We live in a country where 5.5 million children are held in the clutches of child labor, 40,000 are abducted every year, exploited and trafficked… 300,000 hungry ones roam around with begging bowls on streets… many become victims of domestic violence in their own homes every day… and despite all fundamental rights as defined by the ‘constitution’, they remain mute against this injustice.
One fine morning, while passing through 12 No. slum area in Bhopal, we saw a huge group of children, around 100, playing, talking, having fun. Their loud, noisy gathering could not resist us to decipher more. Amongst them, was a girl, as enthusiastic as others, who was being addressed by everyone, as ‘Didi’.
‘Didi’? She said she was just 18. Presently pursuing BA and also working on a project ‘Humara Bachpan Campaign’ of an NGO, NIWCID Bachpan, she had been living in a nearby slum. While recalling her childhood, there were tears in her eyes. Her family of 8 was extremely poor. She had worked as a domestic help since 6 years of age. Poor girl, overloaded with hard physical domestic work, also suffered physical tortures. But despite the pain, she remained tongue-tied. But soon a turning point came into her life, when NIWCID Bachpan, an NGO, recognized her as a brilliant painter. She became a part of the selected group of children in the NGO. It was as if, this had given her a voice, a voice so stern that it broke all boundaries of her hidden pain and emotions. With a fearless spirit, she spoke up, opposing all atrocities.
After becoming a part of ‘Bal Panchayat’, she went across the country, firmly presenting her opinions on Child Rights. Her personality made a drastic change from a nervous little girl to a confident youngster. Because she had lived the pain, she knew that there were many more little arms stretched out to aid, many more lives bound by detaining shells. Her voice intensified and spread among the other children, when she formed a group of 10-20 kids in two slums in Bhopal. She had two major objectives: building leadership qualities in the children and inclusion of their opinions in the government decision making process.
In 2014, her idea was given a shape by ‘Changelooms’, a nationwide fellowship program for budding social Changemakers. “Changelooms gave me the opportunity of self learning and helped me identify my potentials”, Niharika Pansoriya, the youngest Changeloomer mentions. Then, there was no looking back. She counselled the kids for many days and supported them with enough confidence to speak up, express, think and implement. RANGMANCH, the group of 100 zealous and confident kids, formed by Niharika, holds weekly meetings, where they discuss and share their problems with each other. They take up issues like housing, hygiene and sanitation of their own slums and organize rallies and public presentations where they reach out to the mass with their daily life problems and solutions to it.
Recently, through a presentation in front of the local municipal body, they compelled it to put up garbage bins at various locations in their slums. 20th November 2015 (Child Rights Day) witnessed an exceptional presentation of these kids at an event “Baccho ka sheher, Bachho ki baat” in Bhopal, where the children presented ideas and designs of an ideal ‘smart city’ including plans of proper housing in their slum areas, in front of eminent town planners and government officials of the city, which left them jaw dropped. While the world thinks that children are not wise and judicious enough to take efficient decisions, few children of ‘Rangmanch’ have achieved inclusion in the plans and meetings of the local government bodies. At an age, when teenagers move towards the phase of adolescence, maturity and high ambitions, Niharika is transforming the painful childhood of many unfortunate children in her slums. She possesses the power to make the world realize that children, who are the sufferers of numerous atrocities, if motivated and boosted, can bring a positive change together.
Story by : Piyuli Ghosh | Compiled by : Nikhil Sharma
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