Shreya Raman

Country/area: India

Organisation: IndiaSpend

Organisation size: Small

Cover letter:

I am an independent data journalist reporting on gender, health and public policy. My journalistic career began in May 2017 when I joined Mirror Now, a TV news channel after finishing my post-graduate diploma from Asian College of Journalism.

After working for a year as a producer at Mirror Now, I joined IndiaSpend, a data journalism initiative that covers public policy issues. During my three-year stint at the digital non-profit , I wrote several longform reports on gender, health and employment, in addition to managing data projects and creating data visualisations for the website.

My interest in data journalism began with the classes that Rukmini S–one of the most prominent data journalists in India–conducted at ACJ. Her classes formed the foundation to my approach to data and imbibed in me the importance of looking at data critically and reporting on them with nuance. At IndiaSpend, I was further able to nourish my interests in analysing and writing on data with active support and guidance from former editor Samar Halarnkar, deputy editor Karthik Madhavapeddi and my colleagues.

In September 2019, I was selected as a finalist for the Impact Journalism Grant for a report on land rights of women farmers in India.In 2021, I was selected for three fellowships. The first one is a data journalism fellowship organised by Tableau Foundation and Equal Measures 2030 for which I wrote on an indepth report on how climate change is exacerbating violence against women. The second fellowship, organised by Rising Flame and Behanbox, is a reporting fellowship on issues of violence against women and trans persons with disabilities. In December 2021, I was also selected for the Global Nutrition and Food Security Fellowship by the International Center for Journalists. For the fellowship, I will be collaborating with a journalist from Kenya for a story on urban agriculture.

Description of portfolio:

My portfolio includes 5 longform stories that I reported and wrote in 2021. While these stories do not share a common topic, they all aim to hold the government accountable by making data the crux. The first story in my portfolio tries to ascertain the progress made by state governments and companies in setting up creche facilities in offices. The article, written four years after an amendment mandating these creches, found that only 2 of the 28 state governments have notified rules and compliance is low.

In April 2021, after the Indian government expanded COVID-19 vaccination to everyone above the age of 45, multiple state governments started reporting a vaccine shortage. While the central government denied any shortage, my co-writer Kriti Kapur and I analysed vaccination rates and earlier central government statements on vaccine availability to prove that the existing stock would not have lasted longer than a few days. In May 2021, the central government, while expanding the vaccination drive to include all adults, announced that state governments would have to procure the vaccines for those between the ages of 18 and 44. My colleague Shreehari Paliath and I analysed state government budgets, projected population figures and rates of COVID-19 vaccines and found that India’s poorest states might have to spend as much as 30% of their health budgets, adding to their debts. We also found how the central government had allocated more than enough money to pay for vaccines for all adults in the latest budget. The story was an attempt to highlight how policy decisions can lead to vaccine inequality. For both these stories on COVID-19 vaccination, I led the data analysis process and the writing.

Last two stories of my portfolio look at the gendered impacts of the pandemic, specifically on women’s incomes. The first story highlighted how women from self help groups who helped mitigate the pandemic-related hunger and nutrition crisis, were unpaid for their labour. These women who prepared and served nearly half a million meals were struggling with reduced incomes and piling debt. The story was of increased importance because it highlights how the government initiative to fight hunger is built on women’s unpaid labour. The last story of this portfolio looks at the impact reverse migration of workers from cities to rural areas had on women farmers. The story counters the government’s narrative about a booming agriculture sector by highlighting how despite increased agricultural outcomes, incomes and wages for farmers remain low.

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