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10 Powerful Pictures Of Underprivileged Children That Mock All Claims Of Development!

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By Raghu Rai:

‘Slum dog millionaire may have been a hit, books on slums may have become best sellers, and a couple of children may escape poverty and misery. But the inequality and the injustice remain. These pictures goad us to ask relevant and critical questions, and push the wheel of change, mired in the inability to perceive and act. In a celebrated fable, a child’s voice once stated starkly that the Emperor was naked, dispelling the illusion that he was dressed in grand clothes. The children in these pictures fundamentally question the myth that India shines.The pictures ask questions that are pertinent and critical. Questions that we need to address urgently, to shape a more just India.’

Aruna Roy, Social Activist

Crowded living spaces in Sanjay Colony, North-West Delhi. In this slum, a single room usually serves as the kitchen and bedroom. Indoor cooking-fires can cause pneumonia and other respiratory diseases among children. India has the highest number of childhood pneumonia cases in the world. It accounts for over 19% of all newborn deaths.

According to UN data, 1.65 million children under the age of five die every year in India from easily preventable diseases – more than any other country in the world.

Salma’s three-year-old daughter Nagma is in danger of becoming malnourished. She lives in Bhagwan Pura in North-West Delhi. The National Family Health Survey-3 (2005-06) data shows that 41% of urban children below five years in Delhi are chronically undernourished, i.e., they have low height for their age, which is also called being ‘stunted’ and is a consequence of long-term food deprivation and frequent infections.

An analysis of the NFHS-3 shows that among the urban poor, who constitute 15.2% (2.23 million) of its population, the proportion of children less than five years who are chronically undernourished is much higher (58%). This means that nearly 7 out of every 10 children less than five years of age residing in deprived urban settlements of Delhi are chronically undernourished.

A pregnant woman being diagnosed by a health worker. Nearly half of women in India give birth without a skilled birth attendant. According to Save the Children report, State of the World’s Mothers (May 2012), a woman in India is almost 8 times more likely to die during pregnancy or child birth than her counterpart in Sri Lanka.

Evidence shows that children are five times more likely to survive if there is a health worker within reach.

Families living near the railway track near Okhla Flyover that gives no protection against harsh weather conditions. The open sky is the roof for those living here and the railway track serves as children’s playground. They live under most perilous and unhygienic conditions.

They are uncounted and invisible and do not have access to basic services like home, health, hygiene and education.

Urbanization leaves hundreds of millions of the poor living in cities and towns around the world, excluded from vital services. The same cities the world over are also the setting for some of the greatest disparities in health, education and opportunities for the poor.

Babies being weighed at the Palika Maternity Hospital in Lodhi Colony, New Delhi. More than half of the babies are delivered at home even when it is critical that they receive care at a facility.

High urban child mortality rates tend to be seen in places where significant concentrations of extreme poverty combine with inadequate services, as in slums. Cramped and unsanitary conditions lead to the spread of diseases while immunization levels for children remain much lower in urban slums. Health services for the urban poor tend to be of much lower quality, often forcing people to resort to unqualified health practitioners, or pay for premium health care.

Sheila’s child was only 1.7 kilograms at birth. The main underlying cause of child mortality in India can be directly or indirectly attributed to malnutrition. Save the Children’s report A Life Free from Hunger (February 2012) points out that a third of children under the age of five who die lose their lives because they can’t get the food they need.

The high level of malnutrition in Delhi has a severe impact on child survival, which is evident by high child mortality rates (74 per thousand) among urban poor children below five years of age.

Children and families camping at the New Delhi railway station. Thousands from the neighbouring states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal flock to the city in search of a better future.

While the agriculture base continues to dwindle, city life provides the poor with no respite. On the contrary, families are pushed to abject poverty and a grinding experience in the urban landscape.

Families living under the Nehru Place flyover, Delhi. Nehru Place is a business district located in arguably Delhi’s richest locality, South Delhi. Under-five mortality is 300% higher in the poorest 20 %of the population compared to the richest 20 %.

Kamar Jehan is having her fifth baby. She is being cared for by Sangeeta, a community worker supported by one of Save the Children’s partner organisations in India. Previously, Kamar Jehan lost a one-year-old baby girl, Tarannum, to diarrhoea. There is evidence to show that children are five times more likely to die in countries affected by health workers crisis. Health workers are crucial for bringing much-needed care and counseling for mothers and their babies.

Save the Children is advocating for the Government of India to increase investment in healthcare, to recruit, train and deploy more health workers in the poorest and most marginalised areas.

The 1,000 days window from the start of a woman’s pregnancy to a child’s second birthday is critical. Low-cost nutrition solutions like exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months can make the difference between life and death for children in developing countries.

For instance, breastfed children are at least six times more likely to survive in the early months of life than non-breastfed children.

Save the Children is advocating for ‘life-saving six’ package of interventions – iron folate, breastfeeding, complimentary feeding, vitamin A, zinc and hygiene. The entire package can be delivered at a cost of less than 1000 INR (20 dollars) for the first 1000 days.

You must be to comment.
  1. Monika

    This has instances from Delhi- The capital of the nation. I shudder to think about the situation in remote areas.

  2. Lakshmi

    development is only for the rich

  3. Abdul Wahid Khan (@wahid3111)

    I am so confused when I read about all the problems people are facing. I dont know where to start solving them. There are lots and lots of them. Some need immediate attention and some can be solved over long term. Its like we can feed the fish for now but in the long term, we need to train people how to catch the fish. Thats how we will be able to feed them for a lifetime.

    Like in the article above, there is a case of Kemar Jahan who is giving birth to her 5th child. Why poor people have so many kids even when they dont have resources? If I am correct, is it because of the illiteracy? and lack of awareness? They need to be made aware that they should have just one or two kids and raise them as best as they can. I am not against poor people. I want their life to be better, thats why I want a change in their perception and lifestyle which will help them only.

    Please comment on my comment if I am right or wrong.

    (I would also request YouthKiAwaaz to enable disqus comment box for comments. Its better and universal)

  4. Manu Maheshwari

    there is only one way to prevent such humanitarian disasters : Impose a strict licensing regime on human breeding . Only those applicants meeting prescribed criteria of income, education and other parameters should be issued the licence to breed .

  5. P M Ravindran

    For the Govt of India, India begins at Delhi and ends at Mumbai. And if this is the case in the national capital should I say anything more about the perfidy (or, more precisely, isn’t this treason?) of the people in govt?

  6. Ravi

    trying to improve their status or rehabilitation to them will never be, i feel the top priority for any political party

  7. Mayank Jain

    The debate needs to move from inclusion and non inclusion of child rights in the agenda to the rights which need to be given priority right away. This was indeed eye opening.

  8. Umanath

    I guess, the most important factor affecting India’s growth is the huge “Population”?? We need to control……Education can only help… amount of development & schemes/programs launched will mitigate/solve the challenges faced by India today. None repeat “NONE” of our Political parties are talking abt population control… it is these poor/marginalized ones are their biggest vote bank….hope some wisdom prevails on our voter & politicians…..:-(((

  9. Pragya Vats

    Even after over six decades of India’s independepence, rights remain an elusive reality for the millions of poor and excluded most of all India’s children

  10. Supriya Mehra

    This is true picture of India no doubt i only want to say one thing after watching this time in satyamev jayate how worse is police condition how they live in slum how there children study in street light—–if there condition can be too worse imagine people who r not working and begging living in street its understood worse then any street animals life thy living–:(

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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