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Never Reported Before? Here’s How You Can Become A Citizen Journalist

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You don’t have to be a journalist with a media house to report on issues that matter to you. Whether you are passionate about reporting, an eyewitness to an incident, accident or event, or just inclined to write about an issue legacy media won’t, if you decide to bring the information that you have in public domain, you can be a citizen journalist.

If you haven’t reported yet, don’t worry. Here’s a quick guide on how you can become a citizen journalist and start reporting.

1. Cover Public Events/Write Eyewitness Accounts

Is there a protest you know of that is not being covered by the media? Is there a public event you think young people should know about? If you are attending an event that you feel should be covered for public interest or if you witness a crime, a violation of rights, rules or laws, you can report on it. Here are some ways to do this:

A. Speak to people at the event: Apart from writing what you see, you can also speak to people to get more information. Ask them what is happening, who they are, why they decided to hold the particular seminar/conference/protest/rally.

Let’s pause to make a note here. Irrespective of what you are reporting on and what medium you choose to report, always try to gather answers to questions that begin with ‘Who’, ‘What’, ‘When’, ‘Where’, ‘Why’, and ‘How’.

Quick Tip 1: Always gather information on the 5Ws and 1H.

Let’s add a couple of notes to this one so that we don’t invade privacy or mis-report.

Quick Tip 2: Tell people that you are speaking to them for a report.

Quick Tip 3: You may not remember all you hear after a person has spoken. So it is a good idea to record or transcribe what they are saying.

B. Take photos/videos: If writing isn’t your thing, you can always take photos or videos (photos/videos taken on a phone work too). Photos and videos can bring alive a story in ways words cannot always. At other times, photos can also become important proof, especially if you are the only eyewitness.

For example, read this photo story by YKA user Himanshu Shekhar, where he documents the dying lakes of his town in Uttarakhand. My personal favourite is this 2009 story that proved a fake encounter in Manipur, which is discussed even today.

Don’t forget Quick Tip 1 though. Gather information that can explain the photos. Again, take care that you don’t invade privacy.

Quick Tip 4: Ask for permission whenever recording individual(s) in a setup not open to the media or if you are not sure if you should.

2. Report On A Local Problem That Isn’t Getting Attention

From a broken road that needs fixing, to a non-functioning public distribution system, there are several everyday problems that most places in this country face that don’t get attention in the media. Perhaps, you have one in your locality. If you know of such a problem, you could start by reporting about it.

Proceed in the same manner as stated above. Speak to people affected by the issue. Take photos, if you can.

Moreover, when you report on a local problem, it is possible that you will be holding someone accountable for it in the story. Try to speak to them to get their response too. So here’s two more things you should keep in mind while reporting:

Quick Tip 5: Speak to all stakeholders of a problem.

Quick Tip 6: Take photos if they can help in corroboration.

3. Localise A National Story

After the Supreme Court declared the practice of instant triple talaq unconstitutional, the practice continued. If you knew of such an instance in your area, you could have reported on it. Similarly, there are a lot of policies or incidents that affect the entire country. We hear about the effect from only a few places though. If you know of such a place that has been neglected, it’s your chance to rise and shine. Report, because such experiences vary not just with place, but also with other factors such as the caste, class, or gender. You can read examples of such stories here and here.

If you are reporting about a community, it is also good to speak with representatives of the group. Experiences can vary within a community, and a representative is not only likely to know about these variations but also the overall experience of the community. That gives us another quick tip.

Quick Tip 7: Speaking to a representative adds to information about the group as a whole.

4. File RTI Applications To Get Information

Speaking to people is a great way to collect information. When people don’t want to give information for a report, you have a problem. Luckily, there is a solution. The Right to Information Act is a great tool that allows you to query public authorities all you want. Read this post to learn how you can use it.

5. Take Interviews

Whether you are a student or working professional, there are a number of situations where you might end up meeting people who can inform, inspire, or explain. These people can be experts, artists, activists, people occupying public offices who are doing cool work, award winners – the list is endless. Even if you don’t meet them in the physical world, if you think what they have to say is of public importance, email them or call them to take interviews. And here’s our guide that will help you do just that.

There’s more to reporting that you can learn, of course, and so there are even academic courses. But don’t let that bog you down. This post should have you covered for the initial reporting you do. And for the service you will end up doing for the public in the process, we can’t thank you enough.

Featured image credit: Suzanne Lee/Marie Claire France/Flickr
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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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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