MSSRF announces the 2024 Mina Swaminathan Media Fellows
The Mina Swaminathan Media Fellowship (MSMF) is an annual award given to regional language journalists based in Odisha, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, to encourage grassroots reportage with a gender focus. Every year new dimensions are added to enhance the fellowship experience. This is the fourth year since the Media Fellowship was instituted in 2020.
The 2024 theme for the MSMF is: ‘Water as a gendered issue in India’ and is in line with the UN’s designation – the 2024-25 Biennial theme to achieve the SDGs – ‘Water resources management for the four betters: better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life’.
Water is an essential commodity for sustainable living. The role of women in ensuring household water security as well as for farming or backyard kitchen gardens is well established. Women’s work connected with water is habitually labelled as ‘unproductive’ and grossly undervalued. Thus, a water crisis more often turns out to be a women’s crisis.
For rural women in India, availability of and access to clean water is a perpetual problem. Gender-labour relations as well as class, age, and marital status underpin inequalities related to water collection and usage. Women’s labour, work and time are intertwined with water, particularly in the context of changing climate and water scarcity. These can have a long-term impact on her nutrition, health, and mental well-being.
The journalists are excepted to investigate the interlocking conditions of water from a gendered lens, and tease out stories waiting to be told.
To kick-start the MSMF timeline for 2024, an orientation was conducted as a hybrid event December 19 with MSSRF head office hosting the event. The welcome address was given by Dr GN Hariharan, Executive Director – MSSRF. He introduced the three winners of the year, Ms Indu Gunasekar from Tamil Nadu, Mr Shafeeq Thamarassery from Kerala, and Ms Shatarupa Samantaraya from Odisha, and iterated the significance of the media fellowship instituted in the name of Ms Mina Swaminathan.
Mr AS Panneerselvan, Fellow at Centre for Study in Public Sphere, Roja Muthiah Research Library – Chennai, was the chief guest and provided deeper insight into the role and responsibilities of journalists, while also speaking on the crucial part of verifying data and content before publishing articles.
Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chairperson – MSSRF, in her recorded message to the winners of the Fellowship, explained Ms Mina Swaminathan’s major contributions in the field of gender for MSSRF. She spoke about the significant role media play in highlighting gender-related issues from the grassroots standpoint, especially when it comes to water and natural resources, and also laid out the expectations from the awardees in the end of the Fellowship.
Dr R Rengalakshmi, Director Ecotechnology – MSSRF, shared a few points on the theme, while Dr V Shakeela, Director of MSSRF-CAbC at Wayanad, Kerala, Dr Kartik Lenka, Scientist at MSSRF-BPTAbC at Jeypore, Odisha, made presentations highlighting the gender-water issues and interventions introduced by MSSRF.
Ms Sangeetha Rajeesh, Director, Communications – MSSRF, organised a hands-on activity for the journalists to frame their water-gender stories. Each journalist developed a multi-dimensional story to tease out the interconnected issues for story-telling. Later, the awardees spent time with the respective MSSRF coordinators to plan their stories and visit to the villages.
The Mina Swaminathan Media Fellowship was constituted with the main objective of promoting exchange of ideas between researchers and journalists for stronger science-media partnerships. Ms Mina Swaminathan is known nationally for her contributions towards developing a holistic view on gender equality and child development, including the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). MSSRF began a gendered approach to research and development under her leadership. The Media Fellowship brings the unique opportunity for media persons to adopt a research-based focus when reporting on gender and rural development issues in India. The MSMF is for journalists in three states – Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987.