Using a dash of creativity to educate the underprivileged, Eka, a Bhopal-based NGO, is helping children write and narrate the stories of their lives under their new initiative — Nanhe Lekhak.
“We engage with children through our resource centres in bastis (slums) like Rahul Nagar, Aishbagh, Anna Nagar, Chhola and Ishwar Nagar. Children come to read, write, recite, draw, sing and dance. All of these are part of the resource centre activities,” said Nidhi, regional coordinator of Eka.
During the activities children often express their feelings, their joys and sorrows, their observations and their dreams. “This may be in the form of writing, drawings or verbal sharing – expressions of their inner world, with an impression of the outer world,” she added.
“Inspired by children’s voices, we make attempts to collate and share them with others in the community and outside as well, to make these voices heard, understood and provoke action to ensure their best interests.”
At the end of a story-telling session, children are motivated to write or draw something related to the topic.
“We use books, pictures, audio or video clips and some traditional ways of story-telling. We use a lot of elements from participatory theatre in our work. Some of our workers have been a part of education initiatives and are skilled to work with children,” Nidhi said.
The children write about the things that affect them directly. “Many of the articles in Nanhe Lekhak are related to hurt, abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence faced by the children. Some of them are working, so they write about the conditions at work and the problems of being bread earners. Some girls write about sexual abuse, other about domestic violence, alcoholism, early marriage among others.”
The NGO is also working to include more positive stories from children. “As of now, Nanhe Lekhak carries a lot of stories about the darker side of children’s lives,” Nidhi added.
“Writing also helps calm down mischievous children and brings their focus on something creative,” a volunteer at Eka said.
Many times, children come back to us on what they have written, demanding action on their problems and a solution, Nidhi informed.