Rural women from Uttar Pradesh win International Literacy Prize

By Betwa Sharma, IANS,

United Nations : Khabar Lahariya, a newspaper run by rural women in Uttar Pradesh, has won the United Nations International Literacy Prize.

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Khabar Lahariya is produced and marketed by rural women from marginalised Dalit, Kol and Muslim communities in Chitrakoot and Banda districts of India’s most populous state.

The King Sejong Literacy Prize was given by the United Nations Education and Social Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to this fortnightly paper, started by Nirantar, a centre for gender and education, which is based in 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 -science, technology and literature. Each winner is awarded 20,000 dollars.

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 includes politics, crime, social issues and entertainment for their readership of over 25,000 people that spans 400 villages in both districts.

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 NGOs website. It is written in the local language of Bundeli for its Bundelkhandi readership.

The second King Sejong Literacy Prize went to an NGO working in Burkina Faso in West Africa. Other literacy programs in Asia scooped up more awards.

The two UNESCO Confucius Prizes supported by China, established in 2005, have been given to education projects being implemented by SERVE a British NGO working in Afghanistan, and the Municipal Literacy Coordinating Council operating in the municipality of Agoo in the Philippines. The winners get 20,000 dollars.

The ministry of education in Bhutan received an honourable mention from the Jury of the Confucius prize for its emphasis on literacy as part of the country’s “Gross National Happiness.”

The awards will be presented at UNESCO is Paris on Sep 8, which is also International Literacy Day.