Journalism is one of the many industries that is predominantly male. Over the years, several women have gone down this career path and made their name, tipping the gender balance. However, the recent times saw a steady decline in female presence in Indian journalism, both as subjects and as reporters.
The gender disparity still exists in major news organisations. While there is still work to be done in this regard, a news publication from Uttar Pradesh is breaking the glass ceiling. Called 'Khabar Lahariya', it is run solely by women from Dalit and other marginalised communities in the state, giving them an opportunity to tell their story.
The Feminist News Wave
In 1993, a publication called 'Mahila Dakiya' came about, as a result of women literacy programme that was started by the then Central government. The newspaper was solely written by the local women, focussing on gender and other societal issues. It was in 2002 when 'Mahila Dakiya' became 'Khabar Lahariya'. It got impetus from a New Delhi-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Nirantar, that started the fortnightly newspaper.
The name translates into English as 'News Wave' as it aims to bring about a wave of change. "The name's inception happened after an intense brainstorming session. We wanted to incorporate the 'Bundeli' language from Bundelkhand. While 'Khabar' means news in Urdu, 'Lahariya' means a wave in Bundeli. With this name, we want to expand our reach and make a difference with our coverage," the managing editor, Meera Devi, told The Logical Indian.
What makes this publication stand out is their team. It is an all-women crew that look at the news with a feminist lens. Due to this, many assume that they will not cover news that does not cater to the community. However, that is not the case. "Our identity is the feminist perspective we bring about in any story. Be it political, local, or any other news, our coverage aims to shed light on any kind of gender disparity in the issue at hand," said Devi.
Going Down The Digital Route
Recent years has observed many news organisation going digital. People living in the urban areas read their daily news on smartphones as it is easily accessible. In light of this, Khabar Lahariya is bringing this to the villages as well. With the help of the NGO they are working with, the reporter team is provided with all the latest equipment, from the phone camera to the mic and other paraphernalia. The crew shoots videos and post them on their website so that the issues are highlighted not just on the local level, but its reach is expanded as well.
COVID-19 was a difficult time for everyone around the world. However, the pandemic made the organisation work harder than before. Not just reporting on the day-to-day activities, Khabar Lahariya also got the opportunity to help the people who suffered the most during that time. Meera Devi explains, "When someone was stuck in another city due to the lockdown, they asked for our help on social media. We made sure they got the necessary rations, food. Not only that, we even helped them come back home."
Breaking The Glass Ceiling
For the Khabar Lahariya team, it has not been an easy journey. Pursuing a career that is male-dominated, the team had to cross-gender and even caste barriers to make their dreams a reality. "In the village, many families discouraged the girls to work with us because it involves interacting with men in the public as well as no fixed timings. Not only that, journalism was not seen in a positive light by many. Therefore, it was hard for them digest this fact," Devi adds in a conversation with The Logical Indian. Not only that, the public took some time to understand them. Whenever they approached the local administration for a story, they were never taken seriously and often, left them hanging for a really long time.
Despite all of these hurdles, Khabar Lahariya continues to soldier on. Over the years, they have won accolades and awards for their pathbreaking news coverage. In June 2021, the International Women's Media Foundation gave them the 'Courage in Journalism Award. Even today, the organisation is still working towards making a difference in society. They continue to question the government wherever necessary and keep the flag of independent journalism flying high in the country.