Khabar LahariyaSince 2002, Khabar Lahariya, a newspaper in the northeastern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, has been changing perspectives and advocating for justice. With a team of all women, Khabar Lahariya takes on corrupt authority figures and unjust social systems, fighting for change in the communities it covers and the country overall.

Beginnings

Khabar Lahariya grew out of a literacy program for women. In the program, participants wrote about topics in their communities that mattered to them. When the program came to a close, the women wanted to continue these reading and writing efforts, thus prompting the creation of a weekly newspaper in 2002 called Khabar Lahariya. The paper was in print up until the mid-2010s and then moved online. In 2020, The Story newsletter reported that Khabar Lahariya had grown from 80,000 newspaper readers to around 5 million viewers every month on YouTube. Currently, the new digital news platform has 540,000 YouTube subscribers.

Exposing Social Issues and Injustice

Khabar Lahariya’s staff comes from heavily marginalized groups. All of the staff are women, but they are also Dalits (the lowest social caste in India) as well as Muslims and indigenous Adivasis. By publishing a newspaper, Khabar Lahariya’s staff have resisted oppressive systems and are also able to earn an income by working for the paper. The staff members receive compensation and their ongoing training serves to strengthen the newspaper even further while improving the literacy rate among women.

The digital newspaper provides a way for its staff to expose social issues and injustice. “We expose corruption and the way that public money gets handed around, talking about what kind of welfare schemes are being rolled out, at what point and in what area. How do those actually pan out on the ground?” Disha Mullick, the paper’s co-founder, explained in a 2020 interview with The Story. One of Khabar Lahariya’s most recent stories covers India’s rural employment scheme, which has failed many people, leaving them struggling to get by with little work.

Igniting Change

Additionally, Khabar Lahariya does “a lot of reporting around human rights for gender and caste,” Mullick tells The Story. The paper explores questions such as, “Why do certain crimes have impunity? How does violence against women happen? What exactly does it mean? How does it change?” Khabar Lahariya’s reporting highlights the voices of survivors of violence as well.

The Khabar Lahariya team’s work has resulted in tangible change. People are able to hold their government accountable and demand the services rightfully due to them. Road improvements and school constructions are tangible reflections of this success. Perpetrators of sexual violence face punishment and a cultural shift is forming surrounding sexual violence as people no longer view it as a crime that perpetrators should get away with.

However, not everyone supports Khabar Lahariya’s work. When the paper first began, the women were met with pushback from their husbands. Moreover, women working for Khabar Lahariya face death threats with mobs visiting their houses.

Looking Forward

Despite the challenges, Khabar Lahariya continues to flourish, gaining international attention along the way. In 2014, it won Deutsche Welle’s Global Media Forum Award for its community journalism. Most recently, in 2021, it won the Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation. Also this year, a film about Khabar Lahariya called “Writing With Fire” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary.

Khabar Lahariya’s staff work hard to transform their communities and society as a whole. The film will hopefully spread the word about their continuing efforts. “With this movie coming out, there will be a lot of impact on people,” lead journalist Meera says in the film’s Q&A session with the Sundance Institute. She expresses that the film may bring about negative consequences for Khabar Lahariya, but it may also “have a great impact on the society, because people would know a lot about them, a lot about journalism, and also, the strength that they have.”

– Victoria Albert
Photo: Flickr

Chakabars ClarkeEntrepreneur Chakabars Clarke runs an uplifting and particularly active Instagram feed based in Ghana. His account @chakabars produces content on pan-Africanism, spirituality and education, millennial humor and vegan lifestyle. His content also includes his own first-hand contributions to improving the lives of under-resourced global communities. Although one million Instagram users follow his posts, Clarke asserts that his mission is not about fame or money, and, the sustainable changes he is making prove so. In an interview with Black Entertainment Television (BET), he maintained that his primary objective in creating a media presence was to achieve social justice. Clarke stated, “My overall goal is to try and create as many economies based on abundance, rather than economies that are based on scarcity.” He says further, “I want to get back to us not just trying to build a large Instagram following or building a big business to make money but, rather, build the future of humans.”

