Rather than remaining a victim, Varsha Jawalgekar deflected the blows of domestic violence inflicted upon her by her husband and became a champion of women’s rights. Currently a leader at the Parivartan Kendra (Centre for Change), Varsha also channels her human rights activism into various organizations in Maharashta and Bihar. She uses her IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent videos as calls to…
Female journalists in Bihar bemoan the fact that Media remains a male-dominated space.
Varsha, our Community Correspondent in Bihar, has herself been exposed to gender violence. This made her particularly sensitive to gender discrimination, and inspired her to fight for women’s rights. Most of the videos she produces for IndiaUnheard reflect this interest, drawing a powerful portrait of women overcoming poverty, patriarchy and social stigma to take up roles previously reserved for men.
In today’s video, Varsha puts on her feminist lens and examines the Indian media landscape. Through interviews with two bold female journalists, she leads us to reflect on the discrimination faced by women in a still overwhelmingly male-dominated media industry, in which women are employed as beautiful faces, but where no space is actually created for their voices and experiences.
Nivedita Jha, a senior journalist in Bihar, has worked in several Hindi speaking newspapers, such as Nayi Dunika, Rashtriya Sahara, and currently writes for Choti Duniya. She is saddened by the limited space that women occupy in the media. As she puts it, “the role of women in society is reflected in the media”: the absence of women in media, in the news and as journalists, are somehow representative of Indian society, in which women’s experiences are often denied any value.
For Meera, as for Nivedita, women have to take up the fight to create a more gender-sensitive and egalitarian media. For Meera, the solution could come from reservation, that would at least create a legitimate allotment of space in the media, and help change mindsets in the industry, For Nivedita, it is a struggle that should mobilize the whole of society.
These women are definitely inspiring figures, and their experiences as female journalists echo what our female Community Correspondents go through as reporters in their own right. Thus, we interviewed Varsha to know how she felt touched by these interviews, and how being a female journalists has impacted her life. Below are her answers.
How did you meet Nivedita and why did you interview her for this video? And how did you feel interviewing a senior professional journalist?
It was a wonderful experience interviewing her. She is a lovely person. I came to know her while working as an activist. I had the occasion to observe her work closely because she reported my own story; I was beaten up by my husband and took the case to court, and pursued a case of mental and physical harassment against him. At that time, we exchanged stories about our respective work.
Is Nivedita an inspiring figure for you? In what way?
Oh yes! Definitely! In many ways! She is a strong woman! A really empowered woman! She has in-depth knowledge of the issues of the marginalized and talks fearlessly. She also fought against gender biases in media. She has a long experience in media, and she is an honest journalist.
Nivedita recounts the discrimination and daily obstacles women journalists encounter in their work. As a female community journalist, are you confronted by similar difficulties? How do you overcome them?
Yes! I also face similar problems! I am first an activist and then a journalist. I am fearless and strong. I take up issues of the community which mainstream media doesn't deal with properly. In Bihar we have a big media nexus which suppresses the issues of poor, marginalized and especially women.
You’ve been a community journalist for IndiaUnheard for more than a year now. How do you feel this fact has impacted your life? Do you feel empowered?
I do feel empowered! In fact, I could understand why they call media as fourth pillar of democracy! I got another medium to address the issues of community.
Female journalists like you or Nivedita remain a rare sight in India. How do people react when they get to know that you are a journalist? What do you think needs to be done to increase the space for women in the media industry?
There are mixed responses. Mostly people react by saying that it is not woman's job. But nowadays the mindset is changing and people are accepting women as journalists. Still there are challenges. Women journalists are mostly given the soft bits (as they generally say). We have to be bold and strong and take challenges. We and the media houses have to ensure the security aspect of the job. The general patriarchal mindset has to be replaced with EQUIRCHAL (I coined this word "EQUIRCHY" where equity is ensured.)
As Nidevita, you’ve been strongly committed to improve the lot of women around you. What are you specifically involved in?
I have been working as an activist for the last 15 years. I have been learning and contributing to the society. One of the most important issues I am working on is GENDER. We have to ensure that women live with dignity, identity and equity....... and say NO to violence!
You’ve already produced several videos documenting the hardships faced by women around you. Which stories would you like to tell now?
My next story is about Dalit women's art forms. This is a positive story. It talks about Godhna painting, a very celebrated art form performed by Dalit women. Women have been creators, producers, nurturers, growers, source of energy.... I have lot more stories of women to tell.
With all my salutes to women of the world.