A genuine grassroots media revolution, India’s first ever newspaper edited, written and run entirely by women is not just offering a reliable source of information to isolated communities – its female team of reporters and their unique perspective on the world is also helping to break down gender stereotypes and empower local women.
Khabar Lahariya (which means News Waves) is a newspaper started in May 2002 by a small group of six women, which has now grown to a team of over 40 female reporters, ranging in age from 18 to 45, many from the most marginalised groups in India. Operating within the central states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where the level of gender inequality is among the highest in the country, and women tend to live secluded lives, marrying and having children at a very young age, the newspaper aims to give women a voice, share their point of view, and tell stories from a feminist perspective, even tackling issues such as domestic violence and rape. While many of the female reporters have faced threats, intimidation and ridicule while out on the streets working, their journalistic endeavours have also transformed their lives – gaining them respect and recognition among their communities, a renewed sense of self, and inspiring the next generation of women to follow in their footsteps.
The newspaper began by printing fortnightly, and was originally delivered by hand by the reporters themselves, but nowadays it boasts a digital edition too, full of video reports and instant updates via WhatsApp and Facebook. While millions live without electricity, and India continues to suffer from an unreliable mobile service, the smartphone market in India is booming and with more people than ever enjoying access to the internet, anyone with a device and a reliable connection can log on. Between April and June, the website received more than 700,000 hits, while the now-weekly print edition has a readership of more than 50,000 people.
As well as bringing gender issues into the spotlight, the paper tends to cover local news that the mainstream media often ignores, in many places supplying the one and only source of reliable local-language information in the area. As such, all of the different editions act as a sort of neighbourhood watch for irregularities and problems concerning local infrastructure and poverty-relief schemes, exposing the double discourses of local governments, and the gaps between the promises made and the final results – news that is deemed too insignificant for mainstream channels to cover, but that is vital for local communities.
You can find Khabar Lahariya’s video reports on their official YouTube channel, or watch the video below for more information about the revolutionary project and how it all started.