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How To Beat Inaccuracy, And Fact-Check Properly When Writing Your Next Story

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You put in five hours to write an article, published it on Youth Ki Awaaz, only to be told that your facts were inaccurate or that your arguments were not backed up by facts. Bummer!

Even when an error is not deliberate, or when you had nothing but good intentions behind writing a story, your efforts may go down the drain if the information in your story doesn’t add up, or if it’s false or inaccurate.

As scary as that might sound, it isn’t very difficult to avoid these mistakes or keep them to a minimum. And we are here to tell you how! It’s simple, really. All you need to do is to answer these four questions before you begin writing.

1. How Do I Know This?

Let’s assume that you are writing an opinion article about journalist Gauri Lankesh getting shot, and you state in your post that India was the deadliest country in the world for journalists in 2017. It is true that the murder was gruesome, and that India is witnessing different kinds of attacks on press freedom. But was India the deadliest country in the world for journalists in 2017? Not really, data says.

If you had just asked yourself – How do I know this? – you would have compared the number of journalists who died in India in 2017 with the number from the rest of the world, and removed your statement. When you ask yourself how you know something, you check your own prejudices.

2. How Do You Know This?

When you wrote the deadliest-country statement in the said opinion article, you were relying on your own instincts. You could avoid false information in that case by asking yourself the first question.

But you are not the source of all information and opinions in the world. Sometimes, you have to rely on other people for both. It is then important to ask them: How do you know this?

When you ask this question, you will know how reliable other people’s information or opinion is. If they say they know “India was the deadliest country in the world for journalists in 2017” because they “heard it in a conversation”, or because they read that “a prominent journalist was murdered”, they are just guessing. They don’t really know, and you still need to look for those numbers.

3. How Do They Know This?

Sometimes, our source of information or opinion is neither our own self nor a person standing in front of us. It can come from a report we read or a panellist we heard speaking on a news channel.

Even those who have a good BS-detector, can sometimes get misled, especially if the information is coming from a medium we trust. That’s why it is important to question the media too. How do we do that? We ask: How do they know this?

Now, you can’t really question newspapers and channels every time, but there are ways to solve this problem. A good practice most journalists and writers follow is to tell other people how they know something. If they are stating a deadliest-country fact, they will also tell you how they know this.

Example: According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a non-profit organisation that compiles data on journalists killed around the world, Iraq is the deadliest country in the world for journalists in 2017, with 8 of them likely being killed so far in the country for their work.

If something you read, hear or watch, for information isn’t stating how the information has been obtained, you must continue your hunt.

4. How Reliable Is This Information?

Even after asking the first three questions, there is still some room for inaccuracy. CPJ, for example, I have observed, relies mostly on news reports to compile its data. It is not the Registrar of Births and Deaths of Journalists, it does not monitor every journalist out there, and it does not gather news of their killing on its own. If a journalist’s murder is not reported anywhere, it is less likely that those numbers would figure in its stats.

We are back to square one and asking our sources how they know something. But herein also lies the secret to removing inaccuracies. You must keep asking the question. Too much work, is it? Well, that is why first-hand information is considered most reliable. As funny as it sounds, anyone who sees a person die, is free to write something like “I saw Gabbar, a journalist, die”.

But a fact-checker somewhere reading that sentence will still have two doubts. One, did the journalist really die? Meaning, did a registered medical practitioner/hospital/person-capable-of-confirming-deaths confirm that the person had really died?
And two, was Gabbar was really a journalist? Meaning, has any organisation authorised to designate somebody a journalist done so for Gabbar or has Gabbar produced a work of journalism?

Our supposedly dead fictional journalist has taught us two important lessons here:

a. The closer you are to a first-hand source of information, the more likely it is to be accurate.

b. Producing certain kinds of information requires skill, training, or specialised knowledge. When looking at those kinds of information, you must consult a person with that extra information.

This is really nearly all you need to do to keep your article accurate. Ask these questions every time you write a sentence, and you are less likely to make a mistake. If this sounds like too much work, try remembering a piece of news that made you believe something false or inaccurate, and do the drill!

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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.

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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.

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