Khabar Lahariya (‘news waves’) is a rural newspaper that is run by a team of women journalists in Chitrakoot, Banda, Mahoba, Varanasi and Faizabad districts of Uttar Pradesh, and Sitamarhi district of Bihar. Initiated by Nirantar – Centre for Gender and Education in 2002, the newspaper now has a readership of nearly 80,000, with a considerable percentage of newly literate readers in rural areas. It is a one-of-a-kind newspaper, the only one to reach rural readers in areas with low media penetration.
It is the only newspaper that reaches news to rural communities in their own local language. And it is the only newspaper that has an all-women team of 40 barefoot reporters, photographers, editors and hawkers who create and circulate news each week to the doorsteps of remote rural readers who are eagerly awaiting their arrival. Produced in 7 local languages, distributed in 600 media-dark villages, Khabar Lahariya news brings a tide of change in areas ridden with poverty, hunger, drought, corruption and violence. It has 6 print and an online edition (www.khabarlahariya.org), the only online news site that makes news available in local languages.
Khabar Lahariya began in 2002, as an initiative to supplement and sustain the literacy of rural women, by producing simple, local language content that was interesting for them to read – written by other women just like them. The idea grew from there, to that of generating local news in the local language, not just for women, but the entire village, block and district, and was so popular and successful that it went from 1 edition with 6 women reporters, to 7 editions, 8 districts and 80,000 readers in 12 years.
Women, Media and News Trust
Khabar Lahariya has functioned as a project of Nirantar Trust since its inception. As part of the expansion and the visioning of Khabar Lahariya as a sustainable community media enterprise, a decision was made by Board members of Nirantar Trust to register the Khabar Lahariya group as an independent entity. This would enable the group to work in a focused and independent manner towards the vision of a rural media collective. This Trust, named the Women, Media and News Trust (WoMeN Trust) was incorporated on 12 July 2013. Its objective was setting up an independent media collective with rural, Dalit women journalists in its leadership.
The WoMeN Trust is registered as a Public Charitable Trust with founding members who have worked on Khabar Lahariya since 2002. They are committed to promoting the newspaper and its outreach through the new entity. The new entity will also be guided and mentored by the leadership of Nirantar Trust. Nirantar has set up robust and transparent systems of governance, office functioning and finance for the new entity. The Trust has exemptions under Section 12 AA of the Income Tax Act and the certificate under 80G is currently being processed.
Khabar Lahariya was started with a vision that sought to create literate and print-rich environments to promote and sustain literacy in rural areas. The objective was also to democratize the process of producing reading material in rural areas, by skilling rural women to independently print and produce local editions of a newspaper for rural readers. Thus the intervention is also a continuing education and skill development programme for the women involved. These objectives continue to remain relevant.
The rigour, consistency and objectivity with which Khabar Lahariya reports have established it as a strong local watch dog. This role as a local watch dog has meant that through its reporting, the paper has been able to expose corruption, re-open schools and abandoned health clinics, break the silence around violence against women and alert the local administration on callousness of its officials.
Khabar Lahariya is also unique in that the newspaper has:
- multiple editions in local languages – Bundeli, Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Bajjika
- a management and editorial team comprising women from poor, rural communities
- news by, news of and news for the most disadvantaged
Khabar Lahariya is recognized and appreciated as being the only newspaper to be ‘entirely produced and marketed by ‘low caste’ women – a model that has sustained and expanded over its 12 year history. The Jury of the UNESCO King Sejong Prize, which was given to Khabar Lahariya in 2009, “valued its well-structured method of training newly literate women as journalists and democratizing information production which provides an easily replicated model of transformative education”.
Produced with a social cause as its main objective, Khabar Lahariya is the only news service available for such people in rural areas of UP and Bihar. The online edition of Khabar Lahariya consolidates news from each language edition and makes news and views from remote rural UP and Bihar accessible across the country and world. Selected stories are available in English and in providing news from off the media map, make important connections between local and global issues – of development, marginalization, environment, corruption and so on.
The Bobs Global Media Forum Award, May 2014
The Bobs awards honor websites and projects in 14 languages that champion the open exchange of ideas and freedom of expression. The Global Media Forum Award was for sites that examine how interconnectedness, interactivity and participation influence and spur on the democratic process. A jury member said that by winning this award, Khabar Lahariya puts India on the map of the 'Oscars of Online Activism Campaigns'!
Marico Innovation Award, March 2014
The Marico Innovation Foundation presented Khabar Lahariya the Innovation for India Award in the social sector for its uniqueness, sustainability and scalability.
Kaifi Azmi International Award, May 2013
The Kaifi Azmi Foundation (formed in memory of renowned Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi) included Khabar Lahariya as one of the winners of the Kaifi Azmi Award presented annually to those working with literacy, especially in the local language.
Times Now Amazing Indian Award, January 2013
In January 2013, English news channel Times Now honoured Khabar Lahariya with the Amazing Indian Award calling Khabar Lahariya as one of the makers of change in the country.
Laadli Media Award for Gender Sensitive Reporting, December 2012
Population First, an NGO and a communications initiative presented Khabar Lahariya's collective of women journalists with the Special Jury Award for Gender Sensitive Reporting.
Mahindra Spark the Rise Challenge, November 2012
UNESCO King Sejong Award for Literacy, 2009
Women’s World Summit Foundation Award for Creativity in Rural Life, 2009
Chameli Devi Jain Award for Outstanding Woman Mediapersons, 2004
Testimonials and Selected Media Coverage
The newspaper has been lauded as an exemplary model for transformative rural media by Wharton Business school and a CII/KPMG report on ICT in India.
‘In a region notorious for its feudal mindset, where remnants of erstwhile aristocracy still rule the roost, an eight-page weekly, Khabar Lahariya is a ray of hope. It has created awareness among the oppressed and deprived sections of the Chitrakoot and the Banda districts in the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh.’ [The Hindu, August 2009.]
‘There are areas and pockets in our country where development programmes have not reached. The concept and idea of a rural newspaper like Khabar Lahariya is very strong and if we want to bring awareness and go towards development - it is the only way…
From now on, I will see the schemes we plan through the prism of Khabar Lahariya. [Syeda Hamid, member, Planning Commission]
The Week | Last Word | The Invisible Stories, Nandita Das (2014)
The Hindu | Making Waves with News, Meena Menon (2013)
Firstpost | UP to Bihar: Why a group of rural women journalists went online, Mazumdar (2013)
Marie Claire France | Rural journalists make a difference in remote villages in India, Suzanne Lee (2012-13)
The Guardian | New Writers, New Readers, Newspaper, Manini Sheker (2011)
The Asia Mag | What Happened to Good ol' Journalism?, Edwin Koo (2010)
Los Angeles Times | Dalit Women find their voice through a Newspaper, Mark Magnier (2009)
Aljazeera | Reading the Future, Andrew Wander (2009)
BBC Hindi | Vineet Khare (2009)
Columbia Journalism Review | Postcard from Chitrakoot, Betwa Sharma (2009)
NDTV | The Social Network | “Rapes outside capital don't matter?” (2012)
NDTV | India Matters | Notes from the Margins (Khabar Lahariya starts at 13:56) (2012)
NDTV | The Unstoppable Indians | The Khabar Lahariya Story (2010)