Training local journalists to cover women’s and children’s issues in Nepal
By John Brittain
KATHMANDU, Nepal, 27 July 2009 – Remote and unspoiled wildernesses abounds in this unquestionably beautiful country. But such beauty comes with a price: Some villages are at least a week’s walk from the nearest road, making it very difficult to get timely reports on conditions and developments in these areas.
UNICEF Nepal has been working to solve the problem of how to receive news – especially news about women’s and children’s issues – from remote regions on a regular basis. Its solution is taking shape in the form of a new initiative that was launched in June, in partnership with the Nepal Press Institute (NPI).
The initiative established a new network of journalists to cover remote areas, as well as some that are not so remote. Over 50 journalists from every region – most of them women – have taken part in a training programme designed to generate more reporting on women’s and children’s issues around the country.
Focus on issues of concern
The journalists in the programme receive five days of training to develop the self-confidence needed to report on issues that concern them. The training is followed by eight months of support to help them publish their stories.
“Today, 1 in 10 journalists in Nepal is a woman,” said NPI Director Chiranjivi Khanal. “There is a lot of fear about reporting, as the civil conflict is still fresh in people’s minds, and people are cautious about raising their voices too loud. This is why the focus of this particular training sparked such an interest.”
The UNICEF-supported training programme is intended to encourage journalists to report not only on issues already being covered by the mainstream media – such as politics, violence, crime and infrastructure – but also on issues that are of interest to the reporters themselves.
Women telling women’s stories
“The training has been a real eye-opener for me,” said newspaper reporter from the Bara district, Sonika Fauzdar. “I really thought that ‘news’ meant hard news, but now I perceive that there is a big gap between what I always read about in the media and what I would really like to read about.”
“Anyone can write hard news, but now I feel I can write good features on sensitive and important issues [affecting] women and children,” said Sagarmatha TV correspondent Samundra Poudel.
“And not only as an abstract concept, but I can report on real women and children I know,” she added.
NPI and its affiliate, the Regional Media Resource Centre, are advising the journalists on the content and editing of their stories, while also helping to ensure that the pieces are distributed in the local and national media. As an incentive, NPI will pay the journalists for every story that they successfully publish or broadcast.
“I am now very interested to see if we can create a niche market for reporting about women,” said Radio Chitwan News Chief Mohan Bashyal.
“We believe that within the next eight months or so, the local media might be ready to accept and expect their products,” said Mr. Khanal. “If so, we will have created a demand for woman’s voices telling women’s stories in Nepal over the available media outlets.”
Already, child-friendly stories are starting to be published around the country. From distant Humla, high in the western Himalayas, down to Biratnagar,100 metres above sea level in the far east, the voices of women are telling stories that transcend vast differences in geography, politics and ethnicity across Nepal.