Meet the women transforming journalism in Nepal
Map is based on the version released by the government of Nepal in 2020. The Kalapani region in the northwest is also claimed by India.
A letter from Shanté Cosme, Global Press Chief Content Officer
Back in 2004, Global Press founder and CEO Cristi Hegranes was in Nepal as a foreign correspondent, covering the impact of the country's civil war on women's rights.
Navigating the city with the help of translators provided by the government, she realized just how ill-equipped she was to accurately report on the community’s complexities.
“Not only was I unable to speak to sources directly, many potential sources were unwilling to share their experiences with an outsider. I quickly began to realize the true depth of my lack of access,” Cristi writes of the experience in her forthcoming book, “Byline: How Local Journalists Can Improve the Global News Industry and Change the World." “Beyond my sources, I also lacked access in more fundamental ways: to social, historical and political context. The conflict happening around me was complicated and unfamiliar to anyone outside of Nepal. Everyone had a different version of what had happened before and what would happen next. I felt I was in no position to determine where reality lay.”
"I quickly began to realize the true depth of my lack of access.”
It was a revelation that inspired her to create a new model for journalism — one that focused on local reporters telling the stories of their own communities, rather than foreign correspondents dropping in to deliver yet another context-devoid disaster narrative.
Global Press was founded in 2006, with its first independent news bureau in Chiapas, Mexico. Shortly after, in 2007, Cristi returned to Nepal, the birthplace of the original idea, to launch the second news bureau, and in 2012 added more reporters to its team. Now, 16 years after that bureau launch, we’re further expanding our all-women reporting team into new communities across the country in hopes of offering readers a fresh perspective on the nuance and diversity of the Nepali experience, delivered by the local reporters who are most qualified to tell those stories.
Nepal's history is complex and fascinating, but its international coverage has often fallen short. Many times it’s reductive, focused on political instability, corruption and poverty. Here’s how our reporters are creating a new wave of journalism that aims to change that.
Shanté Cosme, Chief Content Officer
Navigating a Challenging Media Environment
By Sam Nesfield, Director of Global Expansion
Media flourished in Nepal after the country established democracy following the end of a decade-long civil war in 2006. To this day, the vibrant media environment — from news outlets to journalist unions — is fiercely partisan, divided along political party lines, and independent outlets must compete for limited funding. Geographically, news outlets and reporting jobs are concentrated around the capital in the Kathmandu Valley; even fewer independent outlets can afford to operate outside the Valley.
In 2019, we purposefully recruited women from outside Kathmandu Valley to provide local communities outside the capital with access to accurate and independent reporting. Their reporting would also provide a fuller, more accurate picture of life across Nepal for both national and global audiences.
We started training in January 2020. On March 23, 2020, this cohort was halfway through their in-person training when the Nepal government announced strict lockdowns limiting movement of people. Given the physical risk of COVID-19 to our reporters-in-training and the uncertainty about how to navigate given the strict restrictions on movement, we made the difficult decision to pause training. We thought the pause would last for a week or two, maybe a month at the most, but we would suspend all in-person training for two years.
Lockdowns and the pandemic created uncertainty and instability across Nepal. In 2020, many workers returned home to Nepal due to lockdowns across the world. Perceived lack of empathy and action from the government led to nationwide protests in the latter half of 2020. In 2021, continued protests and uncertainty led to the president dissolving Parliament twice within a six-month period.
In the first year of the pandemic, one-third of all journalists in Nepal were laid off. Many who retained their jobs faced significant pay cuts. A number of outlets shut down. Global Press Journal reporter Shilu Manandhar wrote about this challenge: “It’s difficult to quantify what is lost when media outlets shrivel or shut down.” Now more than ever, audiences across Nepal — from Birtamod in the far east to Birendranagar and Nepalgunj in the west — need accurate and independent reporting from reporters living in their communities.
Starting this week, we invite you to learn about the Nepal our reporters Mayamitu Neupane, Chandani Kathayat, Amrita Jaisi, Sunita Neupane and Yam Kumari Kandel live in and experience every day.
Sam Nesfield, Director of Global Expansion
Creating a New Standard for Journalism in Nepal
By Manori Wijesekera, Global Training Manager
Not even a pandemic could hold back these reporters from completing their Global Press training. They waited patiently for training to resume, and when it did, they adapted to the new, virtual training that was offered. They did more than adapt; they thrived. They dove into their online learning, joined all workshop calls and identified unique, local stories to report on as their first published stories for Global Press Journal.
