Khabar Lahariya (News Waves)
Country Profile: India
1,210,193,422 (2011 census)
|Poverty (population living on less than US$1.25 per day)|
Hindi and English
|Total expenditure on education as % of GNP|
|Primary school net enrolment / attendance ratio (2005–2010)|
|Primary school completion rate|
|Total youth literacy rate (15 – 24 years, 2005 – 2010)|
|Adult literacy rate (15 years and over, 2005 – 2010)|
|Programme Title||Khabar Lahariya (News Waves)|
|Implementing Organization||NIRANTAR: Centre for Gender and Education|
|Date of Inception||2006 –|
Context and background
In recent decades, India has instituted a number of progressive educational programmes such as the National Literacy Mission, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the Saakshar Bharat Mission for Female Literacy, in an effort to combat illiteracy in the country. As a result of these programmes, the rate of literacy increased from a low of about 18% in the 1950s to about 52% in 1991 and then to about 65% as of 2000–2006. However, in spite of this notable achievement, one-third of India’s population is currently functionally illiterate and about 50% of the entire adult female population (aged 15 years and above) cannot read or write. The rate of illiteracy is particularly high in rural areas, especially among socially marginalised minorities, women and people from lower castes. For instance, according to the 2001 national census, the urban and rural literacy rates in the state of Uttar Predesh (north India) was 70% and 52% respectively. Similarly, the discrepancy between male (69%) and female (42%) literacy rates was alarmingly high. Recognising that persistent illiteracy, particularly among women, was a major impediment to national development efforts, NIRANTAR – a national centre for gender and education – instituted the Sahajani Shiksha Kendra (One who helps women) and the Khabar Lahariya (News Waves) programmes in an effort to combat illiteracy among rural women and girls in Uttar Predesh and, by extension, to empower them through gender-sensitive literacy training and educational support.
The Khabar Lahariya (News Waves) programme (KLP)
Khabar Lahariya is a low-cost weekly rural newspaper (sold at about two rupees) which is entirely produced and marketed by women—most of whom are from the marginalised Dalit, Kol and Muslim communities—in the two rural districts of Chitrakoot and Banda of Uttar Pradesh in north India. The newspaper, which is entirely produced in the local Hindi and Bundeli languages, was launched in Chitrakoot in May 2002 and a second edition was launched in Banda district in 2006. Currently, the paper has a print run of about 5,000 copies per week and a readership of about 35,000 people in over 450 villages in both districts.
Khabar Lahariya was initiated to complement the Sahajani Shiksha Kendra programme (http://www.unesco.org/uil/litbase/?menu=14&country=IN&programme=82) which provides basic literacy training and educational support to rural women and girls by filling the information gap that previously existed in these hinterland rural areas.
The principal goal of the programme is to foster a culture of family or intergenerational reading among rural families, and promote most importantly, lifelong learning among rural women, through the production of a contextually relevant and gender-sensitive newspaper. The newspaper endeavours to eradicate illiteracy in the State by enhancing and sustaining the literacy skills of newly literate women and communities by:
- enabling women to learn skills in news gathering and production, thereby creating a pool of community-based female journalists skilled to produce and disseminate essential news and information to and about their communities
- raising women’s awareness of issues affecting their communities in general and women in particular, at a local or national level
- providing women with opportunities to articulate these issues which are particularly relevant to their lives
- providing low-cost news and information to women in areas with limited or no access to reading materials
- enabling women to participate more effectively in community and national development processes and make informed choices (civic education and gender empowerment)
- promote family literacy, intergenerational learning and community development.
Programme implementation: Approaches and methodologies
Recruitment of trainee journalists
The production and marketing of Khabar Lahariya newspaper is entirely dependent on a cohort of about 20 female journalists who are mostly recruited from the rural communities where the newspaper is produced and circulated. Since the inception of the newspaper project in 2002, Nirantar has recruited and trained about 30 women on an annual basis to work as community-based journalists. Recruitment methods include using Sahajani Shiksha Kendra programme graduates, using posters and brochures, engaging local women’s and men’s groups, and encouraging project members to recruit other women into the project.
