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Coordinator with a women’s news network, Khabar Lahariya, Disha Mullick talks about her work in reporting on rural issues and training rural women to report on issues that matter to them.
In this series, BriefCase, we will be meeting women at work in different fields, different roles, to gain insight into their lives and work. With more women joining (or aspiring to) join the paid workforce, we live in exciting times, and this is an attempt to chronicle those times, one life at a time.
Disha Mullick works in a space that is a confluence of her passions and her desire to do something unique and ground-breaking. Based in Delhi, she is a graduate in English from St. Stephens College, Delhi and a Masters in Gender Studies from University of Warwick, UK. For the past 7 years she has been working as a Coordinator with Khabar Lahariya, a local language newspaper whose distinctive voice and popularity stems from its reportage of local issues with a perspective sensitive to power structures.
In conversation with the Coordinator who is more than her work and yet derives so much from it.
How would you describe yourself?
I am a workaholic who loves making lists! If I am not in the field or working then I love to dabble in cooking, baking, paragliding and yoga. There are times when I am doing the Shavasana (the corpse pose in yoga) and my mind gets so restless and I end up making to-do lists in my head!
Why did you choose this field?
While working on my thesis on women and education, I got in touch with Nirantar – an NGO based in Delhi that had started the rural newspaper Khabar Lahariya. It was a serendipitous experience. I love writing and always wanted to be associated with some form of journalistic work. This job helps me travel, report on rural issues as well as write about them. You can say that the job was literally tailored for my interests! Writing is a very ‘personal’ profession and writing within Khabar Lahariya’s context meant bringing out other lived realities and pushing conventional boundaries as well.
Describe your role so that it is understandable to someone who knows nothing about your industry.
I am part of an organization (Women Media and News Trust) that runs a weekly rural newspaper which is handled entirely by urban and rural women in local languages in certain districts in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. My responsibilities include conducting trainings on journalism, reporting on local rural issues as well as mentoring the teams as part of the leadership.
What is the most exciting part of your role and your field?
There isn’t anything like Khabar Lahariya in India or the world. We are trying to create a self-sustaining model where women are empowered to report about real issues plaguing villages and in this process become independent and confident women. It isn’t easy for women to push boundaries and be journalists and therefore my job witnesses the growth of dynamic women. Our model is very different from conventional journalism where newspapers etc. are owned by corporate houses and have a limiting perspective. Our model enables women to contribute to opinion and media-making.
I get to travel to exciting places that people aren’t generally even aware of. I get to know other contexts and build relationships outside my comfort zone.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
We have to constantly face and fight a hyper-masculine society that has patriarchal beliefs and one that does not conceive of women as being mobile and breaking gender norms. Our work is unique even within the non-profit sector and it is challenging convincing them about the relevance of Khabar Lahariya.
What is the common misconception about your field?
A lot of people feel that the process of women traveling long distances and covering news is difficult and unsafe. To them I would like to say that there have been plenty of times where I have felt safer in Karvi and Banda (districts in UP) than in Delhi!
If you had to change one thing about your field, what would it be?
The development sector should be more open to creative and dynamic interventions. In the media sector, especially rural media, women find it extremely difficult to cope with power dynamics and patriarchy. Gender, caste and class norms force women into certain roles in journalism while limiting access to others.
Extremely enthusiastic about writing, reading, movies and food; though not necessarily in that order! A
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