A weekly newspaper entirely run by a group of young female journalists in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar has put an end to the social stereotype in India’s hinterland that women are to remain behind the four walls as home makers.
It began in 2001-2002 when Delhi-based organisation Nirantar went to work on literacy of adult rural women in Uttar Pradesh.
While organising a six-month residential camp female participants would produce a broadsheet called Mahila Daakiya. In that sheet, participants could write about any topic, and many of them chose to write about issues related to development in their villages.
Even after the camp, the women were eager to continue bringing out such writing. From there the idea of bringing out a newspaper was germinated, and Nirantar facilitated the process.“The newspaper’s aim is to provide an opportunity to many of these women’s voices and issues from their villages,” explains Poorvi Bhargava, Editorial Coordinator at Khabar Lahariya.
She adds, “In 2002, the first edition of Khabar Lahariya was started from Chitrakoot district in Uttar Pradesh. 2012 was an important year when the newspaper simultaneously started separate weekly editions in Banaras, Faizabad and Mahoba districts.”
Khabar Lahariya, translated as “local watchdog”, generally covers injustice and corruption affecting rural communities which normally don’t receive mainstream media’s attention.
It was not an easy journey for them. The most important challenge was to run a newspaper in a male dominated society, where women are not seen more than mere housewives.
“Many of the journalists faced pressure from home, because they were expected to fulfill household responsibilities. A lot of convincing had to be done. Even today, there are often people in the community or in the local administration who do not take women journalists seriously because people are not used to seeing women in this role,” Bhargava elaborates. Despite all these hardships, these women never looked back; from seven members, today they have a team of 35 rural female journalists and a small team of four people in Delhi who act as facilitators.
Khabar Lahariya has not only provided employment opportunities to the rural women but also acts as life changer to them. It has given women an opportunity to become an agent of information dissemination, giving the women the opportunity to write stories.
Once hired, the women are provided proper reporting training. “Training is a part of the work that the reporters do. On being hired, reporters are put through an exhaustive introduction to journalism and how the paper works. The training emphasises on building writing skills, imparting computer knowledge, designing the newspaper layout, photography, and using the Internet. We also impart theoretical inputs from experts, practical experience of reporting in the field with senior and experienced Khabar Lahariya reporters, a week long internship in one of the older Khabar Lahariya districts and practice sessions,”informs the coordinator.
In 2013, the online edition of print version was launched. Another small pool of women has also been trained to work on the site. Selective articles from the print edition are routinely uploaded on the website on a weekly basis by the teams.
Today, Khabar Lahariya is printed in four local languages, Awadhi, Bajjika, Bhojuri, and Bundeli, in Utter Pradesh and Bihar. It claims to have 80,000 readers across 600 villages. “Currently, the number of copies printed in all the districts put together is roughly 8,000-8,500 but the readership in all these districts would total about 1.2 lakhs,” says a hopeful Bhargava.