Children’s issues through children’s eyes
By Vidya Kulkarni
November 14, 2007, Pune: On Children’s Day, Sakal, a leading newspaper of Maharashtra, published a unique supplement containing articles on children, written by children. Titled Spandan, the supplement raised important issues close to children’s hearts and of interest to all.
The Spandan supplement was released in Pune on 14th November 2007 at a gathering of people from voluntary organisations and the media. Spandan contributors are children from different districts in Maharashtra whose writing skills have been strengthened by the systematic orientation provided by UNICEF and Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Pune. Over 50 boys and girls, between 14 to 18 years old, have completed training to proudly become ‘Child Reporters’.
Chief Guests at the release, wholeheartedly appreciated the children's foray into journalistic writing. They included well known stage and television artist Dr. Girish Oak, Mr. Sameeran Walvekar from Education Multimedia Research Center, Mr. Prashant Kothadiya from Sakal Social Foundation, Mr. Deepak Nikam from Network in Maharashtra by People Living with HIV, Mr. Y. D. Sahasrabuddhe, Mr. Nandakumar Kakirde from Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan and Mr. Gopi Menon from UNICEF.A majority of Spandan articles highlight HIV stigma and discrimination. Significantly, these are written by children who themselves have had to bear the of stigma of being HIV affected /infected children.
Addressing the gathering, young Priyanka from Sangali said, “The child reporter’s programme has instilled confidence in me. Through writing I can express myself and fulfill my wish to do away with discrimination in our society.”
Sandeep, author of a thought provoking article on the plight of HIV-affected children, called for a change of attitude. “Acceptance of HIV infected / affected people would only help us to curb the spread of the virus,” he said.. Sandeep volunteers with Network in Thane by People Living with HIV.
Gopi Menon addressed ‘silent emergencies’ like malnutrition, infant mortality, HIV affected children and women , and disappearing girl children.. “Progress is very slow on these fronts despite overall economic growth. We need value shifts to change this alarming situation,” he emphasised. He expected child reporters to make a difference by exposing and discussing these critical issues.
Mr. Nandakumar Kakirde, who coordinated training for child reporters, said “We have talked to district level newspapers and journalists and linked child reporters in respective districts with them." Some child reporters are already writing for different local newspapers.
All speakers at the Release stressed for sensitive and informed media coverage on HIV related issues. Perhaps, mainstream media has a few lessons to learn from child reporters.
Dr Girish Oak stated, “Our society is infected with virus that spreads prejudices, especially about sexuality related matters. By opposing sex education to children we cause to nurture ignorance and misconceptions.” He expressed his pleasure and surprise at the exuberance of the children. “They are so positive in their expressions and therefore, perhaps, would be effective in changing the social outlook.”, he said.