Twenty-two year old Ambika Raja is at present a trainee reporter with the New Indian Express, Kozhikode, Kerala. She has been wheelchair-bound since 2014, when she sustained a spinal cord injury in an accident. Despite this major set-back that left her paraplegic, she went on to study at the Asian College of Journalism (Chennai) and pursue a career in journalism.
In her own words, “Working as a disabled woman reporter in a place like Kerala, which is not a disabled-friendly state, is a herculean task. Since I can travel only by car and because public transport lacks access, it is impossible for me to go out for daily reporting. Hence I find it slightly difficult to build contacts as I do not often get to meet sources or other journalists in person.”
This year, the NWMI received 16 excellent applications from women journalists from Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir (including Ladakh), Jharkhand, Karnataka and Kerala. Applicants belonged to various minorities, marginalised communities like Adivasis and Dalits, and also represented a range of media forms – print, online, television and radio, many of them living and working in remote areas and in very challenging situations. All of them highlighted the difficulties of pursuing journalism as a career due to gender and other barriers.
Though faced with an extremely difficult task, the NWMI Fellowship Selection Committee unanimously decided to confer this year’s fellowship on Ambika Raja as a tribute to her strength, courage and determination in the face of adversity. As the Committee wrote to her, “We salute your admirable ability to rise above the circumstances in which you found yourself after the accident and to not let your physical disability get in the way of your personal and professional goals. We are inspired by your resolve to pursue a career in journalism despite all the odds.”
The NWMI Fellowship, raised through voluntary contributions from members, consists of a modest annual stipend of Rs. 60,000, as well as professional equipment, if required. The Fellowship also ensures that the recipient becomes part of a nurturing and supportive community of media professionals. Mentoring, including help in the form of contacts with media houses and editors, guidance in pitching story ideas, and sharing of other professional skills, as desired/needed, is an important part of the solidarity and support extended by the network.
Details of the First NWMI Fellowship are here
March 31, 2018