Thursday, January 17, 2008

A paper by women for women

Mahila Paksh, which loosely means "Women's Side," is a weekly broadsheet in the Gwalior city in central India. Staying true to its tag line "To the Women, By the Women, For the Women," Mahila Paksh is India's only publication dedicated to recruiting marginalised women as reporters and helping them cover issues that affect them the most.

"To develop a society or country, you need to develop the base. At the heart of that base are women. If women do not progress, we as a country cannot go anywhere." says newspaper owner and manager, Rupesh Shrivastava.

His 20-year-old daughter, Samanvaya Shrivastava is working as the paper's editor while his wife Asha Shrivastava, a social worker, acts as assistant editor.

Launched in 2003, the paper was borne out of a need to gear a newspaper around women's topics since Shrivastava had witnessed many instances of women's exploitation where justice failed. He noticed a gap in the news coverage, which he says, allows India's economy to move ahead but leaves its women behind.

Under the guidance of editor Samanvaya Shrivastava, these reporters tell stories – sometimes their own. They are stories of refusing dowries and asking for overdue salary raises to demanding the right to stay in school and other issues that affect families and communities on a daily basis. The reporters are also trained on basic writing and fact-finding skills.

Rather than relying on advertisements or subscription fees, Mahila Paksh is supported by 12,000 members who pay a yearly fee of 100 rupees or US$ 2.50.

Any member can become a reporter by bringing a story and recruiting 15 more members to join. All of the reporters and staff work as volunteers.

A group of Mahila Paksh reporters said that the paper has helped them learn how to assert their rights. They are now aware of laws that allow public access to official documents, and ban dowries and female foeticide.

Vandana Shrivastava, a Mahila Paksh reporter for the past three years, said, "I noticed that women hesitate to speak up. Together we now have a powerful voice."

Mahila Paksh is not about the minority of women who realise their potential and know how to use it. It is about the women who do not realise they can make changes," said Samanvaya Shrivastava.

Source: http://southasia.oneworld.net/article/view/156851/1/7988

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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