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Young scribes spread awareness in eastern India

Aug 20, 2009

An initiative by UNICEF has helped children in Koraput district of Orissa don the mantle of young reporters. Under the programme, more than 1,800 children have been trained to produce a bi-monthly newspaper highlighting issues like lack of safe water, child marriages, and hurdles in attending school.

Orissa: Four years ago, UNICEF spearheaded an initiative called ‘Child Reporters Reporting on Children’s Issues’ in order to give a voice to the marginalised children of the remote Koraput District.

Orissa child reporters.jpg

An innovation in child participation, the outcome was a newsletter aptly called ‘Ankurodgama’ – which is translated as the sprouting of a seed, the first sign of life.

In their first issue, the children reported on topics close to them such as the lack of safe water, child marriages, challenges in attending school, and food insecurity.

“Before, we had no aspirations except going out to find some jobs after our education was over. But the reporting process has enabled us to understand our village, our community, and livelihood opportunities around us,” says Child Reporter Laichan Muduli.

‘A twinkling star’

The programme includes more than 1,800 children, aged 10-14 years, from over 150 schools of Koraput. Together, they contribute to a polished, full-colour, bi-monthly broadsheet supplement of a leading local daily Anupam Bharat, with a circulation of over 1,40,000 copies in the state.

Anupam Bharat has been known to sell out on the days the supplement appears. All primary schools in the district receive a copy and any extra copies are sent to a rapidly growing mailing list of officials, decision makers and intellectuals.

“The Child Reporters programme is like a twinkling star in the dark night. It brings a sense of collective effort among the children,” noted one-time teacher Gayatri Goud in the Response section of the October 2008 issue.

Education and advocacy

The Child Reporter initiative seeks to encourage peer education and child advocacy among all children, not just those immediately involved in the programme.

“Every child is a potential Child Reporter – it’s a self-fuelling fire,” said Shadrack Omol UNICEF Representative in Orissa. “The desired end product is to inculcate the ability to respectfully express and accept divergent views on an issue. The children are not critics but a part of the solution.”

“Their stories not only help the children understand themselves but also give society an idea of their developing consciousness and willingness to participate for greater social progress”

The Secretary of the Koraput Farmers Association Sarat Kumar Patnaik and the convener of the People’s Group for Children’s Development Chelapila Santaka have taken a great interest in the Child Reporter programme.

The Child Reporters Initiative was developed to give a voice to the children in the remote district of Koraput, India.

Both organisations have actively pushed for greater visibility by helping the children gain access for interviews and events, while providing technical assistance, improved production qualities, monitoring of content and even setting up a blog.

“We are really proud of our Child Reporters. Their stories not only help the children understand themselves and their surroundings but also give society an idea of their developing consciousness and willingness to participate for greater social progress,” said Santakar.

The initiative is also supported in partnership with the District Primary Education Programme.

The way forward

Although success stories abound, there are challenges and barriers that still need to be overcome.

A defining limitation of the initiative is that it is a school-based programme. Not all children are in school and those that are, are not equally literate, which means some voices in the community are not being heard.

The Child Reporters have to be trained to reach into the community to pick up the views of children who are not in school and bring them to the fore.

 “We are now regarded as the children with more information and links to the outer world,” says Child Reporter Upendra Khora.

Source : UNICEF
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