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These 15 Photos Show Why Many Children Have Nothing To Celebrate On Children’s Day

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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 Rajen Nair:

It was when I lost my hearing in 2000 and had to wind up my trading business, that I did a professional course in journalism and photography. Today, I am a photojournalist based in Mumbai, and besides teaching photography to deaf children and children battling cancer, I am also a great fan of street photography. Trying to capture something interesting from the seemingly mundane, everyday lives lived on the street is both demanding and inspiring.

My photo stories are often about children living on the streets, or from underserved communities, who live in slums. I didn’t consciously choose to work with those who have come to be labelled as “street children”, but the fact that they are the most vulnerable members in our society and need our attention more than anyone else, is what pushed me in this direction. Over the years, I have interacted with a lot of these children and their families. I often tell the children’s mothers to send them to school, so that when they grow up and work, they can take their parents out of the streets.

I’ve learned that many of these children are physically abused, don’t attend school and are forced to do petty work, or beg. Sometimes, they fall prey to drugs and alcohol addiction, and even crime to survive. I use my camera mainly to highlight this plight of theirs and the injustices they face through my lens. After all, it is our collective responsibility to rehabilitate them, give them good homes, education and skills development. Only if we are all aware of their struggles, we can make a positive difference in their lives and that’s what I try to do.


Amidst the chaos of a noisy street near Churchgate, this little boy was doing his homework, undistracted. Children studying on the street in Mumbai streets is a common sight.


This cheerful boy is a cancer patient, awaiting his turn for treatment on a footpath outside a Mumbai hospital. Many young patients like him come from outside Mumbai for treatment. They need to wait for hours or even days in the city. Since they can’t afford rental homes, they spend their days on the streets, eating and sleeping there.


This young boy, too, is a cancer patient who had all the way to Mumbai for treatment. Unable to afford high room rentals in the city, he is forced to live on the streets and set up a temporary shelter, here.


Outside an electronic shop in Chembur, a suburb in East Mumbai, this little boy takes a break to do something many children enjoy – watch TV.


In a public garden outside the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station in Mumbai, this little boy was watching the passing world from the wall fence. He reminds me of my own childhood and how I loved spending time looking out of the window and still do.


Goddess Mariamma
A group of children from Mumbai’s streets lie about at Marine Drive, watching the sea and the famous Mumbai skyline, at the other end. There is so much disparity between the rich and the poor; I often wonder whether these little ones could swim against the tide of poverty and make it big.


These young lads are rag picking, searching for plastic waste – to re-sell and earn a living. Here they are taking a break on a flyover at Dharavi, Mahim. Living a tough life, they sometimes fall prey to drugs and bad company.


Here in Kumbharwada in Dharavi, little children are helping their parents by carrying heavy clay pots on their heads. Recently, the Government revised the child labour law, but many activists are objecting to the clause that allows children to assist parents in family or household businesses and jobs.


Having nowhere else to go, many children are left alone on the streets while their parents work. In this picture, the older sister was taking care of the younger one outside the historic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station.


During the exciting Palki procession event, a weekly tradition in Maharashtra to remember Shirdi Sai Baba, I came across these toddlers, whose bodies had been painted with red spots and ashes; they were asking for alms.


This little girl was selling plastic wares in the middle of the chaotic Mulund market in Mumbai. She has such an innocent look. I have observed that often parents exploit little children for child labour.


A little girl is seen selling coloured Rangoli powder during the time of Diwali festival. Such instances of parents using their kids to help them, is common to Mumbai’s streets.


A child performs a risky balancing rope act in the busy eastern suburb of Kurla. To help carry on the family occupation of street performances, her education is foregone.


This little girl earns a living by singing songs on Mumbai local trains every day. Here, she is seen taking a break from this, and watching the world go by from a moving train.


While travelling on a local train, I saw this toddler lying on the railway platform. I got off the running local train to take this picture, and can only assume that this child’s mother might be employed by a railways’ contractor.


Youth Ki Awaaz, along with Save The Children, is curating photo stories of India’s invisible children. If you’ve taken a photograph of something that moved you (or disturbed you), share your photo story with us via email (, Tweet to us @YouthKiAwaaz, message us on Facebook, or tag us on Instagram. Use hashtags #TheInvisibles and #EveryLastChild. The best photo stories will be published across Youth Ki Awaaz platforms!

Rajen Nair is a freelance photojournalist based in Mumbai, where he also teaches photography to children with disabilities and children battling cancer. You can Tweet to him @rajennair.

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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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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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