Balaknama: The voice of street children

Editorial team of Balaknama holding up their newspaper

Balaknama is a newspaper for and by street and working children and is an outcome of neglect and injustice to street and working children across the world. When children did not find space among adults, they decided to pen down their issues and glories, an attempt to change people’s perception and ensuring identity, dignity, and participation of street children.

Their journey began on 9 July 2002, when Balaknama was born to ensure voice of street children in society and the system. It was published in September 2003 in Hindi on a quarterly basis, and an English (translated) version was initiated from 2014. It received a mention in the Limca Book of Records in December 2015. Since January 2016, it is being published on a monthly basis, the original in Hindi, translated in English.

The story

In May 2002, something happened at a residential workshop in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, that changed the lives of thousands of street and working children in North India. A leadership-building workshop was organized by Delhi-based NGO, Childhood Enhancement Through Training and Action (CHETNA). It was attended by 35 street and working children from different parts of Delhi who decided that they had to join together to empower other street children around for their well-being. The attempt resulted in the formation of a federation of street and working children called Badthe Kadam (Stepping Forward).

During the meeting, the children realized that people in general know very less about issues of street and working children. The issues that attract media attention are those of a child on the street committing a crime or doing something that is not considered ‘social’, whereas it never gives attention to when a street child saves someone’s life or does a good deed. With this an idea clicked — they could have their own space, their own newsletter. So, Balaknama (Voice of the Children), the world’s first newspaper by street and working children in the world, came into existence.

The functioning

A Balaknama reporter collecting a story
A Balaknama reporter collecting a story.

They collect stories: They collect a range of stories from case studies to social and legal developments concerning the lives of street children. Constant interaction with around 10,000 members of Badhte Kadam helped them gather stories from the streets of seven districts in North India, as seen through the eyes of the children themselves. These stories are validated through field visits.

They write: The team comprises of children who are/have been on the streets. Each story involves extensive brainstorming and team work for which editorial meetings are held regularly. A storyboard is then prepared for the final production.

A Balaknama team member distributing the newspaperThey distribute: Balaknama is distributed amongst dedicated clients, children living on the streets, admirers, common people, in markets, at NGOs, civil societies and government authorities. All events/opportunities that carry the scope of developing interest amongst different stakeholders concerning the well-being of street and working children are also used for the distribution of Balaknama.

The Balaknama editorial teamThe team

The Balaknama team consists of young children who either lived or are presently living life under difficult circumstances. These children have witnessed hardships in life, but their courage has converted them into reporters who are hungry for change. The team consists of an advisor, an editor, a sub-editor, seven reporters and thirty Batuni reporters (who give the lead for the story but can’t read or write). The team is spread into seven districts of northern India and meets weekly for editorial meeting.

Balaknama, the newspaper

Balaknama is printed each month — 5000 copies in Hindi and 3000 in English. Team members are encouraged and are given a stipend to pursue their formal education. Balaknama is gaining popularity nationally and internationally and has been covered more than 150 times by various media sources. It has become a means of empowerment for more than 400 street and working children who have given their time since its inception. Its readers are street children, parents, police, duty-bearers, authorities, NGOs, INGOs, common people, etc.

Read the full article by subscribing to the print magazine or the digital edition.

Sanno Khan

Sanno Khan is an advisor for Balaknama newspaper.

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Sanno Khan

Sanno Khan is an advisor for Balaknama newspaper.