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How Dalit & Tribal Women From Bundelkhand Are Becoming Firebrand Journalists

Image Credits: Khabar Lahariya, Black Ticket Films

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At a glance, Shivdevi from Banda, Uttar Pradesh might appear like just another village woman, attending to the chores and leading a nondescript life. But one cannot overlook a certain confidence, an unmistakable grit in her demeanour. A notebook and a pen, a camera phone and a dusty satchel together gives out her true identity.

Shivdevi, a young mother driven out of home by her tyrannical in-laws, is actually a journalist – one of the very few women reporters etching an example in a patriarchal rural setting. She scours the rustic roads in her new scooter, unearthing stories of injustice, deprivation and atrocities. Abuse by the local leaders, the nonchalance of the police authorities and the ever-existent apathy of many villagers towards a woman reporter –  nothing stops Shivdevi.

She cannot help but express her gratitude towards Khabar Lahariya – India’s first and only hyperlocal media organisation which is training rural women of Bundelkhand to be journalists.

As a newspaper, Khabar Lahariya was circulated in the Hindi and Bundeli languages, among others, across an 80,000-strong reader base in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Two years ago, they launched their digital avatar, adding a sizeable urban population to their reader base.

Breaking into a male bastion

“Heated discussions over feminism and being a feminist, had to go beyond portraying women in a positive light in a context where they were only ‘bechari’ (helpless) or ‘besharam’ (shameless). It had to be about looking at the use and abuse of power by people, institutions and systems,” briefs Pooja Pande, who handles Partnerships at Khabar Lahariya, explaining why Khabar Lahariya was started in 2002.

Khabar Lahariya

“We wanted to establish the women from Dalit, Muslim, tribal communities as journalists, breaking into a male bastion. Challenges were aplenty. We were told by the district magistrate that Khabar Lahariya was ideal to train these women to make achaar (pickle) and papad,” states the Khabar Lahariya team, highlighting that at those times, making reporters out of these women was beyond imagination for everyone else.

A journey spanning decades

The organisation is operated by a competent all-women team. Editor-In-Chief Meera Jatav is a self-made woman, hailing from the rural hinterlands of Bundelkhand. Khabar Lahariya materialised through the zeal and persistence of Meera and like-minded women, supported by Nirantar, Centre For Gender And Education from Delhi.

 

Khabar Lahariya
Meera Jatav

In 1994, 24-year-old Meera joined as a supervisor with Mahila Samakhya, the women literacy project by the government. Her qualifications stood at 10th Pass back then, which she upscaled to a postgraduate in the course of the next few years.

The women at Mahila Samakhya, supervised by Meera and others, started their own four-page monthly newspaper Mahila Dakiya, which unfortunately was discontinued due to fund constraints. But, it was undoubtedly the precursor to Khabar Lahariya, which soon became a reality when Nirantar stepped in from Delhi to fulfil the journalistic aspirations of these feisty women.

From mistreated wives and mothers to full-time reporters

Shivdevi, whose story we shared in the beginning, is one of the many women reporters from marginalised communities at Khabar Lahariya with equally compelling stories. Resistance from the family, obligations as a mother and above all, the orthodox social set-up comprise only the tip of the iceberg if one tries to analyse the obstacles for these women.

“There are too many firsts altogether. A woman actually had to lift the ghunghat (veil), go into crowded areas, talk to men and work for irregular hours. Families and in-laws oppose all this. On average, five out of every 15 women we trained would stay, rest would drop out mid-way, submitting to the societal pressure,” Kavita Devi, Digital Head of Khabar Lahariya, reveals the reality.

The reporters of Khabar Lahariya are all full-time employees. They earned their independence and respect through sincere persistence for over a decade. Naturally, it raises the question, how?

Pooja answers, “Through word of mouth, social media and NGO networks, we publicise the information that we are hiring in a particular district. Applications are invited, and applicants are shortlisted on the basis of their basic qualifications (10th pass). Marginalised women are given preference.”

“Senior KL members travel to the districts to interview shortlisted candidates: a process that involves talking about their aspirations, family circumstances and testing their confidence, general knowledge and technical aptitude. If we think a woman has it in her, then she is called for training and then an internship in Chitrakoot.”

Impacting some new change every day

Be it caste-based violence or gender atrocities, the gritty women stop at nothing to report the truth. Meeting the police or the district administration is now a cakewalk for them. They have impacted ample social, political and infrastructural improvement in the region. The initial days were difficult, but over the course of 17 years, Khabar Lahariya has earned the trust of the local people. They now reach out to the organisation to report untoward incidents and avail justice.

