Dalit children now have a forum to speak out


Bhopal : Kamod Singh Ahirwar, 18, and Lal Singh, 14, now know where young Dalits like them can air their grievances.

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Kamod has always complained about lax teaching staff, poor electricity supply and non-existing sanitation in Chechli village in Madhya Pradesh's Hoshangabad district.

Lal Singh, a Class 9 student of the same village, too has a clear idea about the problems faced by his village.

The trouble is these youngsters did not have a platform to address their grievances.

Dalit Sangh, an NGO helped by UNICEF, has changed all that. The Sangh is set to launch the first issue of 'Bachchon ki Pehal' (Initiative by Children) – a newsletter that would only carry contents posted by children.

"It is an opportunity for children to have their say about the system – which is their right," said Anil Gulati, communication officer of UNICEF.

Kamod Singh and Lal Singh are among the 40-odd young reporters between the ages of 11-18 years chosen by the Dalit Sangh, which works for the socially oppressed communities in Chechli.

And these reporters do not speak only about problems like lack of playgrounds and school buildings. Many of them have an understanding of issues as serious as social discrimination.

"My school does not have a playground," says Jyoti, a child reporter. "Why is there discrimination against us?"

Authey Gopal, the Sangh's chief functionary officer, says that expressions of these child reporters would be used unedited, except for correcting grammatical mistakes.

"The objective is to give them a dais to spell out their problems," adds Gopal.

The first issue of the four-page newsletter would be released shortly with 30-40 news stories authored by the Kamods and Lal Singhs of five villages – Jamonia, Semri Harchan, Gundavai, Turakhapa and Chechli.

A majority of them belong to the backward Pardi and Sapera communities.

More than 200 students of these villages showed an interest in exhibiting their writing, and 40 of them have been given a chance on the basis of their abilities to express themselves.

Those left out may be given an opportunity in the later issues. Several students have been provided with postcards to contribute to the unique newsletter.

The NGO also plans to conduct a workshop where these reporters would be trained by senior journalists and apprised with the art of making cartoons.

They would also get an opportunity to interview the 'sarpanch' (village head) and the collector.

"How successful the newsletter would be is yet to be seen. But for the young reporters this could be an opportunity to disseminate their problems before someone who can 'redress' them," said a UNICEF official.