– The only way to become a powerful nation is to start empowering your women.
These words come from Nandini Sahai from India, a woman who has been working as a journalist with focus on human development for more than 30 years.
Already as a child she knew she wanted to be a journalist and report about the injustices in the world.
– Very few women were journalists in India 35 years ago when I started to work. The women who were working with media only got to report about beauty shows and so on but I refused. Fortunately I got a job at the Press Institute of India where we worked with human development. During that time I was the editor of a paper called “Grassroots” as well:
– For me journalism is not a profession, it’s a mission.
Today Nandini Sahai is the coordinator of the South Asian Women’s Network (SWAN) on Women in Media. The network brings together female journalists from nine countries in South Asia and together they identify best practices and agree upon plans of action to put women’s concerns on the agenda. The women in the network thereafter reach out to their own networks in their own country.
– We also put up recommendations on our websites and send it to the governments.
According to Nandini Sahai, the three most urgent things to write about as a journalist in South Asia right now are:
– It is very important to write about human security and terrorism. Where there is terrorism, women and children are most affected. We need to write more about these kinds of things from a human security point of view.
– Most countries in South Asia have high drop-out rates from schools, especially Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal. There is so much poverty that the women are not allowed to study. But if you educate a woman – you educate a whole family, if you educate a boy – you educate only him.
Nandini points out education as a crucial factor for empowerment:
– We cannot only blame men for everything. As a woman you should know and use your rights as well. Here in India we have great laws but 90 % of the women are not aware of them, and even if we are aware of them we are not forcing anyone to implement them. That is something that could be solved with education.
Health and sanitation
– There was a minister in India who said that there are more cell phones than toilets in this country and actually that is a fact. There are villages in India where women go to the fields only before sunrise and after sunset. This means that they are not going to any toilet during the whole day and this leads to a lot of health problems.
The South Asian Women’s Network is a great example of how it is possible to work to achieve great impact with minimum resources. There are today eight SWAN networks working with women in peacemaking, environment, health, nutrition, micro-credit, arts and literature, crafts and textiles and food security.
Check out their website here.