Khabar Lahariya (News Waves)

Country Profile: India

Population

1,210,193,422 (2011 census)

Poverty (population living on less than US$1.25 per day)

42% (2005)

Official languages

Hindi and English

Total expenditure on education as % of GNP

4.1

Primary school net enrolment / attendance ratio (2005–2010)

95%

Primary school completion rate

90%

Total youth literacy rate (15 – 24 years, 2005 – 2010)
  • Female: 74%
  • Male: 88%
  • Total: 81%
Adult literacy rate (15 years and over, 2005 – 2010)
  • Female: 51%
  • Male: 75%
  • Total: 63%
Statistical sources

Programme Overview

Programme TitleKhabar Lahariya (News Waves)
Implementing OrganizationNIRANTAR: Centre for Gender and Education
Date of Inception2006 –

Context and background

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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:

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:

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:

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

Impact

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:

Challenges

In spite of the major developmental contributions that the project has engendered in local communities, challenges abound. These include:

Sustainability

Nirantar has instituted some innovative and progressive strategies in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Khabar Lahariya programme. These include:

Sources

Contact

Disha Mullick or Shalini Joshi
Project Coordinators
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

Email: nirantar.mail (at) gamial.com