Media Workshops (Orissa, India)

This is an area where sustained campaigning needs to be carried out. Given the general apathy towards women's empowerment, even media persons seem to be in need of proper sensitization on women representatives' rights, roles and significance. Many journalists focus only on news on harassment incidents; there are few takers who are interested enough to make the effort to scout for success stories among grassroots women leaders.

One hundred and seventy journalists from both print and electronic media have been informed and sensitized on issues affecting women leaders in panchayats in the districts of Anugul, Dhenkanal and Kalahandi.

An meeting among journalists, NGOs and EWRs was held for the first time in Junagarh area. This proved to be a good initiative as it brought women's leadership in the area to the forefront. The women leaders expressed their feelings that this was the first event where the rural-based journalists were invited and shared their views in a common platform and that this process should continue. This will help develop a culture to work together to solve the problems of Kalahandi.

Some of the skeptical media participants raised the following issues:

  • Women representatives should place importance on girl's education.
  • In many places there are proxy representatives, and this should be stopped through capacity building of the women representatives.
  • Women have taken leadership in managing PDS and stopping liquor at the village level, which were indeed highlighted in the daily Oriya newspapers.

Some of the senior journalists who had, in previous media workshops held by The Hunger Project, been sensitized about the problems faced by women leaders, shared their views and opinions about why it is important to highlight the challenges faced by women in elective posts. Violence against women, which is a major concern, was also discussed at these workshops.

Some of the positive outcomes of the workshop:

  • Everyone agreed that a suitable environment is necessary to enable elected women leaders and other women to work fearlessly.
  • Some amongst the journalists also shared their willingness to write more about women PRI members, after being informed about the various problems and challenges faced by them such as the two-child norm, illiteracy and de-reservation of women's seats into general ones.
  • The media can play a strong role in creating awareness and inspiring more women to join public life, thereby encouraging society in general to be more accommodating of women leaders.
  • The Sarojini Naidu Prize has proven to be an enticement for journalists - some of whom have promised to write features on successful women leaders.

This year journalist Mr. Akhand was given a special jury citation at the Sarojini Naidu Prize ceremony on October 2, 2008 for his article in Oriya "Another Rebati of this Century."