Given that programme participants have varying levels of literacy skills, Nirantar provides trainees with intensive training in basic literacy, ICT (including using the internet and digital cameras) and in the technical aspects of news gathering, reporting, writing, editing and production (journalism). Special efforts are also made to develop the trainees’ language and writing skills, especially their ability to write simply and concisely in the local languages. The training course has two modules which are undertaken over 14 and seven days. In order to enable the journalists to effectively and objectively report on a variety of subjects which satisfy the demands and interests of the readers in general and women in particular, the modules include:
- civic education (gender education or relations; dynamics of caste system; democratic governance; conflict management and resolution; gender violence including rape; and environmental management)
- national and international politics
- livelihood community development
- health (HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention; nutrition and sanitation)
- environmental management and conservation
- income generation or livelihood development (community development).
Nirantar employs various methods to provide trainees with the skills they need to function effectively and competently as community journalists. Participatory methods, including group work/activities, field visits and individual practical reporting assignments are, however, central to the learning process and include the following activities:
- review and analysis of materials produced by NGOs, textbooks, mainstream magazines, newspapers and films
- group discussions, debates, roleplays and presentations
- individual writing assignments and feedback
- lectures and presentations by resource persons
- reading articles and academic papers (which are translated into simple language)
- exposure visits to other organisations and meetings with other community-development practitioners.
Assessment of learners and of the programme
In order to capture an objective picture of programme developments, achievements and challenges, both the trainees, facilitators and senior Nirantar officials are involved in assessing programme activities on an ongoing basis. For instance, while training journalists, facilitators are obliged to complete and submit student assessment forms to the main office, and trainees are asked to write down their observations and assessment of the training exercise on specially designed feedback or course evaluation forms. Senior Nirantar officials and the Khabar Lahariya production team have monthly meetings to discuss and develop quality benchmarks, including course outlines (training) and the newspaper’s content, language style, printing and general layout. In addition, the programme has also received positive evaluation from external experts during the evaluation process undertaken in 2008 as well as through periodic reports by other journalists. An example of the latter is a novel by Farah Naqvi entitled Waves in the Hinterland: The journey of a newspaper.
Furthermore, because Khabar Lahariya is a community-focused newspaper, its quality and impact on community development is not only evaluated on the basis of the number of copies produced and disseminated per week, but also through regular feedback from readers, other media organisations and NGOs as well as through the amount and frequency of advertisements.
The achievements or impact of Khabar Lahariya on community development in general and women empowerment in particular have not gone unnoticed by the national and international community. To date, reports about Khabar Lahariya in other newspapers and from NGOs in general, have been largely positive as manifested by the regular frequency with which other newspapers and NGOs ask Khabar Lahariya to run their community-focused stories and activities. In March 2004, the newspaper received the Chameli Devi Jain Award, one of India’s highest annual honours for outstanding women journalists given by the New Delhi-based Media Foundation. For a rural women’s media collective to get an award of this nature constitutes an important breakthrough in the male-dominated world of rural journalism. In 2004, three members of the production team also received fellowships from the Dalit Foundation for reporting on issues relating to the rights of the Dalit community. In 2009, Nirantar received the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize for Khabar Lahariya.
Programme impact and challenges
One of Khabar Lahariya’s major strengths is that it is journalism by the village, of the village, for the village. It is also by women, and since women are by far the main agents of community development and often more adept at articulating the issues that affect their families and communities, it could be argued that the newspaper is currently playing a central role in promoting development in the districts. In addition, the newspaper has opened up opportunities for women to break into formerly male-dominated socioeconomic spaces and has created opportunities for other minority groups to produce their own papers in their own (mother-tongue) languages. The following are also notable achievements:
- An enhanced culture of reading within communities: the availability of a cheap and easily accessible newspaper has changed ordinary people’s perceptions of the importance of education in their lives. The paper has also enabled thousands of literate and semi-literate people to practise and sustain their literacy skills and created opportunities for lifelong integenerational learning.
- Its contribution to an increase of literacy rates in the districts.