5 Successes of Influencer-Activist Chakabars Clarke

  1. Spartanfam. Clarke started Spartanfam after he served four years of active military duty in Iraq. The fitness program aims to promote bodyweight training that gets you fit without the use of expensive equipment. Similar to the content on Clarke’s Instagram account, the site promotes a 100% plant-based lifestyle.
  2. IHeartAfrica. IHeartAfrica is an organization created by Clarke in 2016. Its work is “centered on the promotion of holistic self-sustainable development that creates an environment that is optimal in establishing a thriving community.” IHeartAfrica currently works with schools, orphanages, medical clinics and voluntary organizations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jamaica and Ghana. The organization raises funds that go toward sustainable construction and medical supplies as well as educational, recreational and vocational programs and materials.
  3. Building an Ecovillage. One of Clarke’s projects in progress is the construction of an ecovillage for orphaned children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo living in inadequate conditions in orphanages. On the fundraising page for the ecovillage, Clarke describes how the project was born out of leftover funds raised by IHeartAfrica. He also explains that he bought six acres of land for an ecovillage that will house children from an orphanage and people in the surrounding area.  He states that the orphaned children will eventually inherit the land and the village. Clarke is consistent in his transparency with the allocation of his projects’ funds.
  4. The 2019 Global Good Award. Clarke won BET’s Global Good Award in 2019. The nomination is a recognition of “public figures who use their platform for social responsibility and goodness while demonstrating a commitment to the welfare of the global Black community.” The award is a major achievement for Clarke as it puts him among the ranks of celebrities such as Akon who won the award in 2017.
  5. Fruits n’ Rootz. Clarke started Fruits n’ Rootz with the aim of delivering healthy produce while creating funds for his volunteer projects. The company sources high-quality, sustainably harvested, natural products. Most of the items sold on the online shop are fruits, although, sea mosses and detox teas are also for sale at fruitsnrootz.com. The company also provides nutritional education such as the best fruits for women’s health and the benefits of sea moss. A share of 20% of the company’s profits goes toward IHeartAfrica’s actionable causes.

Clarke’s various contributions and entrepreneurial projects show that he is not just about making a name for himself. Clarke is committed to safeguarding the future of low-income and historically neglected people across the globe. By working to preserve schools and orphanages, build medical centers and improve the lives of people in low-income communities in Africa and elsewhere, Chakabars Clarke proves that being an activist is so much more than just having an online presence.

Eliza Kirk
Photo: Flickr

Zendaya, One of the 5 Influential Young Female CelebritiesHistorical events have underlined the importance people have made when advocating for change. This is especially true with celebrities who have such big platforms to speak up for those unable to. Moreover, female celebrities’ fight for social justice is setting the stage for what has not been said in the past. Here are five mega-influential young female celebrities that have been at the forefront of social justice and activism causes.

Greta Thunberg

Ever since she first skipped school to protest in front of the Swedish Parliament Building, Greta Thunberg continuously inspires an international movement to fight climate change. At just 15 years old, she missed lessons every Friday to go on strike. Greta urged young people around the world to join her cause and strive “to make similar demands in their own countries.”

By December 2018, more than 20,000 students around the world joined her movement. She would continue to embark on other strikes around the world, choosing to travel by train to limit her carbon impact. In September 2019, the U.N. Climate Conference hosted her stop in New York where she spoke on issues regarding climate change and how world leaders needed to do more. Greta has received a multitude of support and was even named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year in 2019.

Millie Bobby Brown

Brown is best known for her role as Eleven in Netflix’s hit show “Stranger Things,” and appears in the new film “Enola Holmes.” In 2018, UNICEF announced the 14-year-old as the youngest-ever Goodwill Ambassador, highlighting her passions regarding social justice issues.

Earlier that year, TIME magazine featured her as one of TIME’s 100 most influential people, making her the youngest person on the list. Her platform gives her the chance to inspire change and lead by example for the younger generation.

Amandla Stenberg

Amandla Stenberg’s activism has been a prominent influence on her acting decisions, coupled with her early rise to fame at age 12. She first appeared as Rue in the hit film “The Hunger Games,” and has also been active on her social media platforms.

Amandla has spoken out about cultural appropriation with a school project Tumblr video, “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows.” She also frequently advocates for human rights, female empowerment and LGBTQ visibility. She received the 2019 Human Rights Campaign Visibility Award and was named TIME’s “Next Generation Leader.”

