Bhubaneswar is the capital of the Odisha state, located in the North East of India. Around 1 million people live in the city, which is a fast-growing commercial and technological hub, attracting many tourists. However, in the state where the city is located, 32% of people still live below the poverty line.
The state of Odisha is also prone to natural disasters, cyclones and floods, with, in 1999, a cyclone devastating the state, killing around 10,000 people.
Children in Bhubaneswar are vulnerable to poverty, to living conditions in slums and to gender inequality.
Since 1991, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Bhubaneswar.
Gender inequality is a major issue in Odisha. To illustrate, in the state, 22% of girls were forced into marriage before the age of 18. This number had already decreased from 40% in the past. Child marriage is a violation of the universal declaration of human rights, and the emotional damage a child suffers from a forced union is profound.
Furthermore, literacy rates in Odisha speak for themselves: the literacy rate for men is 84%, while the literacy rate for women is 69%. This is partly due to the fact that girls often drop out of school earlier than boys.
Bhubaneswar is a rapidly growing city in India, but the infrastructure has been unable to keep up with this development. The city was built initially in the forties for a capacity of 50,000 people. As there are now over a million inhabitants, often people who move to Bhubaneswar in search of a better life and job opportunities, end up in one of the slums on the border of the city.
In these slums, there is a lack of affordable housing, adequate sanitation and safe drinking water. An estimated 30% of people in the city live in slums. Children are most vulnerable to the poverty in these slums, lacking access to healthcare and education.