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Kids From 40 Slums in Odisha Are Giving out Report Cards to Track Sanitation

Berhampur may soon be one of the top cities in Odisha, with the ongoing Shreshtha Berhampur campaign encountering success in every sphere of holistic development.

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S hreshtha Berhampur is a campaign initiated jointly by the Berhampur Municipal Corporation and the Berhampur Children’s Federation, aiming at developing the city holistically with the active participation of all the citizens. The areas it’s planning to tackle are sanitation, roads, transportation, city planning, beautification and civic and municipal services.

Between May 15-30, the children of the Behrampur Children’s Federation, who are the residents of 40 slums in the city, began the beautification of the city’s walls by cleaning them off posters and graffiti and decorating them with their own art work.

They began with the Khallikote University Campus walls and then went on to walls along major roads of the city.

“Painting on the city walls, makes our city beautiful. We have all learnt to paint and moreover have spent our vacation time very usefully,” says Sruti Kumari Sahu, a resident of Raghupati Nagar Slum.

“Youth for Social Development is a non-government organisation working with the most vulnerable children – those who reside in slums – on their rights and their empowerment. Since 2006, YSD has been working on improving the living conditions of children living in urban poverty in Berhampur city. To ensure children’s participation in city planning and to help make their voices count, YSD has helped the children form ‘child clubs’ in each slum,” says Bibhu Prasad Sahu, Secretary, YSD.

In 2013, empowered children from these 40 slums, decided to unite all their clubs and form a children’s federation, called Berhampur Children’s Federation.

Child leaders from this federation make their voices heard on many issues dealing with children and civic services. They find solutions to problems and, according to many citizens, have helped make the city live-able too.

Clean slum (Swachha basti) is one of the many important points in their agenda. The children work towards keeping their neighborhood clean and setting an example for their elders. They help to assess public amenities using a ‘children’s report card’, in which a pictorial representation of the access and the quality of various basic services in the slum is recorded.

A slum sanitation wall in every neighborhood helps them monitor the level of sanitation in their slums, which assists in reports made to the local authorities.

“Being a part of the child clubs, we have learnt a lot about our rights and the services that should be provided to us. We have learnt that we can approach service providers and elected officials for help, whenever the necessity demands,” says Bala Das from the Gaodabandha Street slum.

Participating in drawing, sports, dance and music competitions as well as making clay pots and designing 3D pictures are some of the fun activities the children of the federation part take in.

They have learnt that through these activities they can demonstrate to authorities concerned on how they believe the city should look and what facilities should be provided for children.

The wall magazine, called ‘Ame Kahuchu Ama Katha’ (we tell our story), encourages children to write articles, poems, essays and draw pictures as well as cartoons, which they post on a dedicated wall in their slum. When the wall is decorated with fresh notices, the children invite community members and sometimes even the local corporator to see their art work and read what they have written.

The Ame Kahuchu Ama Katha wall is an amazing journalism tool that brings out the creative best in these children

“Since we decorate walls in our neighborhood, we decided to beautify the walls of the city too,” says Sneha Das from Khodasingi Bauri street slum. “Our federation, along with the Berhampur Municipal Corporation, has made a major effort to clean the walls of the city. In most parts we have depicted children’s issues and civic issues through our paintings.”

Making these children the champions of city-building, the Shrestha Berhampur campaign took shape and now the municipality along with the citizens of Berhampur are doing their best to ensure that their city is the best in all of the state.

The YSD is working on making Ganjam district free of child labor, child marriage, child trafficking, child abuse and putting a stop to female foeticide. Having motivated children from the slums to do so much good work, eradicating these social evils should hopefully not be a problem for these dedicated volunteers.

You can contact YSD by writing at bibhu@ysdindia.org

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About the author:
Aparna Menon is a freelance writer, writing for various newspapers for the past 10 years. Her main fields of interest are wildlife, heritage and history. A keen traveller, she loves to read and write and does a lot of art work too.