Child reporters raise issues, spur change in Madhya Pradesh

Bhopal, March 6 (IANS) They are village children from Madhya Pradesh and they know the power of the pen as they write in a monthly newspaper, Child Reporters, about a slew of issues like lack of water, tobacco use and violence. What’s more, their writeups are spurring change.

Shivam Rajput from Nimsadia village of Madhya Pradesh’s Hoshangabad district writes about various shortcomings in his village.

‘We have a well in our village but no water. The well in the village has dried up and people have to travel a distance to get the water,’ he writes. He adds that all people in the village are suffering due to shortage of water in the village.

Most importantly, the child reporter adds, children are the biggest sufferers as they cannot go to school on time because they have to fetch water first and requested the government to get a handpump installed in his village.

Around 300 children like him are part of the initiative called Child Reporters, wherein a group of children bring out their own eight-page newspaper – launched by Dalit Sangh, an NGO working with the support of the Unicef office in Madhya Pradesh.

‘This has not only given them space to air their views, which normally do not find space in the mainstream media but have also helped them grow as individuals and increased recognition of their rights,’ says Gopal Authey, co-founder of Dalit Sangh.

‘It is part of Unicef’s overall child participation effort – including ‘International Children Day of Broadcasting’ (ICDB) – which started to give exposure to the issue of children’s rights.’

The Bhopal centre of All India Radio and Doordarshan besides local media have organised several special programmes with children to mark the occasion.

‘Platforms like these, giving children an opportunity to participate and express, are in line with Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is a step forward in helping children recognise their rights,’ Tania Goldner, chief of Unicef’s field Office for Madhya Pradesh, told IANS.

‘And going through this eight-page monthly newspaper, to which about 300 children from villages in Sogahpur block of Hoshangabad district contribute, one can see how young people from far off places are able to use the media to highlight issues which concern them,’ said Sunil Raghuvanshi, coordinator with Dalit Sangh who works with these child reporters.

Savita Patel, a youngster from Gurumkhudi village, has written about her school not having a boundary, while Rakesh Ahirwar has written about how child reporters have vowed to help other children stop using tobacco.

Others like Gopal Kushwah have written that there are taps in their school but they don’t get a drop of water to drink and how slush around the taps is adding to the mosquito menace – the biggest source of malaria among children.

Many child reporters have also expressed concern about price rise, problems in district and block hospitals, incidents of violence in their area and how it impacts them.

‘Many a time we see action as we circulate this newspaper in the district, media, NGOs and within the community. For example, children raised concern about proper implementation of the employment guarantee scheme and it lead to a debate in Gram Sabha,’ says Raghuvanshi.

Similarly, a child was not getting scholarship and the administration sanctioned it after the issue was raised in the Child Reporter. Problems in mother and child welfare centres too have been taken care of by the administration after the children raised it in their newspaper.

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