- Civic awareness and empowerment: readers have used some of the articles published in the newspaper to demand action and greater information from state officials regarding the implementation (or none-thereof) of developmental projects, the provision of basic social amenities, official strategies of fighting cases of gender-based violence (and violence in general), bureaucratic negligence, and official apathy. In addition, local officials have been exposed for negligence of duty, corruption and, in some instances, people have received compensation and redress.
- Gender empowerment and poverty alleviation: the paper has provided women with an avenue to fight caste, gender and traditional systems which often impinge their socioeconomic empowerment and advancement. The project has also enabled women to break into an industry previously dominated by ‘upper-caste’ men and in so doing, empowered women to objectively articulate gender-sensitive issues that were previously ignored or sensationalised. In addition, the newspaper has provided many women with opportunities and non-conventional avenues for gainful employment and income generation which in turn has enabled them to improve the standard of their lives and to provide for their families. Most importantly, the provision of formal employment opportunities has also raised women’s status within their families and communities.
- The production of the newspaper in local languages is helping to promote the conservation and propagation of minority languages.
- The success of Khabar Lahariya has inspired women’s groups in other marginalised districts to start similar projects. For instance, Nirantar has also assisted other women’s organisations such as Mahila Jan Adhikar Manch (MJAS) in Ajmer district of Rajasthan in western India to establish a community newspaper called ‘Samchar Ro Helo’ (voice of the news). Five hundred copies of Samchar Ro Helo are printed and distributed to readers in Ajmer district.
In spite of the major developmental contributions that the project has engendered in local communities, challenges abound. These include:
- Social barriers: within the predominantly traditional societies of Chitrakoot and Banda districts, women are mainly restricted to the domestic sphere. In light of this, the programme has encountered severe challenges to attract, retain learners and most critically, to motivate trained women to move around their communities collecting news and information. Men have also been reluctant to allow women to actively venture outside the domestic space as reporters. As such, concerted advocacy and social education campaigns are needed to change people’s perceptions with regards to women’s participation in the public sphere; to build women’s confidence in their abilities as reporters and social agents as well as to build the trust of their families, in particular that of the men.
- The ability of women journalists to report on national and international political issues and events has has been restricted by lack of understanding and/or knowledge of these issues. It has been challenging for women to gather information from male politicians who dominate the political sphere.
- Low levels of literacy continue to undermine the production and readership of the newspaper.
- The lack of established distribution systems for newspapers, including mainstream ones, beyond the urban enclaves. Hence, developing viable dissemination strategies has proved to be a challenging task.
Nirantar has instituted some innovative and progressive strategies in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Khabar Lahariya programme. These include:
- Advanced marketing and advocacy: efforts are made not only to expand the readership of the newspaper beyond the borders of the two districts but also to attract more advertisements. The money that is currently generated through advertisements is being put aside in order to create a corpus fund for the newspaper. Furthermore, senior Nirantar also undertakes concerted national and international advocacy campaigns to promote the newspaper. It has also established sustainable institutional links with other women’s organisations.
- Community ownership: although Nirantar initiated the Khabar Lahariya programme, it has made concerted efforts to devolve most of its functions to the community-based journalists in an effort to promote greater community ownership of the entire project. To this end, Nirantar has trained a pool of community-based female jouranalists who now spearhead the production and distribution of Khabar Lahariya as well as the provision of similar services and support to other groups who are in the process of establishing their own newspapers. In addition, in 2008 Nirantar registered Khabar Lahariya as a separate legal entity/organisation under the Societies Registration Act. This will enable the newspaper to source funds independently.
- Although securing long-term funding remains a major challenge, Nirantar has ensured that Khabar Lahariya has strong and strategic alliances with donors and also generates its own resources through advertisements and provision of services to other groups.
- UNESCO (2009) (King Sejong Literacy Prize), Indian village women find a voice
- India EduNews (4 August 2009) Newspaper by rural Indian women wins UN literacy award
- Illiteracy and Educational problems in India (November 2009)
Disha Mullick or Shalini Joshi
NIRANTAR: Centre for Gender and Education
B64, 2nd Floor, Sarvodya Enclave
New Delhi 110017, India
Phone: (91-11) 2-696-6334
Fax: (91-11) 2-651-7726