Bahini Darbar is not your usual newspaper with a social focus. Usha, Janmawati, Nirmala, Gudia, Savita, Sushma and Rachna do not fit the description of a journalist either.
Members of the Bahini Darbar group show a copy of their newsletter 'Bahini Darbar' (HT Photo)
Yet, they are.
These seven women of Dabhoura in Rewa, Madhya Pradesh, bring out a monthly newsletter, writing about issues of the surrounding villages and actively participating in getting the problems resolved, too.
Edited by Usha and handwritten by Janmawati, the six-year-old newsletter is photocopied and the 100 copies are distributed among carefully chosen groups in different villages and to officials in government departments and police, for Rs. 10, each. A few copies are also handed to local journalists.
Though the script is Devnagari, most of the articles are written in the local Bagheli dialect, establishing an immediate connect with the readers.
"The idea was generated six years ago after a Dalit woman was badly humiliated for trying to draw water from a public well. We found out during the episode that unless there is united fight against such things, nothing is achieved," said Usha, also a resident of Dabhoura.
She said since then the women decided to come out with regular newsletters highlighting different issues that are taken up with various groups -- mostly women in different villages.
The group has been able to include around 700 women of 87 panchayats of Java block in its network. "We have been able to get ration cards for women, pending wages under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) paid, taken up issues of land rights and pension, and so on," Usha said.
The focus is on getting land and other financial rights for women, including ration cards, in their names. "The local authorities help us in resolving issues."
The venture is not commercial and neither has the newsletter been registered.
"Our sole aim is to highlight the issues of the rural people, mostly women and get as many of them resolved as possible," said Usha.