagonist, who is born with a rare skin disease. With time, she realises that her disease is only a part of her life, not her identity.

Meet Pakistan’s first female hip-hop rap artist from Lyari – Eva B

Meet Pakistan’s first female hip-hop rap artist from Lyari, who operates underground using a pseudonym – Eva B. This feisty teenager touches upon several social issues including child rape in Pakistan through her music.

Mental illness often stems from early-life trauma. It’s happening in Kashmir.

Indeed, adversities in childhood are the most important predictor of our mental health, not only in childhood but throughout our lives,” says Vikram Patel, Pershing Square Professor of Global Health at Harvard Medical School. Read his article on how mental illness often stems from early-life trauma, as a miasma of fear descends upon Kashmir.

Incomplete” Sculptures Capture the Playful and Timid Personalities of Children

Norwegian artist #LeneKilde creates figurative concrete and steel wire sculptures inspired by the emotions and body language of children.
As a viewer, you can use your imagination, fill in the visual gaps, illusory contours, and delve into your own childhood memories.

Delhi: Eight months, many workshops later, 27 schools step closer to trans inclusion

In a step towards inclusion of all children, 27 schools including 25 government schools in Delhi have been certified transgender-inclusive, following 8 months of rigorous workshops with teachers, students and principals.

#LGBTQI #LoveIsLove

It’s time we took a seat ‘at your table’: Guterres calls on world youth to keep leading climate emergency response

Young people are already leading on climate change so it’s time we took a seat at THEIR table, says #AntonioGuterres

Climate Change

Child Rights NGOs Urge Govt to Increase Budget for Children Welfare Schemes

“Child safety and protection has always been one of the difficult areas and to change resource allocation that are key factors towards building a safer India,” CRY – Child Rights and You
Ahead of the union budget, NGOs working to protect child rights come together and urge the Union government to increase the outlay in the Budget towards the welfare of children, asking it to focus on their safety and prioritise the deprived children in urban areas. #budgetforchildren

Mom in the kitchen, dad at work – kids will no longer see this stereotype in the revised Maharashtra school textbooks

In a society where gender equality should have been a norm, Indian school textbooks finally rectify the stereotypical portrayal of a mother in the kitchen and father at work.

Photojournalist GMB Akash Captures The Complex Stories Of Child Labour & Childhoods Lost

Can you exchange a day with your own child in the place of these children? Can you deposit your children’s labour in such a place for a day in return of $1. If you can’t, can you please do something for these children? “Wishing to help” is an excuse. Shame is a mild word to what we are overlooking. May our spirit wake up,” said GMB Akash, documentary photographer and photojournalist from Bangladesh, giving a face to the issue of child labour, and forcing the public to look at the human toll of an all too common phenomenon.

With a focus on social issues, he realised that to abolish child labour, one has to first make it visible. With this intent, he began his photo series ‘Angels in Hell’ and ‘Born to Work’ that created an uproar and the much-needed discourse in both national and international circles.

“My intention is not only to show the children at work as victims of bad bosses exploiting them, but I want to show the complexity of the situation: The parents who send their little boy to work in a factory because they are poor; the child who has to work to earn a living for the family; the boss of the factory who is being pushed by big garment companies to produce for less money; and the Western consumers as clients who buy cheap clothes,” says the award winning photojournalist, as he continues to tell some of the most poignant stories of child labourers.

For over 15 years now, with countless conversations with children working in hazardous conditions in coal mines, balloon factories, dumping grounds, textile, brick kiln and cigarette factories, he brings to the fore the real stories and nuances that reflect many childhoods across the world – Long working hours, exploitation and harassment by the employer, ill health due to working in hazardous conditions, drop out from the school, lack of a support system all ultimately lead to deprived childhood.

A master of his craft, his work not only reflects in his technical skill, but also his humanitarian heart, provoking the viewer to understand from a child’s perspective this dreadful reality.

Here’s a look at his Instagram feed that tells many a story of the world’s youngest labourers.