Moving over the traditional pen and notebook, the women have recently been equipped with smartphones and basic computer knowledge, making their jobs easier and faster.

“Her story makes history”

In eight pages, Khabar Lahariya presents unreported stories across diverse domains, which is popularising the habit of reading newspapers in these regions. In the villages with a low literacy level, the reporters themselves often read out the news aloud to keep people well-informed.

“We would like to expand our geographical reach and add to our reporting strength, in the next three years. So, 100 reporters and 10 million unique visitors,” informs Pooja.

“Her story makes history” – goes the Khabar Lahariya tagline. In a bid to make the subaltern narratives thrive, Khabar Lahariya is striving every day, hoping to popularise rural journalism and in turn empower women throughout India.

Also Read: With Every Parcel Delivery, India’s First ‘Delivery-Women’ Company Is Breaking Gender Norms

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KHAANACHAHIYE: Fighting Hunger In COVID19

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but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

Goonj Is Working With 1000’s Of Volunteers & Partner NGOs To Provide Covid-19 Relief In 18 States

Image Credits: Khabar Lahariya, Black Ticket Films

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With the extension of the lockdown the crisis of migrant labourers and daily wagers has just grown bigger due to uncertainty and fear of future. In the migrant colonies, slums and for people in the villages hunger and desperation is building up day by day. This is high time we step up our efforts to support our people who are in dire need of food and hygiene essentials to survive the pandemic, Covid-19.

After the India-wide lockdown, a lot of jobless migrant workers are stuck in cities with hardly any resources while many started retreating back to their villages. With the loss of livelihoods, a large number of them are now struggling to support their families.

Goonj activated its pan India teams and a pan India network of partner organizations and volunteers in urban and rural India. This network, built over the last two decades, helps them learn from the ground, reach material quickly and review and adapt strategy periodically. Intensifying this network has helped Goonj reach and start work across 17produced states/UT in the last three weeks.
Support the cause you care for. Browse All CampaignsBrowse all campaigns
2,00,000 meals served

KHAANACHAHIYE: Fighting Hunger In COVID19

95,39,369 Raised
Out of 1,00,00,000

Share

Goonj’s focus: 

Majority of the Covid-19 relief work by non profits right now is in the metros and cities but Goonj is the only non profit that is also simultaneously focusing on the people in the villages and the ones stuck on highways or somewhere.

Goonj is targeting daily wagers, migrants and other vulnerable groups, who even traditionally are left out like the disabled, sex workers, LGBTQ community.

“COVID-19 is a crisis, yes…But, it’s also an opportunity for us to build the society anew. Not ‘for’ the people…but, ‘with’ the people. And in the process, we will build ourselves too.” – Anshu Gupta, Founder-Director, Goonj.

Direct Monetary and Material Transfer

Wherever Goonj got the permission to open their centres for packing and disbursement of relief material kits, they are creating a kit consisting of 20-30 kgs material including dry rations, masks, sanitary pads and other hygiene material and reaching them to people, as per needs and as per regulations with all safety precautions. This kit will help a family survive for 30 days.

Information till 10th April 2020:

  • Distributed 15,100 ration kits reaching thousands of people
  • Reached 17,700 families
  • Supporting 12 community kitchen across India with 16,600kgs of ration
  • 77,800 food packets provided to migrant laborers and daily wagers walking on the roads across the country.
  • Provided direct financial support to 32 organisations
  • Made 42,800 cloth face masks
  • 24,900 cloth sanitary napkins produced
  • Produced 1500 litres of organic sanitiser

In Goonj’s processing centers its trained team of women are making cloth face masks and cloth sanitary pads (MY-Pads), keeping all the precautions and with the permission and cooperation of the local authorities.

In this lock-down phase if you are facing any difficulty getting sanitary pads or you are running out of stock, here’s a detailed but very simple process of making Cloth Pads at home created by Goonj. “This is how we make Goonj MY Pads.” This is how our mothers and grandmothers turned their spare cloth into pads.

This disaster, unlike any other, is unprecedented in its scale and impact and that’s why we all must do our bit with Goonj to continue its relief work for millions of people in this still unfolding long-tailed disaster.

The need is huge.. We are there.. Need You too !!

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It's not how much we give
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- Mother Theresa Quote
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