We had a lot of conversations in one training session about story sources. Nepali communities are hierarchical, and reporters shared that the local practice is to always include the opinions of the community or organization leader in the story, even if they know very little about the issue being covered. But at Global Press, we prioritize featuring sources who have experienced the impact of the issue firsthand and who are closest to the truth. So our new reporters had to develop their own ways of navigating this path between local cultural expectations and Global Press principles of news value and accuracy — which they did, drawing out interesting and informative interviews in the process.
Manori Wijesekera, Global Training Manager
Capturing a Compelling Snapshot of Reporters’ Communities
By Dominic Ronzo, Photo Editor
Managing the diverse abilities of a group of new photographers is always a hurdle in training, and this cohort from Nepal was no different. Having different backgrounds and different skill sets, some were familiar with larger cameras and others had only taken photos on their phones.
We’ve made it a priority to train reporters to a standard in photography, to give them equal footing and a strong foundation. We didn’t realize that our Nepal cohort was about to use that foundation as a launch pad to begin expressing themselves so creatively. Their incredible enthusiasm, curiosity and commitment to their training really came to light when they turned in their first photos; they each had such a clear vision. They’ve shown us their individual senses of scale and light, their connection to the place and their ability to express intimate moments through their lenses.
The speed with which they moved from technique to expression is certainly indicative of their commitment to capturing the stories of their communities.
Dominic Ronzo, Photo Editor
Resonating With Local and Global Readers Alike
By Alizeh Kohari, Editorial Coach
Early on in training, as we learned the nuts and bolts of storytelling, Nepal’s new reporting cohort confronted a key question: How do you tell a story that is meaningful to local and global readers? This inaugural batch of reports from across this small South Asian country rises to that challenge, doggedly exploring the consequences of decisions and developments that may have faded from the headlines.
Nepal is globally celebrated for its groundbreaking laws on gender identity but, as our reporter Sunita Neupane investigates, lack of supporting policies has left many transgender students in a bureaucratic impasse.
In Nepalgunj, on the southern border with India, Amrita Jaisi interrogates the region’s much-touted linguistic diversity by examining learning outcomes for children who aren’t Nepali speakers.
In neighboring Karnali province, Chandani Kathayat examines the consequences of rapid urbanization in the new provincial capital of Birendranagar.
In Jhapa, the country’s easternmost district, Mayamitu Neupane finds that farmers are changing what they grow in the face of increasing elephant raids on villages.
And in Kathmandu, returning reporter Yam Kumari Kandel speaks with freshman legislators in Nepal’s new Parliament to ask: Can they change political culture — or will they be co-opted by it?
Alizeh Kohari, Editorial Coach
Meet the Team of Reporters
Originally from Palpa, Sunita is now based in Kathmandu, where she is also a lawyer-in-training. Her reporting reveals a keen eye for accountability and a desire to pursue all sides of a story. “I represent a small South Asian country where the population of women exceeds that of men,” she says. “But the representation of women in journalism is very low.” The rest of the world knows Nepal as a poor and politically unstable country, says Sunita, but she wants to portray its “multiracial, multilingual and multicultural” side.
Based in Nepalgunj, close to Nepal’s southern border with India, Amrita previously worked at a local radio station. A critical thinker with a nose for data-driven articles, she wants to tell stories that capture more than suffering. “I want to tell the unwritten stories of my community,” she says, “stories on education, health, human rights and the environment.”
Based in Birtamod, a municipality in Nepal’s easternmost district, Mayamitu has spent most of her professional life in journalism. Prior to joining Global Press, she was a news reader for local radio — during the start of the coronavirus pandemic, she stayed in the station for three months to ensure listeners were kept up-to-date during the crisis. This desire to serve local audiences drives her reporting. “The world wants to know about a community beyond war, beyond disasters, beyond poverty,” she says, adding that the community in question also wants to know what is happening locally. “Some things are not known even to oneself.”
Chandani has been reporting since she was in school. Based in Birendranagar, capital of Karnali, Nepal’s largest and least populous province, she worked for more than seven years as a reporter at a local news daily before joining Global Press. The western provinces of Nepal are regarded as “living museums” rich in cultural and natural heritage, Chandani says, but she wants to tell stories that move beyond this exotic narrative: on malfunctioning local governments, on increasing domestic violence, on the quest for better access to health care.
Yam Kumari Kandel
Yam divides her time between Kathmandu and Bardiya district in midwestern Nepal. This is her second stint with Global Press: She first joined as a reporter in 2012 and produced award-winning coverage of the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake that devastated vast swathes of the country. Now, she wants to tell stories that will “inform, motivate, amaze and amuse” readers. “I want the world to recognize my community as a place that is positive, energetic, hardworking and on the path to harmony.”