On 2 and 3 June, 2011, we travelled to Korba, in northern Chhattisgarh state, to meet a group of truly inspiring young people: the local child reporters.
These young people are working to make their community a better place for children. From preventing child labour and ensuring that every child goes to school, to cleaning up their village to make it a safe environment for kids to live and play in.
The child reporters programme, implemented in Chhattisgarh by the Mayaram Surjan Foundation and supported by UNICEF, has more than 1200 active young journalists in 100 blocks. Every two weeks, the best stories are chosen from across the state and published in a newspaper called Bal Swaraj, or 'Children's Republic'.
We talked to them to learn about the issues that they are most passionate about, tried to understand what drove them to the cause and listened to their stories of fighting for child rights and making a real difference to their community.
With continuous updates, photographs and video clips on our Facebook page (and also on Youtube and on Twitter), UNICEF supporters across India followed the stories of these young reporters as they unfolded and asked questions to these child reporters through Facebook and Twitter to which these child reporters responded.
They were an energetic group and certainly not shy to speak their mind. Not only do they know about their rights and entitlements, they are also confident enough to articulate their thoughts and ideas in front of their parents, teachers and community leaders. Click more to read what the child reporters shared with us.
Fifteen-year-old child reporter, Vikas Shrivastava has written a news article on irregularities in the ration card distribution system, whereby families belonging to higher income groups in his village were getting cards meant for those Below Poverty Line.
He's very aware of the seriousness of this issue and he plans to raise it again during one of their village meetings.
We met up with 14-year-old child reporter Narmada Sahu who shared with us how she managed to get the defunct science laboratory in her school in Chhattisgarh fully functioning..
While we were busy listening to stories shared by a group of truly inspiring young reporters in Korba, our photographer was busy documenting the lives of Narmada Sahu and Vikas Shrivastava who are making a real difference in their community by writing about it and making their voices heard.
Take a look at this photo essay to get a peek into the lives of two young reporters and also read the comments of UNICEF supporters praising the efforts of Narmada Sahu and Vikas Shrivastava.
Narmada Sahu also took us to her school where she showed us the boundary wall she campaigned for and the classroom where the new lab equipment will be set up.
Later Vikas shared with us how he is campaigning for a family in his village to get a Below Poverty Line Ration Card, which will help this family to get access to government schemes.
They are the face of the children of Korba District and advocates for child rights across the state. They are 'change agents' and they are going about the job beautifully.
Click more to read all about the Child Reporters Group in Badmar Village. Also don’t forget to read the comments and questions posed by UNICEF supporters to the child reporters on our Facebook page
We met 14-year-old youth reporter, Kavita Mahant and 15-year-old child reporter Himshila Kumari Yadav . Kavita and Himshila have been campaigning for the repair of the roof of the anganwadi centre. The roof has been leaking heavily whenever it rains, ever since a tree fell on it during last year's monsoon
Our photographer got to get a peek into the lives of young reporters who are the face of the children of Korba district and advocates for child rights across Chhattisgarh State. Please take a look at the photoessay and don’t forget to read the comments and questions posed by UNICEF supporters to these child reporters.
We also met 16-year-old reporter Anil Kumar Rathiya who is worried about the threat to the health of the people in his village because of the dirty water is in their village pond. He is planning to bring this issue up with the village elders at the next panchayat meeting (local village council).
Child Reporters answering questions posed by UNICEF Supporters
Later that afternoon, we sat down with the child reporters group to tell them about all the great feedback UNICEF supporters have been giving them on their work. They really loved hearing about what the supporters had said. We also asked them some of the questions that UNICEF Supporters had been asking, such as whether they are scared when they raise sensitive issues in their community and what they want to do when they grow up. Here's a video of what they said.
After two days with the Child Reporters of Korba, Chhattisgarh, getting to know them and hearing the stories of their lives and of their work, we said goodbye for now, although the Child Reporters Programme continues here and across the state. These young people have inspired us with their enthusiasm, confidence and determination.
Aware of their rights as well as their social responsibilities they are brimming with ideas and aspirations for the future. But will they get all the opportunities they deserve and that will allow them to reach their full potential?