Yara Shahidi

Starring in ABC’s comedy “Black-ish” and its spinoff “Grown-ish,” Yara Shahidi quickly gained momentum with her stellar performances. She also received prime recognition in the film adaptation of the novel “The Sun is Also a Star.” While accumulating a large social platform, Yara uses her voice to advocate for social change, including feminism and STEM awareness.

In high school, she started her own club that partnered with the Young Women’s Leadership Network, “which provides online mentorship with the goal of ending poverty through education.” Her enrollment to Harvard in 2018, with the goal of double majoring in sociology and African-American studies, garnered Michelle Obama’s support who praised Yara for her social justice advocacy efforts.

Zendaya

Zendaya, a prominent actress who stars on HBO’s hit show “Euphoria,” was recently recognized for her work in the fashion world regarding cultural representation. When working with Tommy Hilfiger to launch Tommy X Zendaya in 2019, Zendaya made it her mission to include more diversity and representation. Zendaya pointed out that, “Everyone needs to be seen and like they are a part of the fashion world. It is much more diverse now, but there can still be more in terms of different shapes, sizes and cultures.”

Whether through film or advocacy, these influential young female celebrities are making the most out of their fame by speaking out against the many injustices that plague society. Their platforms allow them to voice concerns and advocate for the less fortunate. These women may be young, but their voices are anything but small. Watch out for their names, because it goes to show that we will be hearing a lot more from them in years to come.

Natalie Whitmeyer
Photo: Flickr

gender inequality in IndonesiaAs the fourth most populous country in the world, Indonesia continues to battle poverty and conditions of inequality for women. However, Indonesia has made strides in improving access to education for girls. The nation also has one of the highest literacy rates in Asia. Various U.N. programs are promoting women’s access to learning while advancing the benefits of women in Indonesia’s marketplace. Here are many ways in which gender equality in Indonesia is improving.

Women in Politics

Indonesia implemented a democratic system in 1998. Since then they have implemented laws that decrease the inequality gap between men and women. For example, one law requires that political parties be composed of at least 30% of women. 2018 even saw Indonesia’s female finance minister voted Best Minister in the World by the World Government Summit. Women in Indonesia have also been influential in promoting certain bills that grant women more rights. The 2019 sexual violence bill, for example, identifies nine different forms of sexual harassment all of which would be made illegal. Discussion of this topic is taboo in some social settings in Indonesia, which makes support for this bill by women crucial.

Grassroots Movements

Women activists and Indonesian civil society organizations (CSOs) have played a role in breaking away social norms regarding inequality. With international support, these CSOs have impacted 900 villages over 27 provinces. This has positively affected more than 32,000 women from more than 1,000 groups in 2018. At the village level, these organizations promote women’s involvement in decision-making and focus on reducing violence against women.

Economic Empowerment

In 2019, U.N. Women launched an online learning platform that aims to empower women business owners called WeLearn. The platform offers free curricula to women entrepreneurs. WeLearn also provides access to lessons from industry experts and fellow women entrepreneurs.

A 2018 study of Women Empowerment Principles in the top 50 companies in Indonesia found that there was a minimum of one woman on every board of at least 84% of the companies that participated in the survey. These companies have also implemented initiatives to empower women in the workplace.

Access to Education

Access to education in Indonesia is also improving for girls. Indonesia has one of the highest literacy rates for women among Asian countries, with 99.7% of women ages 15–24 literate in 2018. By 2019, almost every child in Indonesia attended school at the elementary level. In fact, there were slightly more female students enrolled than male students. Furthermore, females were shown to do better than males.

Looking Forward

Intergovernmental organizations are also promoting gender equality in Indonesia. For example, the UNDP Indonesia Gender Equality Strategy and Action Plan 2017-2020 is committed to addressing four aspects of gender equality in Indonesia:

  • Empower women to achieve a better standard of living and sustainable employment
  • Work with local groups to grant women better healthcare access
  • Support the involvement of women in the sustainable use of natural resources
  • Improve access to responsible and fair public institutions, especially for women who are in more vulnerable situations

Overall, conditions of gender equality in Indonesia are improving through the involvement of women in politics and grassroots organizations. This is especially possible with the support of international organizations like the United Nations. Continued efforts to empower women entrepreneurs and communicate the benefits of women in the marketplace are essential to realizing greater economic benefits and achieving greater gender equality in Indonesia.

– Anita Durairaj

Photo: Wikimedia