Sharmila is a trained journalist who also serves as the treasurer of
the Nepal Society of Co-operative Journalists. We spoke to her to find
out more about the co-operative movement in Nepal and her role as
a co-operative journalist …
How did you get involved in the co-op movement in Nepal?
My engagement in the co-operative movement started when I began working as a co-operative journalist. I am still in this profession, basically doing journalism for the mainstream media. Currently, I am working as a business coordinator for Nepalsamaya.com, which covers news from various segments such as politics, sports, business and society. It has been a decade since I have been involved in business journalism. I am covering issues related to business and economics including those of the co-operative sector.
It is worth being in the co-operative movement. During the early days of my career, when I was working for the National News Agency covering crime and business-related reporting, I came in touch with Mr Yadav Humagain, who had been working in the Karobar National Daily, a popular economic daily in Nepal. I was inspired by him – he was the only person reporting on the co-op sector for Karobar National Daily.
One day he said to me: “We are creating the Co-operative Journalists Association of Nepal (CJAN). This organisation will be working with the co-operative movement, raising awareness about anomalies of the sector and lobbying and advocating for their issues and to encourage the implementation of co-operative policies. This organisation will work to bridge the co-operative movement and government bodies.”
I thought that will be a great role because we, as journalists, are like a bridge between government, the movement and the people. So, I decided to join the team of founding members of CJAN.
Since then, I have been actively working in the co-operative movement. Currently, I hold the position of the treasurer in the CJAN. We raise issues, discuss, provide a platform for the co-operative movement to take their problems, advocate and lobby movement issues through the news to build pressure to the government to address the movement’s genuine issues.
Can you tell us more about co-operative journalism in Nepal?
In Nepal there are three independent co-operative publications: sahakarikhabar.com, an online portal, and Sahakarisanchar and Bartamansahakari, two monthly magazines.
Independent co-operative publications in Nepal do not have a long history – they were set up less than 10 years ago. They were recently introduced to the domestic co-operative market. Still, they are in an unhealthy competition with publications belonging to co-operative institutions.
The time will come when the movement will grow even more and many co-operators will feel an urgency to support independent co-op publications as many problems have surfaced within the sector. A number of co-operatives have misused their members’ money. Distortions were increasing in the co-operative sector but no one raised their voice against this because the co-op magazines were acting like PR publications. So some journalists decided to start co-op publications to step up their efforts to challenge the movement. They thought that if an independent publication was established, it would publish news about distortion happening within the sector. Mainstream media do not give much more attention to the co-op sector as they don’t prioritise the sector’s news and instead focus on others matters. This is why there is a need for separate co-op publications.
How can these publications be read? Who are their members?
The existing magazines publish material in the Nepali language but they are looking to in the English language as well. Their members are from co-operative institutions across the country. Likewise, ministries of co-operatives, the department of co-operatives and over 6.5 million members of co-ops are among their regular readers. These co-op publications are trying to reach out to large number of co-op members.
What does a regular day look like for you?
I usually meet different stakeholders to collect news. Due to the ongoing threats posed by the pandemic, we need to consider safety measures including social distancing. As journalism is my passion, I feel quite fresh when I start my work. I have a faith in co-ops and I take it as a social work too. ‘If you want to go fast you should go to alone, if you want to go far you have to go with a group.’ I want to go far, that’s why I chose co-operative journalism. When I start to write about co-ops, I feel so happy because the sector embraces poor people and I feel pleased to raise a voice on behalf of the people from underprivileged groups and to put my efforts into securing justice for them.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your work?
Many print publications have closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are also suffering from this pandemic. Many media don’t get adverts from businesses that are now are crippled by the long lockdown. Co-op publications have been facing similar problems and the earnings of co-operative members have also been affected. They are having a hard time managing their daily work. Somehow the co-op publications have managed to still run their print products and news portals.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to do the best I can in my journalism career. I am committed to devoting more time for the co-operative because it mainly incorporates the members from poor families. I would feel much more privileged if I could contribute something from my side to uplift their livelihoods.