This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by manjari singh. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Watch Out For These Badass Women Reporters Who’re Giving The True Picture Of Rural UP

More from manjari singh

By Manjari Singh

It was busy day for Lalita, 23. After a long day covering gram sabha elections she heads to her one-room office to work on the production of the newspaper she is employed with. “We have our production day on Wednesdays. It’s been a busy month because of elections but I believe this is what it means to be a reporter,” she says as she punches keys on keyboards and writes the perfect headline to fit in the story for Khabar Lahariya, a weekly newspaper established in 2002 and published from the rural areas of Faizabad, Banda, Varanasi and some parts of Bihar, entirely by rural women who are mostly Dalit.

‘I Didn’t Know A Thing About Computers’

Khabar Lahariya reporters cover local elections at Faizabad. Image source: Khabar Lahariya/Facebook
KL reporters cover local elections at Faizabad. Image source: Khabar Lahariya/Facebook

A typical day of reporting starts at 7 am when she visits the villages assigned to her to gather stories. “I try to visit villages where mainstream media can’t reach and talk to people about their problems,” she says. “During elections I visited the polling booth and spoke to young voters about their aspirations and expectations,” she adds.

“You know I didn’t know a thing about computers when I joined in 2012. I was afraid to touch mouse, the cursor wouldn’t just stay at one place,” chuckles Lalita. But she is not complaining because of the perks that come along with a tag of a ‘reporter’. “I am an inspiration to many in my village at Taarun block where I report from. A lot of girls want to be a reporter like me,” she beams. And not to forget those cops who tell her stories on WhatsApp and always call back no matter how busy they are.

Lalita and her sister Sangeeta were both looking for job opportunities after completing their graduation in 2012 when their brother’s friend told them about this newspaper. “I thought we will be asked to roam around villages holding mikes and cameras but no were just asked to write a small piece in Awadhi just to test our writing skills,” she recalls. She wrote a small piece on the kind of problems the women face in villages and then next thing she knew that both the sisters have been called for interview. “We both cycled 18 KM from our village to the place where the interview took place. Again we were asked to write in Awadhi and after few days we got to know that we are selected,” she says. “We were so happy because we were selected amongst some 40 women who came for the interview,” she adds.

After an initial training of six months both the sisters were assigned blocks at Faizabad along with two other reporters. Her sister soon got married and left, but Lalita decided this is what she is meant to do. “I feel good when I do women oriented stories,” she says. And that’s the kind of stories she enjoys doing the most. “I write about women harassed for dowry, those who are beaten by their husbands and those who are not allowed to study after certain age,” she says. Her most memorable story has been about a pregnant woman who was denied a bed at a community health centre and delivered on the way to another hospital. “She was even denied an ambulance. I wrote about them and soon I started getting calls from the superintendent and the Pradhan asking me about the credibility of the story but I wrote the truth,” she says.

Fearless Reporters

Krishna, who looks after the office at Faizabad tells how often Khabar Lahariya reporters have to face brunt for writing truth. “There was this Gramin Bank at Karvy who would charge money for each withdrawal, the poor villagers thought it was a norm, when Khabar Lahariya learnt about him, we immediately wrote about him,” she says. When the man came to know that KL reporters were going to expose him, he offered to buy the entire newspaper. “The story was out and soon he was suspended,” adds Krishna.

She furthers tells about this MLA from the opposition party how he threatened to shut down the newspaper when KL did a sting on him. “Khabar Lahariya reporters have braved it all, including the recent harassment where a man named Nishu Shah used to call reporters from Banda, Chitrakoot and threaten to rape and kidnap,” she says. He had been calling the reporters for six months and got arrested in September only. “He would call us every day, almost after every 10 minutes from different numbers and talk dirty,” says Kavita, an editor who heads the team from Banda. Filing an FIR at local the police station didn’t help, neither did the revolutionary 1098 helpline number at Lucknow run by state government that claims to help women in distress. “When police and helpline number didn’t help, we contacted this news website that helped us with further media coverage,” she says.

After the story came out in the media, everybody came into action, right from SSP to CM. “He was immediately arrested and he is in jail right now,” she adds.

khabar lahariyaWhat The Editor Says

Kavita, a mother of two, joined Khabar Lahariya in 2002, the year it was launched. After some training she started reporting from Banda in Bundeli language about the issues that were mainly ignored by the mainstream media. “I was 10th pass then, now I have a master’s degree in political science. It was during reporting that I realised the importance of education,” she beams.

Kavita’s journey of being a reporter was never smooth like Lalita. “People in villages had a problem with Dalit women going out and doing something of their own and that too a job that required them to stay outdoors for long hours,” she says. “Also they would angst about the fact that they were reporting about people belonging to upper castes,” she adds.

But things have changed now. Khabar Lahariya and its reporters are well known and accepted by villagers. “The demand for our newspaper is rising. It feels good when people gather around tea stalls to discuss our stories,” she says.

But as they say everything comes with a price, Kavita finds it hard to juggle between work and home. “Being an editor, I have to work a bit more than others. I have to travel to different districts and train reporters and sometimes it really gets late,” she says.

Not to forget reviewing those hundreds of applications that come for the post of reporter. “Seems like everybody wants to work with Khabar Lahariya now,” she laughs. To be able to work with the newspaper, one has to be confident, energetic and of course, have a good command over the regional language. “Earlier we used to hire 10th pass or so but now we seek for reporters who are at least 12th pass. Since we are venturing into video journalism now, good speaking skill is a must,” she says.

Like most of the journalists at KL, Kavita also likes to report about issues related to women and also writes a column on the same.

The one major issue that women in villages face that both Kavita and Lalita both agree with is – “Most of the villagers don’t have toilets in their houses and women have to go outside. Even I have to go outside,” reveals Lalita hesitantly as she adjusts the font size of a headline at the computer. “Whatever funds come for the toilet construction gets eaten up by Pradhans and others.”

“The houses that have toilets are not usable, it’s just a pit with no water connection,” adds Krishna. “It’s unfortunate that families that don’t even allow girls to go outside to study have to send the girls at distant fields to attend natures’ call,” says Lalita.

The KL team. image source: Facebook
The KL team. image source: Facebook

The Journey Ahead

Lalita reports, edits, distribute and now days even learning to shoot videos to upload on YouTube and all the work for Rs, 5500. “We have a team from Delhi which is training us to shoot videos, soon we will have our YouTube channel,” she says. She has hardly anything to complain about except for one thing, “It’s a weekly newspaper, no matter how soon I break the story, it is always printed at the end of the week.”

A product of Nirantan, an NGO based in Delhi, Khabar Lahariya is published in local dialects like Awadhi, Bhohpuri and Bundeli.

The eight page newspapers has two local pages in regional languages, two pages dedicated to national, international and entertainment stories and rest are the pages translated in Hindi from the other editions. “You might want to know why a newspaper in Awadhi when there are many Hindi newspapers available but let me tell you, since we have been assigned the responsibility of circulation also, we try to distribute our newspapers to the villages where popular brands don’t reach,” Lalita says. “These people like to read in Awadhi and also I believe we are taking a great initiative in preserving the local dialects which are slowly dying,” she adds.

You must be to comment.

More from manjari singh

Similar Posts

By Rapti Mukherjee

By varun pratap

By Rohit Prashar

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below