Adult education is used interchangeably with vocational training or functional literacy, and fewer initiatives integrate women’s empowerment and social transformation within their educational work. Our vision involved and still continues to comprise of enabling greater autonomy for the local women’s leadership, implementing women-centred literacy strategies, and women’s access to entitlements and their rights. Nirantar initiated Sahjani Shiksha Kendra (SSK) in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) in 2002. ‘Sahjani’ in the local language means one who supports women. Nirantar’s SSK programme was broadly aimed at empowering women and adolescent girls through literacy and education, by linking their lived realities to its educational initiatives.
The program activities constituted of literacy centres, residential camps, village-level camps, creation of resource material for neo-literate women and girls, and Janishala, a residential learning space for adolescent Dalit and Tribal girls.In 2013, SSK was registered as an autonomous organisation and Nirantar came into the role of a resource organisation with the program.
Currently, SSK’s literacy and education work in Lalitpur district is spread across 175 villages, covering more than 4,500 women directly (through literacy interventions) and more than 5,500 women indirectly (through MGNREGA and Right to Education activities) belonging to the most marginalised communities including Dalits (Scheduled Castes) and Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes).
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Khabar Lahariya, Bundeli for ‘News Waves’, an eight-page weekly newspaper, began as an eight-page Bundeli newspaper, the first in India; it is available as a multi-lingual print edition in Bundeli, Awadhi and Hindi from 4 districts of Bundelkhand, as well as a digital news channel. These local languages are not commonly seen in their written form, but are mostly only spoken. Khabar Lahariya aims to promote this diversity and use it to reach to rural audiences who rarely ever see or read any content in their local language, the language they use on a daily basis.
The newspaper was conceptualised by Nirantar, in 2002. The idea was born out of a literacy intervention designed by Nirantar, called Mahila Dakiya for Education for Women’s Equality’s residential education programme in Uttar Pradesh. Women who were learners in this programme had expressed their wish to continue writing, thus using and polishing their newly acquired skills. What started as a single hand-written broadsheet transformed into a newspaper, owing to public demand and the willingness of these women to bridge the information gap created by the absence of mainstream media in remote villages.
As of 2016, Khabar Lahariya is the only rural women-run digital news platform in the country, with content by and for viewers in rural areas. It has a monthly viewership of 3,00,000 people through multiple digital platforms and a print edition in Bundelkhand. There are 24 rural women reporters in 8 districts of Uttar Pradesh, reporting on politics, development, culture as well as issues of violence against women with an astute understanding of gender and caste structures within which this violence is situated. The intervention is working on setting itself up as a sustainable independent media model, which will enable the production of rural reporting from all corners of the country. Khabar Lahariya has been featured in the likes of the NYT and the BBC and many others and have won many awards.
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