“Chhotu, Gudiya – Just Some Names We Are Called Every Day; But Never By Our Real Names”

STC logoEditor’s Note: With #TheInvisibles, Youth Ki Awaaz and Save the Children India have joined hands to advocate for the rights of children in street situations in India. Share your stories of what you learned while interacting with street children, what authorities can do to ensure their rights are met, and how we can together fight child labour. Add a post today!

By Merril Diniz:

“Today I want to talk about those kids, who you see everyday – on the pavements and at the red lights, knocking on our car windows,” says 15-year old Salmaan, addressing a full house, at a recent event. “For these children, I have written four lines,” he continues.

“Hum jaise bachhe sadko par (children like us, living on pavements)
Shehero mein, roaming par rehne wale (we are like wanderers in the city)
Hum badi badi imarathe dekhte hain (we see high rises everywhere around us)
Lekhin ye baath sach hai, ki imarathe hamare liye nahin ban gaye hai (but the truth is that these buildings are not built for us).”


“You may wonder, why I am talking about them – because I have also faced the same problem, before I managed to come out from that life,” shares Salmaan, outlining the stark realities of life, having himself survived the streets of North Delhi, as a child.

“Under the scorching sun, with our feet burning, out in the rain and in the cold, we face many problems, even violence. At an age when we are supposed to go to school and get to play with friends, we are forced to earn a living.We never find a place where we are welcome or feel safe from harm. Don’t we have the right to dream and aspire for a better life, just like other children?” he questions. What pricks him the most, however, is the constant denial of identity – “Chhotu (small child), kale (dark-skinned), gudiya (doll) – these are just some of the names we are called every day; but never by our real names.”

And there lies the problem – that society makes millions of such identities ‘invisible’ by putting them under one neat label of ‘street children’. Who are these children? What are their aspirations? That’s something we rarely engage with, even as we pass them by, on the streets every day.

Well, it’s time to change that. In the coming months, Youth Ki Awaaz joins hands with Save The Children to launch #TheInvisibles, an initiative, to help advocate for the rights of #EveryLastChild on the street. Together, we will explore how you and I can aid children like Salmaan, to claim their rights.

“We also want to make our nation proud,” says Salmaan, an aspiring actor and youth leader, who desires equal opportunity to reach for the stars. Well, no one and nothing should deny him his dream.

Images courtesy Save The Children


Similar Posts

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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below