Charkha Development Communication Network has been connecting unheard voices from the margins to the mainstream media for last 15 years,
Saturday, May 08 14:56:43, 2010
Charkha Development Communication Network, a non-governmental
organization, won a special award for "Best Feature Service" (Gender
Issues) under the UNFPA-Laadli Media Awards for Gender Sensitivity 2009-10
(Northern and Eastern Region) in April 2010.
The organization has been connecting issues of the rural
marginalized communities to the media for last 15 years. Instituted by
Population First, the award recognized efforts of Charkha's Trilingual Feature
Service in Hindi, English and Urdu to provide journalistic focus on a variety
of gender issues across states in multiple languages.
The impact that Charkha has made in bringing about
positive changes in the lives of people on the ground is quite clear from this
award. Mainstream media talks about Jammu and Kashmir only if there is a militant
attack in the state. Consequently there is a plethora of problems and issues
like the effects of the ongoing armed conflict on women, disabled rights and
the problems faced by the youth of J&K, which are equally important, don't
get media attention and therefore no body tries to solve them also.
But Charkha Development Communication Network, through a
period of time has enabled the marginalized voices from the state to express
their problems in the mainstream media. Afsana Rashid is a Charkha writer, a
journalist and also a social activist from Jammu and Kashmir, who has written and reported
extensively on the effects of the on going armed conflict on the women of
J&K, an issue which hardly sees the light of the day. She got an award
"Best Web Articles' (English) for her continued portrayal of women
affected by the armed conflict in Kashmir under the UNFPA-Laadli Media Awards.
She is also the author of 'Waiting for Justice: Widows and
Half Widows', a book that addresses the plight of many women whose husbands
have been subjected to enforced disappearance or custodial killings over the
past two decades of Kashmir's conflict.
Afsana with her friend, Jahangir Rashid Malik started a
magazine 'Reality Bites' in July 2009. These days besides running 'Reality Bites',
she also works with The Chandigarh Tribune, the English daily.
The Hoot talked to her on phone. She said that 'first of
all being a woman in a conflict area is difficult. On top of that, being a
journalist also and writing on women's issues is very difficult.'
Talking about what it is like to be a woman journalist
writing about women's issues, she said, 'as a woman journalist you have to
create a space for yourself in an essentially male dominated profession and
then you have to maintain that space which is indeed a very difficult task.
Besides you won't get appreciation for your work from your colleagues.'
Talking about 'Reality Bites' she said that 'we started
this magazine because we felt that because of the on goingarmed conflict in Jammu and Kashmir, issues related
to health, disabled right, environment and issues related to people on the ground, are not being covered by the
mainstream media. And then there was a space for this kind of journalism.'
On Charkha she said that 'thanks to Charkha for providing
me a platform and encouraging and appreciating my work. It's only because of
Charkha that I have written many article which have been used by 120 websites
across the world.'
The Jihadis abduct and rape young girls in Jammu but the mainstream media has rarely
covered this issue. An article on this issue by Deepika Thussoo who is also
from J&K and is a Charkha writer, bagged the 'Best Opinion-Editorial
Nusrat Ara, a social activist from J&K was selected
for the "Best News Feature (Urdu) for her article' Kashmir ki Rubina Tabassum" on a
young woman entrepreneur breaking out of a male-dominated society.
Drug abuse is a widespread problem among the youths in
J&K, but media had hardly covered this issue. Tanveen Kousa, a Charkha
writer and a local journalist has worked extensively on this issue which made
the mainstream media cover this problem.
Rinchen Dolma, a writer from Ladakh wrote an article on
how media is simply non-existent in Ladakh. She argued that media has not
survived in Ladakh because the society in Ladakh doesn't tolerate criticism and
any attempt to question the status quo by any media organization is quashed by
the dominant group.
Shankar Ghose, president, Charkha Development
Communication Network told The Hoot that 'Charkha is focused on the
underprivileged whose cause often remains unheard and it uses various tools of
communication to empowerment them.' Charkha selects rural journalists,
grassroots activists, women activists, from a region which is hardly covered by
the mainstream media.
Charkha has two areas of focus: Development in Areas of
Conflict and Distant Areas Programme. These days it has selected Ladakh and
Andaman and NicobarIsland under distant areas programme and
and Kashmir and Chhatisgarh under development in areas of conflict.
In total on yearly basis Charkha places around 350
articles in all the three languages, out of which 115 is in English, 143 in
Urdu and 92 in Hindi across many publications and portals.
All the articles are
on developmental issues which are usually not covered by the mainstream media
in that particular region. For instance the articles from J&K are related
to problem of drug among the youth, climate change, health, situation of
disabled and the effects of the ongoing arms conflict on the women of the
state. In the same manner the articles coming from Chhatisgarh are related to issues
like climate change, water related problems, pathetic situation of tribals in
the state and the corruption done by the state officials in the money granted
to self-help groups.