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A boy stirs a vat of dyeing liquid. Almost all of Bangladesh's 200 plus tanneries are concentrated in Hazaribagh, a densely populated, odious neighbourhood on the banks of the Buriganga River. Residents of Hazaribagh's slums complain of illnesses such as fevers, skin diseases, respiratory problems and diarrhoea. They blame the tanneries for polluting the air, water, and soil and therefore causing their afflictions. The lives of the tannery industry's estimated 20,000 workers are harsh with many dying before they turn 50. Everyday these factories discharge thousands of litres of foul-smelling liquid waste into the river. However, with almost one billion USD a year in export sales, the leather industry is one of Bangladesh's most profitable sectors and there has been limited progress in cleaning it up. For 60 years of operations an unrecorded amount of chromium sulphate, lead, organohalogens, lime, hydrogen sulphide, sulphuric acid, formic acid, bleach, dyes and oils have been discharged into the river. #ig_fotoclub #photographyeveryday #photooftheday #people_infinity_#Humanity_shots_ #world_photography_page #rk_photography_hub #ir_aks #humanity_shots #earth_portraits #portraitmood #portraitpage #spicollective #thestreetphotographyhub #streetstorytelling #portraitfestival #portraitsofficial #globe_portraits #PortaitVision #PortaritAmazing #ipofficial #ig_calcutta #portraitpage #kdpeoplegallery #life_is_street #streets_storytelling #indianphotographyclub #streetofcalcutta #thehub_portraits #ipofficial #zonestreet #world_photography_page #ig_hindustan

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Rahman (12) is being hit by the owner of the textile factory. Rahman’s job is to sew children’s t-shirts. During the course of this day he was working too slowly to deliver so he was hit by the owner. He earns $1 for ten hours of work in a day. Dhaka. Bangladesh This photo won the World Press Photo award in 2006 and has since brought a great deal of international attention to this issue. The photo begs a discrimination free world. In one word ‘Justice’. I was passing by a tailor shop where local garments produced. The child labor boy was little slow because of continual work pressure. And for his reason the owner of the factory was beating the boy with his roller. I didn’t think twice and kept the moment in my camera. After getting the award, the best thing is the issue focused to be discuss world wide. This photo went in many exhibition and people all around the world become conscious for this kind of situation. I went back with the publish photo of the factory owner and again treat him not dare to hit any more child again. He said sorry and promised this will not happen again! And later the local authority/ police took action against him! #ig_fotoclub #photographyeveryday #photooftheday #people_infinity_#Humanity_shots_ #world_photography_page #everydaypakistan #rk_photography_hub #ir_aks #humanity_shots #earth_portraits #portraitmood #portraitpage #spicollective #thestreetphotographyhub #streetstorytelling #portraitfestival #portraitsofficial #globe_portraits #PortaitVision #PortaritAmazing #ipofficial #ig_calcutta #PortraitsVision #portraitpage #kdpeoplegallery #spicollective #streets_storytelling #indianphotographyclub #streetofcalcutta #thehub_portraits #ipofficial #zonestreet #world_photography_page

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We come to work at 7 am. Because of working continually, we do not usually notice when it becomes dark outside. We work in darkness, under the yellow lightbulb. Sunlight does not enter our factory. Sometimes when the electricity goes out, we can go outside, but now we do not like to play anymore. We feel tired. Telling you the truth, we become very hungry at 3 pm, but rice is expensive. Our income is 1000 taka per month; how can we spend any for rice? We enjoy this free bread at lunch time; when you are hungry everything is delicious. We do not feel full after having it though. But after returning home in the late evening, mother will give us yummy hot rice with mashed potatoes! It’s good for poor people to eat once a day. Please take a piece of bread sir, it is not that bad. – Ador, Shohag Note: Shared 10 real life stories in my blog which will definitely melt your heart. For full stories and photos follow the link on my: #people #documentary #streetphotographer #traveler #travelling #travel #travelphotography #photojournalism #documentary #documentaryphotography #portraits#photojournalism #children #bangladeshiphotographer #colorphotography #instagram #ig_fotoclub #photographyeveryday #photooftheday #people_infinity #Humanity_shots_ #world_photography_page #rk_photography_hub #ir_aks #humanity_shots #india_undiscovered #rohingya #portrait #tribal #earth_portraits #portraitmood

