Scroll.in’s Aarefa Johari wins Chameli Devi Jain Award
Since 1981, the award has recognised women reporters who have upheld standards of excellence in journalism through a sustained body of work.
Scroll.in reporter Aarefa Johari has won the Chameli Devi Jain Award for Outstanding Woman Mediaperson 2021.
Since 1981, the award, administered by the Media Foundation, has recognised women reporters who have upheld standards of excellence in journalism through a sustained body of work. In 2015, Scroll.in’s Executive Editor Supriya Sharma had won the Chameli Devi Jain Award.
A three-member jury, comprising journalists Nirupama Subramanian from The Indian Express, Ashutosh from news website Satya Hindi and writer Githa Hariharan, in a statement on Monday said that Johari’s work “shone through with its combination of meticulous reportage, humanism and empathy, all reflecting a high order of journalistic excellence”.
Harish Khare, chair of the Media Foundation, added that Johari’s reportage is an “outstanding example of a journalist’s everyday privilege to help society demand fairness and justness”.
Johari has written several in-depth reports on gender and labour that have been published under Scroll.in’s Common Ground project.
She conducted an investigation into India’s worst offshore disaster that had led to the tragic death of 86 workers off the coast of Mumbai in May. She nailed down how a maze of companies, including government-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, had prioritised profits over the safety of workers, leaving hundreds in the path of Cyclone Tautkae.
Johari’s report systematically exposed the way outsourcing and contractualisation in the offshore sector had blurred the lines of accountability and compromised workers’ safety.
In several of her stories, Johari has also sensitively and insightfully examined continuing injustices at the intersection of gender and labour.
In Gujarat, she investigated how patriarchy persisted even when land ownership was transferred to women farmers.
In Jharkhand, she reported on women factory workers who had defied their families to take up employment in Tamil Nadu’s textile industry, only to find themselves stranded during the coronavirus lockdown. The trauma led to many of them dropping out of the paid workforce. In March, Johari had won the 2021-22 Journalism for an Equitable Asia Merit Award for this article. The award was given by research institute Asia Centre and non-profit group Oxfam.
In Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, she looked at how the crucial work of women anganwadi workers, who are at the frontlines of India’s battle against malnutrition, was being derailed by a poorly designed technological intervention – a mobile app – that the central government had imposed on them as part of its flagship Poshan Abhiyan.
Throughout the year, Johari found newer, compelling ways to shine light on the struggles of working-class Indians.
She wrote about how the privatisation of municipal services in Mumbai had resulted in sanitation workers being absurdly declared “volunteers”. Not only were they robbed of their rightful wages, some of them were arrested and jailed because they had protested.
In a deeply insightful report, published on the fifth anniversary of demonetisation, she had traced the differential impact of the recent economic upheavals in India on the formal and informal sectors, through the story of the diamond dust industry in Mumbai.
In 2016, Johari 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.
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 Scroll.in for the last eight years.
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