Thursday, November 24, 2011
In Nepal there's a woman working as a journalist. Is that special? Yes, it sure is. Women having a job are rare in the male-dominated society of Nepal, and not without a reason. Despite the murder of journalist Uma Singh, many death threats and physical violence, Manika Jha (23) is still working as a journalist. She is determined to make a difference for women in Nepal, by reporting on their harsh living conditions. “My mother inspired me to do this. Initially she suggested that I should join the military or the police, but I thought I could achieve more as a journalist.”

Manika Jha is in Europe to call attention to the bad circumstances women live in outside the capital region in Nepal. “Most foreign donors focus on the city of Kathmandu, supporting people who are already in a good position. But it is the people in the rural areas that need help most.”

Jha is living and working in the southern region of Taraji, where women are forced to stay indoors or else risk violent atrocities. Jha is reporting on these atrocities and the daily violence against women to help end the impunity of the perpetrators. Jha: “On paper the law is clear about the protection of womens rights, but in reality the law is not enforced and etrators of violence go unpunished.” In a case of an arranged mariage, a woman was poisened and hanged by her inlaws, because of a dissappointing dowry. The publications of Jha and other reporters on this case created a stir in the community and the perpetrators were jailed or chased away.

During her visit to Free Press Unlimited she also discusses the state of the media in Nepal. “Independent coverage is rare in Nepal and the media too only focus on Kathmandu, while the region of Nepal needs drastic attention.” Jha started her career at Kantipul Daily, the biggest newspaper of Nepal. She was the only female reporter when she decided to quit this prestigious job after yet another incident of sexual initmidation. “In the end I only communicated by phone with my editor in chief, because because every time I came into the office, I ran the risk of being assaulted by my own colleagues” Jha now works as a freelancer for various newspapers including Rajadhani Daily.

Her work has led to many death threats and physical attacks on Jha in public and in her house. “The ones that do this are usually the people I write about, who after publication kick down my door and threaten me.” At the moment she is accompanied by volunteers from Peace Brigades International to protect her when at work. Without this protection she is constantly in danger. “Authorities remain sensitive to international attention. When the international community forgets about me, I am no longer safe."