Child scribes pen experiences, raise issues

New Delhi: Short films made by children based on real-life experiences and expressing a gamut of emotions ranging from happiness, mischief and humour to exploitation and complexities form part of a `Child Journalists Summit` that kicked off here. Thirty-six `child scribes` were shortlisted in seven cities across India to participate in workshops conducted over a span of six months by World Vision-a non-governmental body.The four-day event began here on November 11, 2011.
The learning they got in these workshops found expression in short films, skits, photographs and interactive sessions. The films have been scripted, shot and directed by children themselves, according to organisers of the summit

"We reached out to children in cities of Delhi, Jaipur, Goa, Bangalore, Chennai, Malda and Kolkata and selected a total of 100 depending on how they responded to activities undertaken," says Jayakumar Christian, national director, World Vision India, adding that the group from Delhi included children from Madanpur Khadar and Gautampuri slums.

The summit with its theme "My life is a story" aims at providing a platform for children from underprivileged backgrounds to express themselves and present their own views, opinions, likes and dislikes on topics they find closest to their hearts.

Employing dotmocracy – an established facilitation method for collecting and recognizing levels of agreement on written statements among a large number of people- the children found that school, family and friends are the three things that affect them the most. Also findings from data collected from 200 children for a social audit the `child scribes` undertook in their communities were closely related to these topics.

Prior to the summit, the `child journalists` had held presentations in their own towns and cities where they showcased their work to community members, parents, community leaders and others. In a survey conducted by the Goa group on 172 children revealed that 44 per cent of them did not know about child rights. Similarly, the Karnataka group said that 77 per cent of their target group did not share problems with parents as they thought they don`t understand the problems of children.

14-year old Shanthi, a ninth grader from a Chennai slum, says she wanted to be a part of the summit as she got an opportunity she otherwise might not have got. "I came to know through my friends that there is an activity going on in the slums through which we can voice our feelings about our rights. I am happy that I became involved in the activity," she says.

Christian introduced Lateef, who lives on the streets of Chennai, and about whom he gradually came to know in detail. He says that Lateef and his brothers protect their sisters when they sleep on the streets at night from men who misbehave with them. Lateef, earlier to a question about `what changes should be brought to school` had answered that "caste-based discrimination should be removed to encourage every student".

A group of children from Kolkata had demanded "computer education and sports facilities to encourage all-round development" of the students. A panel consisting of representatives from media industry, child rights` bodies, corporate firms and others reviewed the work of the children and congratulated them for being "effective communicators".

When asked how are they going to take the learning forward, an enthusiastic young girl says, "I will make other children aware of our rights and will not forget basics whichever profession I am in". "Plans to involve more children in similar activities are there. We have a presence in a lot of smaller cities as well", adds Christian.