The US Consulate General and Kolkata-based NGO Jabala Action Research Organisation’s organised an interactive session “Amplifying girls: adolescent girls write media reports on their communities” where seven young girls shared their published stories about their communities in Najare Khabar, a paper they own.

The keynote speaker of the occasion was American activist and professor, Geraldine Forbes, State University of New York Oswego. 

“The plights of these remote communities are not being covered by mainstream newspapers. These girls thus try to grow awareness among people by reporting on their communities,” said Baitali Ganguly, founder-director, Jabala.

The organisation is active throughout West Bengal in districts like Murshidabad, Birbhum, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, North 24 Parganas and Kolkata. A visual montage showed how they are groomed as budding reporters and covering stories around their localities. The zeal was strong enough to be communicated without words, just by backdrop music.

Each story was unique about their coverage of events, but they repeatedly hit the audience with the grave insecurity of life that looms dark over women in remote villages. There were stories of women being threatened of assault, woman sold to a trafficker for father’s failure to repay loan, lack of teachers in Anganwadi centre causing children to become dropouts, propping up of illegal hooch stores behind the facade of a tea shop making it impossible for girls to walk freely in that area.

The Anganwadi story by Rabia Khatoon from Hariharpara, Murshidabad had a silver lining as the centre appointed a teacher after the story was published.

Pertinent questions were raised regarding the safety of these girls since they have to face all the challenges.  The remarkable struggle of the girls pushed the audiences’ curiosity to know more about them. When asked what their closed ones felt about their activities, they said that the neighbours and families used to be skeptic at first but now they are more supporting. One of the girls Prinska, was passionately affirmative and strongly established, “I am saying that I will continue doing this, whatever come may, with all the confidence”. 

Forbes gave a presentation on how media has only sensationalised children’s stories by focusing on negative coverage about them.

“Opinions of children should be heard and they must be considered participants and beneficiaries of information revolution. Young journalists can decipher their psychology and bring a change. Jabala is unique in its world focus. I am hopeful about the current scenario of women in India and it is thrilling to see their confidence and passion,” said Forbes.