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“If my images bring to life the haunting realities that millions of children face each day then this is fulfillment of my work. And if mine is the hand that blocks the scorching sun from their eyes – bringing shade for just a single minute, then there’s value in the work I do. I am talking about 7.4 million children who are risking their life each second to rescue themselves from hunger and poverty, a tale of those for whom we rarely care about. I keep asking: Who is there to bring them in the light from their working- living-hell? Who will save these innocent hearts which will decline with time! Is there any one? ” #documentaryphotography #people_infinity_#Humanity_shots_ #world_photography_page #rk_photography_hub #ir_aks #humanity_shots #earth_portraits #portraitmood #portraitpage #spicollective #thestreetphotographyhub #portraitfestival #portraitsofficial #globe_portraits #PortaitVision #kdpeoplegallery #life_is_street #zonestreet #world_photography_page#wpa_ #bangladeshphotography#myfeatureshoot #worldcolours_people #people_infinity #theBest_capture #streets_unseen

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A boy from the Ulingeros family works in the toxic charcoal area in the North Harbour of Minila for a few pesos. Many of the workers in Ulingan are small children, some as young as six or seven years old, unable to attend school because of poverty. It is estimated that 60 percent of the population have tuberculosis while other lung problems, due to the ever present smoke, and water-borne diseases are commonplace. Manila, PHILIPPINES #ig_fotoclub #photographyeveryday #photooftheday #people_infinity_#Humanity_shots_ #world_photography_page #rk_photography_hub #ir_aks #humanity_shots #earth_portraits #portraitmood #portraitpage #spicollective #thestreetphotographyhub #streetstorytelling #portraitfestival #portraitsofficial #globe_portraits #PortaitVision #PortaritAmazing #ipofficial #ig_calcutta #portraitpage #kdpeoplegallery #life_is_street #streets_storytelling #indianphotographyclub #streetofcalcutta #thehub_portraits #ipofficial #zonestreet #world_photography_page #ig_hindustan

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I have to work with a lot of attention. This is not easy to find usable stuff from garbage. Sometimes after whole day I found one thing to sell in the recycle shop. And in a good day I can find biscuits. Not ordinary biscuits, the one which has cream. That’s my favorite. Some days I find biscuits which tastes very sour but my dog like to have that, so I give him without eating those. And in a very bad day, I cut my feet. I think people do not know that children work in the garbage on bare foot. They throw away broken glasses which often scratch our feet. Sometimes it bleeds heavily. It hurts a lot. I and my dog have had many scars in our legs. That’s why now a days I am keeping clothes with me. If it bleeds I tie and continue to work. – Jesmine (7) #ig_fotoclub #photographyeveryday #photooftheday #people_infinity_#Humanity_shots_ #world_photography_page #everydaypakistan #rk_photography_hub #ir_aks #humanity_shots #earth_portraits #portraitmood #portraitpage #spicollective #thestreetphotographyhub #streetstorytelling #portraitfestival #portraitsofficial #globe_portraits #PortaitVision #PortaritAmazing #ipofficial #ig_calcutta #PortraitsVision #portraitpage #kdpeoplegallery #spicollective #streets_storytelling #indianphotographyclub #streetofcalcutta #thehub_portraits #ipofficial #zonestreet #world_photography_page

