Power of the pen of guts and grass roots reportage
The team behind Khabar Lahariya, the Bundeli language newspaper which is written, edited and distributed by rural Dalit women, were in Mumbai where their website was launched. Soma Das finds out more about how these brave women continue to defy the odds
It was in May 2002 that Khabar Lahariya (meaning news waves in Bundeli) was launched. Since then the rural newspaper has been run by a group of women from marginalised Dalit, Kol and Muslim communities across Chitrakoot and Banda districts (since 2006) of Uttar Pradesh in north India.
Back to basics
Today, Khabar Lahariya boasts of six editions across UP and Bihar in five languages and has a readership of 80,000. A new milestone in their journey is the newly launched website which will allow people to read the newspaper online and thus, boost their readership. Shalini Joshi has been associated with Khabar Lahariya since inception and works with Nirantar (a centre for gender and education, associated with the newspaper). She explains that the women were trained in every aspect of running a newspaper, be it interviewing, writing, editing, publishing, illustrating, photography, marketing or distributing it.
“Reporters teach and pass on the techniques that they have learned to other women. The newspaper has done a great deal to empower rural women. They are also now being taught about how to access the Internet and they should be able to manage it within a few months. We conduct regular refresher courses as well,” she adds, emphasising that the newspaper is important because it includes local content in a local language and on issues that are not covered by the mainstream media.
Go the online way
At present, Khabar Lahariya employs 40 women in the age group of 18 to 45. “With the online version, there will be greater awareness about the newspaper and people will be able to access content from anywhere. It will boost the impact of the rural newspaper. We are hoping that we might even get advertisements as well,” states Joshi. Prior to the launch of the newspaper, the Khabar Lahariya team met up with journalists in the city and college students. Initially, the website will feature stories from the newspaper and after a few months, they hope to add more features and generate online-specific-content.
The leap of faith
Explaining some of the challenges they face, Joshi says that training women from rural areas to function as working journalists is no mean task: “It’s not easy; there are no precedents of rural women working as journalists. They often face a backlash from the community and the local administration is also not supportive. Being a small rural newspaper there is no financial support and few ads. There are printing and production challenges and operating expenses as well. Generating revenues is also quite a challenge.” So far, Khabar Lahariya has been functioning mainly due to grants from various agencies.
Log on to www.khabarlahariya.org/
Khabar Lahariya Visit MiD-DAY Office
On Thursday afternoon, journalists of Khabar Lahariya paid a visit to the MiD-DAY office in Parel, to interact with the different editorial departments and get a hands-on look at the goings-on inside a typical newsroom. The team had an insightful time, speaking, sharing and discussing ideas, stories and other queries with editorial staff on a host of subjects.