By Annesha Das Gupta
Deep in the hinterlands of Bundelkhand district in Uttar Pradesh, operates a unique weekly, completely run by the womenfolk. With the twin aims of community development and women literacy, the weekly – Khabar Lahariya, saw its inception in May of 2002. It was implemented with a view to encourage the rural masses to participate in the path of education and gender-sensitization, by NIRANTAR, a renowned centre for gender and education.
Since then, it has traversed a long way to achieve its goals and disseminating the essential features pertaining to the agrarian community, especially about those who belong to the marginalized sections of the society. With a readership of over 30,000 and a bag full of prestigious acclamations like UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Price and the Chameli Devi Jain Award, the newspaper has managed to crave in a niche for itself in the competitive world of publishing.
The 8-page long weekly informs the community about the occurrences that have happened in the surrounding areas to covering the details of national and international importance. The journalists heading the newspaper are all from the rural districts and their number has round up to 40, till now. Under the supervision of NIRANTAR, the women are trained in the sectors of community and rural journalism. They are made to go through the intensive curriculum which ranges from being sensitized to the diseases like HIV and AIDS to learning about gender discrimination and women empowerment.
The participants are chosen yearly by the methods of advertisement in the form of flyers and notices to calling up the graduates of Sahajani Shiksha Kendra, a parent female literacy program run by the centre. The members are equipped with digital cameras, microphones and laptops to write about the various situations that the community faces and all of it is printed in their own mother-tongue.
The group takes the material to the city of Allahabad where the final product comes out and is sold in the market at a meager price of 2 rupees. Sometimes workshops are conducted for the people to get them oriented with the nitty-gritty of newspaper production and management. Along with it the female journalists take out their time to interact with the community to get themselves more aware of the pressing issues like the lax in health, sanitization, education and bureaucratic negligence that the families coming from destitute backgrounds are made to live with.
Breaking the glass-ceiling and making their voices heard are the factors which can leave anyone in awe and it is now a common knowledge that their laude have extended to national and international boundaries and bringing in the attention of popular dailies like The Hindu and Tehelka.
The women of Khabar Lahariya have been giving an impetus to the rest of the female population in their villages to come out and make a stand in the public sphere and articulate their opinions. Despite, the fact that the war against the patriarchal and archaic mind-set is still on the feisty brigade continues to climb the rungs of the socio-economic ladder.
Among the many positive impacts, a few are that now the women are given the necessary opportunities to live a more sustainable life and the rural families are now more interested in getting their sons and especially their daughters educated on a long-term basis. Also, as the paper is produced in the common language, the people who were not acquainted with either Hindi or with English, now gets a chance to improve their erudite and make themselves as more aware citizens.
In 2008, NIRANTAR, decided to establish their program of Khabar Lahariya as an autonomous organization and now the agency is known as Pahal.
Annesha Das Gupta is a student of Sociology, pursuing her degree from IGNOU, Kolkata. She has a special interest in the branches of Feminism, Sexuality and Dalit Studies. Twitter: Dancingbluepen