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From A Street Kid To A Newspaper Editor – The Story Of Chandni!

Talking in general terms, what were we at 18? Studying, hanging out with friends and watching television were the basic things we did! Very few had their dreams set in nerves, while others enjoy the final stages of their board exams or long awaited college fun in first year. Relating much? Many would, I know, and many would disagree. People from the disagree category, would not agree because they have lived a different life, when they had to study and enjoy the pre-employment period.

They were kids of labourers, street kids who lived a life far different than that of ours. They grow up working with their parents and continue doing so, the same rest of their lives; however, not everyone are same! Some have the guts to stand tall and one such is Chandni, a street kid who is now an editor of ‘Balaknama’, a newspaper in New Delhi.

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Chandni is 18-years old and has learnt a lot from her struggling childhood. Raju, her colleague is 12 and is as smart as the editor. Recalling few months back she says that, she was taken aback when Raju rejected her idea of getting the newspaper in colour. Later she was happy to hear this from her little colleague, “When the life of the street children is not colourful then why should the newspaper be?”

It was when Raju said this, Chandni acknowledged how reporting and voicing out issues through newspapers, have made the children sensitive without being defaced by the standard belief systems. To this she says, “That is what we call an achievement. We realise the importance of education. Reporting our own issues is, in many ways, an eye-opener,”

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Balaknama, was founded in 2002 and is the world’s first newspaper which is solely reported by the street children. The newspaper was later translated in English as Children’s voice. It is funded by CHETNA (Childhood Enhancement through Training and Action), an NGO. 30 street children from New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana are currently reporting on issues.

“It is our perspective that we put forward unlike in the mainstream newspapers, where adults report child-related issues in which the focus is on the statistics. Most importantly, it makes us aware of our rights, which is very empowering and has a positive impact in our self-esteem,”  said Chandni.

Chandni’s History Backdrop:

Chandni, born in Mathura was moved to Noida with her parents to seek better alms for any work they do. Her first job was to accompany her father as a street entertainer, she was only 10. To this she said, “Many children start at an age younger than this.”

She would pull people through her small shows wherein she performed stunts like walking on a rope, singing and dancing etc. Struggle took a leap when her father passed away in few years and she had to support her family as her mother’s tea stall was not sufficient to fulfil the basic needs.

“We have to find small jobs to survive on our own. Many choose to become rag pickers because that is the easiest. Others work in restaurants as cleaners. Some sell roses, toys, flags etc. in the traffic signal. I have done all these jobs,”

Along with being the youngest editor, she is a tenth grade student from an open school. Every reporter working for ‘Balaknama’, attends school and contributes Rs. 5/- per month. Their education is supported by CHETNA’s sister organisation ‘Badte Kadam’. Kudos to the little team and to the organisations encouraging them to grow!

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