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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‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

Image Credits: Khabar Lahariya, Black Ticket Films

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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