Bangladesh: Salma Sobhan fellowship in journalism for women

BRAC and the Pratichi Trust-Bangladesh founded by Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen, took an initiative to train women from the remote corners of Bangladesh in journalism.
The main purpose of the initiative is to encourage women, particularly from outside the metropolitan centres, to come forward to enter the profession of journalism.
The programme is known as the Salma Sobhan Fellowship in Journalism for Women in rememberance of Salma Sobhan, who was an human rights activist, Executive Director of Ain O Salish Kendro and Board Member of BRAC. Salma was also a Board member of WLUML and is sadly missed.

The first phase of the training programme

Participants of the first batch of the training programme of the Salma Sobhan Fellowship in Journalism for Women, selected from 32 districts of Bangladesh, have completed the first phase of the programme initiated in December 2004 at the BRAC Training and Resource Centre (TARC), Savar. The participants were designated as Salma Sobhan Trainee Fellows and inducted into the programme at an occasion attended by Professor Amartya Sen on 27 December 2004. The same participants are expected to attend the second module of the training workshop, which will commence at TARC from June 5 and will continue till June 13, 2005.

The training includes rigorous practice and study on the concept, ideas and techniques of writing feature reports and articles. Through the first training module, participants worked on their writing skills, at the same time becoming aware of their own weaknesses in writing. For six months following the first training module, the trainee Fellows, under supervision of personnel from BRAC and Prothom Alo, have been engaged in writing features on various issues of the country and society. Many of their articles have already been published in Prothom Alo, while others are yet to be published. However, a few writings were not of a publishable standard. Feedback regarding their journalistic weaknesses was communicated over the phone to the trainees. However, a few field trips were also made by programme Supervisors from BRAC and Prothom Alo to meet the trainee Fellows so as to discuss their problems and find solutions. It was not possible to provide feedback to all the trainee Fellows every month, due to which there were some problems in communicating the feedback to them about their weaknesses in writing. But the trainee Fellows were able to discuss their strengths and weaknesses in writing with journalists from Prothom Alo during their field visits.

The second phase of the training programme

In the second module of training, the trainee Fellows will receive training on the techniques and craft of writing reports and features on various service sectors of the country such as health, education, human rights issues related to women and children in contemporary Bangladesh. The course also includes theoretical and practical training in photojournalism. The first batch of trainees, will on the completion of their training programme and field experience, be graduated, based on the evaluation of their journalistic performance, as Salma Sobhan Fellows, at the end of 2005. A new batch of trainees will be inducted as trainee Fellows into this programme for 2006.

Future course of the programme

The achievements of these trainee Fellows within this short span of time has indeed, been commendable. They have demonstrated exceptional commitment, boldness, creativity and perseverance in pursuing their new vocation. It is expected, given their talent and dedication, that these trainee Fellows will be able to graduate into the profession of journalism in the future. The most promising of the Salma Sobhan Fellows are expected to be offered regular employment by Prothom Alo whilst others are expected to be employed by other national or local papers or to contribute their articles to both Prothom Alo and the media at large. The goal of the Salma Sobhan Fellowship programme, over the next few years, is to train up a sufficient number of women as journalists to a level where they can establish their presence as an important part of the profession of journalism in Bangladesh The writings of the Salma Sobhan Fellows are expected to highlight the major issues of our society but they are particularly expected to give voice and visibility to the concerns of the women and children of Bangladesh. BRAC, Pratichi Trust, and Prothom Alo are committed to stand by these women in the courageous steps that they take towards fulfilling themselves as journalists.