By ADEDAYO PERKOVICH, age 10

Former reporters and editors for Balaknama, Shanno and Vijay. PHOTO: Mary-Ann Ochota
Former reporters and editors for Balaknama, Shanno and Vijay. PHOTO: Mary-Ann Ochota

In Delhi, India, 16-year-old Chandni is the chief editor of a newspaper. Balaknama, which means “children’s voice,” is a free quarterly newspaper entirely written by kids between the ages of eight and 18. Most of them have never been to a formal school, and many of them are learning to read, write and analyze information by writing articles for Balaknama. They report on stories happening in their own communities: children who go to work instead of school, drug use among youth, police brutality and child marriage.

The Balaknama newspaper was started in 2003 by a group of street kids who were involved in the Childhood Enhancement Through Training and Action (CHETNA). “Children expressed the need to raise [their] voice in their own ways,” said Sanjay Gupta, founding director of CHETNA. Since then, 2,500 kids have been a part of writing and producing nearly 50 issues of Balaknama, which have been read by about 25,000 kids.

<em>Balakama</em> journalists working together on the next issue of the paper. PHOTO: CHETNA
Balakama journalists working together on the next issue of the paper. PHOTO: CHETNA

Gupta also noted that by writing for Balaknama, children like Chandni have “their confidence level, courage, communication skills enhanced. This journey is leading to their empowerment.” Balaknama reporters have even been invited to share their concerns at NGO and government meetings.

Sixteen-year-old street child and reporter, Jyoti Devi, said, “When children see their photo in the paper, they suddenly realize that they are somebody. That’s how I felt when I first saw my picture in Balaknama…after that I decided to go more often to the learning center.” She would like to continue working as a journalist: “I want to give people a voice. Street kids do all kinds of incredible things. And despite all their problems, they want to give their lives meaning. And I want to write about that.”