The Women’s Solutions Reporting Award showcases journalists and documentarists who report on inspirational stories of women who make a difference in the global south

When Sanket Jain, an Indian journalist, started following accredited social health activists, known as ASHAs, on WhatsApp five years ago, he was intrigued by the statuses they posted each day. Things like, “You have to reveal the pregnancy to us”, or “Reach out to any healthcare worker”. He soon learned that the ASHAs were using WhatsApp to fight myths that are still very common in rural India – and to improve women’s lives.

The myths were deep-rooted and, in different ways, damaging. Village women thought they should not reveal their pregnancy to anyone at least for the first three or four months. Or that if they ate dark food, they would give birth to a dark child. Some believed that pregnant women shouldn’t leave their house for nine months, preventing them from consulting a doctor.

It took some time for Sanket to gain the trust of women who had been helped by the ASHAs, but he eventually was able to publish a story based on their experiences in the MIT Technology Review: How Indian health-care workers use WhatsApp to save pregnant women. When the story came out, ASHAs thanked him, because only then did they realise how important their job was. As a result, many became more active on WhatsApp. That kind of motivation is vital: There’s only one ASHA for every 1 000 people, overseeing more than 70 health-care tasks, and most of their work is unpaid.

Sanket’s story was rejected by 20 media outlets before the Technology Review took it, but his perseverance inspired other initiatives, including a Chatbox to help rural healthcare workers fight misinformation. He also received a call from the former communications director of WhatsApp India, who offered to organise a workshop with ASHAs on how to better use WhatsApp.

Sanket Jain is the winner of the Women’s Solutions Reporting Award, part of the One World Media Awards, which aim to celebrate reporting on the global south. Sponsored by the European Investment Bank and Plan International, the Women’s Solutions Reporting Award celebrates stories of girls and women who have successfully overcome challenges – so that they can better access education, jobs and healthcare, or address the impact of climate change and protect the environment.

>@Farhana Haider
© Farhana Haider

Space for ideas that make lives better

For her People Fixing the World podcast episode titled Jobs for Girls, senior BBC journalist Farhana Haider introduced us to Jamila Mayanja, who set up the ‘Girls with Tools’ project in Uganda to help train girls in careers from mechanical engineering and welding to carpentry and construction – jobs traditionally done by men. She also took us to Barefoot College in India where reporter Chhavi Sachdev talked to the trainers who help teach low-income women from around the world how to work with solar technology.

“I chose these stories to highlight how women are not only identifying problems but are also finding their own solutions in successful and innovative ways.”, says Farhana. “The news is often dominated by disasters and conflicts and other tragic events and political turmoil.  I think it’s important to reframe the story and focus on what people are doing to respond to these challenges. To give space to the solutions and ideas that are making lives betters.”

In Uganda, 34% of girls are married before their 18th birthday – and 7% before the age of 15. So a career and financial independence changed the lives of the teenage girls interviewed by Farhana.

Farhana’s podcast showed the determination of all these girls to hire other women and empower them, in turn. The girls were very much aware that when they have an income, they also have independence and more freedom.

This podcast episode had a positive impact for Jamila who received many messages from people interested in her organisation. She even received $10 000 from a woman in New Zealand to fund more classes in Uganda.

“Women everywhere, but particular in the global south, face hardships simply because of their gender,” says Farhana. “The extraordinary women from Smart Girls Uganda and Solar Mamas are overcoming barriers, coming up with their own solutions and trying to make the world a fairer place for women. It was a real pleasure to give these women a platform where they could tell their own stories in their own words.”

>@Carmina Balaguer
© Carmina Balaguer

Teachers and cultural workers in the mountains

Carmina Balaguer worked for six years as freelancer in Argentina for National Geographic and other media outlets. For three years, she was a Latin America correspondent for US media outlet The Daily Brief. She lived for a year in Quebrada de Humahuaca, a UNECSO site in the Jujuy province, working on stories about women. There she met a mobile cinema team that used a van to bring cinema to rural schools in high-altitude valleys. When the team decided to take a 20-hour journey on foot in difficult conditions to reach the least-accessible schools higher in the valleys, she decided to film it.

“I fell in love with the project, so I travelled with them for six months,” says Carmina. “I was so amazed by this story that I told them I would do a movie about it. And that's how La pantalla andina (The Andean Screen) started.”

Carmina worked on a script and searched for a main character for her movie, which she produced without any support from media or production companies. She had to create her team and work with the constraints of high altitude (4 500 metres above sea level). Finally, she had to develop a distribution strategy.

The documentary has been selected in 30 festivals in 2022 and 2023, receiving six awards. It has also been broadcast on Catalan public television in Spain.

Since her filming, an Argentinean social foundation has installed Wi-Fi in the remote Yaquispampa community. The governor of the local province agreed to transport a fridge by helicopter to the community.

A screening was organised as part of the documentary’s selection in the 8th Festival Internacional de Cine de las Alturas de Jujuy. “La pantalla andina” opened the festival and then the festival organised a second screening that attracted many retired teachers and their children. At the end, some children confessed that they finally understood what their mothers had gone through to provide schooling in the distant villages.

“There will never be enough stories like this,” says Carmina. “It is important to distribute local stories. The Women’s Solutions Reporting Award fits with the mission of the documentary – to entertain, but also to create a broad and a local impact. The Award highlights the characters from the movie and all the many women that work like these characters.”

Carmina published a report in National Geographic España, in which she showcases testimonies from her research for “La pantalla andina”. She is also writing a book about six indigenous leaders from Jujuy, which will be published by Libros del K.O.