Newspaper by rural Indian women wins UN literacy award

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A newspaper produced entirely by women in rural India is among the four winners of this year's Literacy Prizes awarded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Khabar Lahariya, the fortnightly newspaper distributed to more than 20,000 readers in Uttar Pradesh, is entirely created and marketed by newly literate “low caste” women who are training as journalists in Chitrakoot and Banda districts. The King Sejong Literacy Prize was given to this fortnightly paper, started by Nirantar – a centre for gender and education based in New Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. In 1989, the UNESCO'S King Sejong Literacy Prize was instituted by South Korea. It is named after Sejong the Great of the 14th century who created the Korean alphabet Hangul and is remembered for his contribution to education in the areas of science, technology and literature. Each winner is awarded US$20,000.

Nirantar has developed a method of training women as journalists, which involves developing their literacy skills as well as honing their reporting abilities. This includes talking to public figures, gathering information and sharpening their editing skills. The coverage of Khabar Lahriya includes politics, crime, social issues and entertainment for their readership that spans 400 villages in both districts of India's most populous state. The publication began in May 2002 in Chitrakoot and a second edition was launched in the adjoining Banda district in October 2006, according to the NGO's website. It is written in the local dialect Bundeli for its Bundelkhandi readership. The theme for this year's awards was 'Literacy and Empowerment' and the laureates were proclaimed by UNESCO Director-General Ko chiro Matsuura on the recommendation of an international jury.

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