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PANOS INSTITUTE, INDIA AND THE MEDIA FELLOWSHIP PROGRAMME ON DALIT WOMEN’S HEALTH AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Panos Institute, India is a unique organization that straddles the worlds of media and civil society.  Its vision is to make societies inclusive, democratic and just. It works through the media to renegotiate power by enabling diverse opinions, ideas and theories to be included in the debate on governance and development.
Panos India is a country office for Panos South Asia that forms part of a global family of Panos Institutes subscribing to common goals.  It was started in 1998 with a programme of media fellowships on Gender, Sexual Health and Women’s Rights. This fellowship programme ran for six years, by which time the Institute also did substantive work in the fields of Media Pluralism, Globalisation, Environment, Public Health and Conflict Resolution.
As the media fellowships drew to a close, Panos felt that the most affected and doubly oppressed by both caste and patriarchy, namely Dalit women, needed exclusive focus. This book is a result of that focus, containing the best of the fellowships on Dalit Women’s health and human rights, perspectives from eminent writers on Dalit issues and the work of academics engaging with the subject.
It is edited and introduced by Dr Imrana Qadeer, who is not only on the Panos India board, but has also remained on the panel of advisors for the Gender Fellowship programme right from its inception. This book would not have been possible without the contribution of the Panelists in selecting, training and assisting the journalists through their work.  Besides Dr Qadeer, the panel for the Dalit Women Health and Rights Fellowship comprised of Ms Manimala, Ms Urvashi Butalia, Ms Kalpana Sharma, Professor Kancha Illiah and Panos South Asia’s Executive Director, Mr. A S Panneerselvan.
The panelists and Panos staff made a careful selection of 21 journalists India wide through two cycles of Fellowships, provided them intensive training and exposure to the subject, supported them through their research with both expert guidance and financial assistance and helped them contextualise and frame their work. While a number of women formed part of the Fellowships, the paucity of Dalit journalists was revealing.
The journalists then produced five research-based features in their respective media publications and one long, investigative piece, the best of which find inclusion in this book. The project was supervised and executed by the Panos India Country Director, Ms Mitu Varma with the support and coordination of Mr Danny Geevaghese and Ms Tungshang Ningreichon.
In Dr Qadeer’s words, “ Being part of this process has been an enriching experience…..This process brought out the complexity of the issue of Dalit women’s health and rights, which requires deep insight and sensitivity towards structural, social, economic, cultural, gender and technological constructs to understand the well-being and collective rights of the most marginalized. For this reason, other than the journalists who were awarded the Fellowships, we decided to invite scholars engaged in Dalit studies or those engaged in evolving a comprehensive vision of health, especially of the marginalized. These scholars agreed readily and were spontaneous in their support. This has helped in creating a thin cloud over the blinding glare of “India Shining” with a silver lining that helps see things otherwise not visible, and contributes towards making better ideological and strategic choices in the future.”
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