reporter Aarefa Johari on Tuesday won the 2021-22 Journalism for an Equitable Asia Merit Award for her article on Jharkhand women workers. The award was given by research institute Asia Centre and non-profit group Oxfam.

Johari won the award for her story titled, “The migrant workers who never went back”, which is a part of’s Common Ground series.

The story details how the countrywide lockdown imposed in March 2020 to combat the coronavirus pandemic broke the spirits of Jharkhand women, who had migrated for work, dreaming of independent lives.

Johari interviewed 18 such women, who were confined to their hostels after their work was halted due to the lockdown.

“They were given little or no help in finding their ways home,” Johari wrote. “They were essentially prisoners, and most of those who reached home only managed to because they were rescued by activists and government officials.”

The article is written in the background of decline in the number of women in the Indian workforce.

Barely 26% of Indian women aged 15 and above were part of the paid workforce in 2005, and that number had fallen to 21% by 2019. In China, by comparison, 61% of women were engaged in paid work in 2019, while 54% of Japan’s women were in the workforce that year.

The Equitable Asia Merit Award recognises the work of journalists who have written “on the threat of inequality to the lives and livelihoods of disadvantaged groups including women, ethnic, religious and gender minorities, and migrant and informal workers”, according to Asia Centre.

Johari has worked as a journalist for over 12 years, covering various beats, including gender, labour, urban development, communities and culture. She has been with for the last eight years.

In 2016, she was awarded the Laadli Media and Advertising Awards for Gender Sensitivity for her story on Indian sportswomen speaking up about menstruation. She also won the 2018 Shriram Award for Excellence in financial journalism.

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