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I was born here in this brick field. I am accustomed to this hard work from being in the womb of my mother. When she was pregnant my father disappeared. My mother tried to find him for years but she could not. No one knows if he is alive or dead. I have worked with my mother every day since then so I understand about work. Every day from early morning to evening, I carry bricks. If I carry 3000 bricks in a week then I get 300 taka. Each brick weighs 2.5 kilograms. I can only carry 6 bricks at a time. After that I collect coal for my mother for our cooking. I help with the cooking and doing all the household chores with my mother. Boys of my age laugh at me calling me, “Maiya” (woman). I don’t feel ashamed about this. But rather, I feel proud when their mothers compare me to them saying how much I help my mother. – Mobarak #ig_fotoclub #photographyeveryday #photooftheday #people_infinity_#Humanity_shots_ #world_photography_page #rk_photography_hub #ir_aks #humanity_shots #earth_portraits #portraitmood #portraitpage #spicollective #thestreetphotographyhub #streetstorytelling #portraitfestival #portraitsofficial #globe_portraits #PortaitVision #PortaritAmazing #ipofficial #ig_calcutta #portraitpage #kdpeoplegallery #life_is_street #streets_storytelling #indianphotographyclub thehub_portraits #ipofficial #zonestreet #world_photography_page #ig_hindustan #wanderlustfilms

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“If my images bring to life the haunting realities that millions of children face each day then this is fulfillment of my work. And if mine is the hand that blocks the scorching sun from their eyes – bringing shade for just a single minute, then there’s value in the work I do. I am talking about 7.4 million children who are risking their life each second to rescue themselves from hunger and poverty, a tale of those for whom we rarely care about. I keep asking: Who is there to bring them in the light from their working- living-hell? Who will save these innocent hearts which will decline with time! Is there any one? ” #documentaryphotography #people_infinity_#Humanity_shots_ #world_photography_page #rk_photography_hub #ir_aks #humanity_shots #earth_portraits #portraitmood #portraitpage #spicollective #thestreetphotographyhub #portraitfestival #portraitsofficial #globe_portraits #PortaitVision #kdpeoplegallery #life_is_street #zonestreet #world_photography_page#wpa_ #bangladeshphotography#myfeatureshoot #worldcolours_people #people_infinity #theBest_capture #streets_unseen

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How The Resilient Children Of Majuli Turned The Floods Into A Learning Experience

THE PEOPLE OF MAJULI & THEIR INTERFACE WITH FLOODS

Floods are not new to the people and children of Majuli, Assam. In 1950 an earthquake in the region changed the course of the river quite dramatically, making floods a common occurrence. Known as the largest river island in the world, for generations now, the lives of Majuli’s inhabitants has been dependent on the might of the Brahmaputra river, that overflows perennially every monsoon season. 

Stories from the 1700’s talk of a particular occurrence at the time that appears to have diverted part of the flow of the Brahmaputra through the channel of the Dihing, about 190 kms upstream of its confluence. When the two rivers met, the intervening land area formed the island of Majuli. According to the first geographical report, Majuli was a cluster of 15 large and numerous small islands back in 1792.

MAATI COMMUNITY & THE CHILDREN’S LIBRARY

The entry point to our community children library is submerged under water in Chitadarchuk village, Majuli

The Maati Community aims to create a platform in the region for better exposure and knowledge sharing in the field of art and craft and therefore built a library known as Akonir Puthighor, for the community children in Majuli. Located in the village of Citadarchuck, whose majority inhabitants belong to the Mising Community, a tribal community of the region, a total of 60 children became regular partakers in the library’s activities.  

TURNING THE FLOODS INTO A LEARNING EXPERIENCE

Each year, the coming of floods is riddled with negative connotations of what little it brings to the people of the region, and how much is takes away. But this year, with the news of the coming floods, we rushed to the island, with the mission to witness the floods together, with the children, to translate this yearly occurrence into a learning experience.

The water started entering Citadarchuck, and the entry to Garmur village was cut off with a sudden rise in water levels, cutting of access to this market area. The day grew into evening, as the people of the village remained busy with shifting cattle and grains, to a place of shelter. Always prepared for the floods, the Mising Community plan in a way to shift their important belongings to a significant height above the ground level, create separate safe spaces for their motorbikes, tractors, scooters and cattle, that help sustain their livelihood, knowing well that high levels of water are expected to stay for 5 days.

