From being ignored at press events to being pushed into a corner, the professional life of a woman journalist is not easy. As more indigenous women join the media, Adivasi Awaaz creator Kamal Jamatia, asks them about their journey and challenges.
Suparna Jamatia (23) first started making videos as a teenager to record her poems. She wanted to eventually become a journalist but didn't think it would be possible since she didn't speak fluent English. Today, however, she is working as a reporter and host for a Tripuri channel called Kok Khorang and is promoting local stories in her own language of Kokborok.
Suparna says that she loves to meet people and listen to their stories. "I prefer to be out in the field rather than stay in the studio," she says. Suparna produces features on issues such as government policies and city municipal works. She also regularly conducts talk shows with politicians, artists, and celebrities. “Joining journalism has opened my eyes to local issues and challenges. It has also taught me my language. Today I am much better equipped to use words and phrases that I didn’t know earlier,” she says.
Over the last one decade or so, Tripura has caught up with the booming media industry. It has kept pace with the digitization of traditional media and has quickly created a dynamic culture of disseminating news especially in the local language of Kokborok. This has meant that news represent the issues and challenges of indigenous people who do not speak Hindi or English.
With the growth of news channels, there has been a simultaneous increase in the number of women joining the profession. Other than Suparna Jamatia, another journalist with a similar name, Suparna Debbarma, also works at Kok Khorang. She joined journalism because she wanted to highlight the lives and culture of the indigenous people living in the state who call themselves “Borok”, “Tiprasa”, and Tripuri. Through her work she covers various events that keep happening in the state.
Tripura’s first electronic media channel was Kok Tripura, which was established in 2014 by Kamal Kalai. During those days the number of women reporters was less. Over the last few years many new channels have been started. Now there are six channels in total–Kok Tripura, Kok Khorang, Khumpui, Rising Tripura, Dangaur TV and Gomati TV that broadcasts news in Kokborok. Other than these, many Youtube channels have come up. This has created a platform for Adivasi women to take up the mic and bring stories from the villages.
Sushila Debbarma is a veteran journalist who works with Kok Tripura channel. She says that she struggled a lot in her initial days as she was one of the few women working in the media as a reporter. “In those days the number of indigenous reporters, irrespective of gender, was less. I decided to join journalism so I could raise issues that other channels were not raising.”
Sushila adds that one has to have a very thick skin in journalism, especially if they are women. “Lots of people will be critical of your choice of profession and will try to dissuade you from your work. You need to be deaf to such criticisms and put in your best work,” she says.
Suparna Jamatia agrees that it is a rough world for women journalists in general. “Many times I am sent to events where only men are present. People ignore me or push me to a corner. However, I try my best to collect information for our viewers,” she says.
Maybe these struggles by the indigenous women journalists of Tripura will pave the way for more women to enter the industry and tell stories about Adivasi lives and culture.
About the author: Kamal Jamatia is the Editor-in-Chief of Kok Khorang channel. He initially started his career as a blogger and video editor. Kamal enjoys writing articles on Jamatia traditions and on the latest trends happening around him.