The next morning, we woke up from a night at the library, to the noise of a boat. Our surroundings were completely flooded, and the noise of the boat indicated an accident or an emergency. But instead, the water levels started increasing and overflowing into the library, despite it being at a height. By 8 am the children started coming in and together we started putting the books and stationary at a height that the water would hopefully not reach.

There were many other incidents like these through the floods that exemplified the resilience of children in difficult circumstances, highlighting their prominent role in building thriving communities and being integral members of it.

Children get onto boats and ride towards the community library to help out

Many children of Majuli are familiar with boats, and the floods prove to be a time when they can get their hands on moving around in them. Boats are an integral part of the Mising Community culture. Infact, the same day the floods took place, one could see children piling up in their boats, rushing towards the half-submerged library. Since the premises outside the library is their playground area, where all the children gather for games and other activities, this time they brought their older siblings and family members to help out too.

Fishing became an activity during the floods where children assisted their families for their daily food supply

The floods this year also made fishing an extracurricular activity. At this time, most of the vegetable plantations get destroyed, making fish the only available source of food, therefore, families get busy in fishing for their daily food. This time fishing became a fun activity for the children, engaging them while school and other activities were shut.

“I don’t get scared of water!” said one of the boys, while jumping into the flooded water during a swimming race.

Another positive fall out of the floods this year, was the swimming races started off by the children. Almost everyone in Majuli village knows how to swim, and this became a time for children to gather and compete against each other. This was a lot of fun for the children and causes a buzz in the village.

For us, this act of children coming together and engaging to protect their library, helping their parents to fish and gather food, creating avenues for fun and play at a time of emergency and distress was an experience that will always bring a smile to all our faces. It also reflected in more ways than one that children are resilient, and active participants in society, and if we view problems through their eyes, we will always find a solution.

How Calvin & Hobbes Sum Up What Every Child Thinks During Exam Time

Today, children and teenagers face pressure at home and school so startlingly extreme that it’s a surprise we all haven’t run away and formed our own community. Children as young as ten, to teens as old as eighteen are drowning in the inhumanely high standards set by society when it comes to academics, especially traditional examinations. Report cards that don’t boast of A’s are judged and shunned, and the pressure mounts with each passing year. ‘Your whole future depends on the next set of exams.’ ‘If you score less than 7 A’s, you won’t be accepted into any respectable University.’ These are the sentiments that students hear every single day, and sometimes it all gets so much, especially because we feel like no one knows how we’re feeling, except Calvin.

Bill Watterson through his comic strip – Calvin & Hobbes, perfectly captures the despair, anger and frustration that every student feels in the face of daunting pressure. It is through Calvin’s nonchalance about school life, his disdain for exams and tests, his excuses for doing homework, his questioning tactic to avoid learning, his disdain for school rules, and his indifference to any authority figure, that every student is able to relate to what we often can’t articulate.

Here’s a look at 9 times when Calvin was a total mood, enacting the internal dilemmas of students everywhere.

1. WHEN HE SAID WHAT EVERY STUDENT THINKS DURING A HISTORY TEST

2. WHEN HE ABSOLUTELY DIDN’T CARE WHAT WAS GOING ON IN CLASS

3. WHEN HE VOICES WHAT WE ALL THINK AFTER WAKING UP

4. WHEN HE DEVISED A CLEVER WAY TO ESCAPE ARBITRARY TEST QUESTIONS

5. WHEN HE QUESTIONS THE POINT OF DOING ANYTHING AT ALL

6. WHEN HE DISPLAYED WHAT EVERY STUDENT THINKS DURING A TEST

7. WHEN HE DID WHAT EVERY STUDENT DOES TO GET THEMSELVES THROUGH AN AGONIZINGLY LONG CLASS

8. WHEN HE ARGUED AGAINST A GRADING SYSTEM THAT IS ANCIENT AND RIGID

9. AND LASTLY, WHEN HE FITTINGLY PUT WHAT EVERY STUDENT FEELS EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY INTO WORDS.

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.