BINITA DAHAL

Khatmandu, Nepal| Correspondent, BBC Nepali Service

Pat and Janna Stueve Fellow | Kansas City Public Television

By Salman Yousafzai | 

In her heart of hearts, while growing up in Gothatar on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Binita Dahal envisioned herself as a journalist.

Her isolated, mountainous country is a rigid patriarchal society with few female reporters. But she was not deterred.

When she entered the University of Nepal and learned the prestigious school offered a Bachelor in Media Studies program, “I couldn’t resist jumping on that subject.”

After getting bachelor’s degrees in media studies and a master’s degree in English literature, Dahal earned a law degree. She loved to compete outside the classroom, in poetry and essay writing competitions, and in speech and debate competitions.

While in college, Dahal traveled to a western region where Maoists started their war against the government. “I met a teenager, who introduced himself as (a member of the) People’s Liberation Army, which made me shocked and surprised at the same time,” Dahal recalled. “Then I went to the Commune School where Maoists taught young children about war and their vision against the government.”

She decided to write a story about the experience, and it was published by the best-selling daily newspaper, Nepal Kantipur. The newspaper continued to publish her stories, and she became a columnist.

While she was still in law school, Dahal started writing legal columns for the second largest newspaper of Nepal. She was also wrote a regular column, which she called “Legalese,” for a prominent English language weekly newspaper.

Dahal is one of the few female journalists covering political and legal issues in her homeland and competes with male journalists for stories. “Being a law graduate I covered legal issues and I also wrote analysis about the functioning of judiciary and the transitional justice system, including human rights,” she said.

For the BBC’s 100 Women series, Binita got an exclusive interview with the first female chief justice of Nepal, Sushila Karki.  She also broke a story about a parliamentarian who murdered a villager in eastern Nepal over a family dispute.

Binita, 29, has also reported extensively on women’s health and social issues in her country. She wrote about commercial surrogacy, gender disparity in kidney donations and a dowry system, which is still used by even well-educated families.

“Now I am among those few female journalists who can write political and legal analysis as well as daily reporting,” she said. “My vision right from the start of my journalistic career was to open the door to as many women as possible. I made the impossible possible.”

Dahal was freelancing for the BBC Nepali Service two years ago when the massive earthquake struck Nepal and she was asked to lead the launch of a public service channel to help victims. The text messaging Viber app delivered vital information in Nepali and English for relief and rescue services.

Dahal is now a correspondent and producer for the BBC. She supervises a team of reporters and stringers to prepare online reports from across the country.

She’s one of eight Nepalese journalists to receive an Alfred Friendly Fellowship and the first since Deepak Adhikari, now a correspondent in Nepal for Anadolu Agency, participated in the program nine years ago.  

Her boss at BBC Nepali Service, correspondent Surendra Phuyal, was an Alfred Friendly Fellow hosted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2003.

In his recommendation letter, Phuyal wrote that Binita is a keen observer and a prolific writer, as well as a talented photographer with an eye for exceptional natural beauties and social diversities.

“She’s a good human being, and that makes her a very good journalist,” Phuyal said. “She’s friendly and sociable by nature and can easily adapt to new situations and environments. She’s an adventure-seeker, often visiting Nepal’s far-off and remote areas for trek and travels, but ends up gathering great human stories and exceptional photographs – a lot of which we have used on our Radio and our website.”

While training at the Missouri School of Journalism and working for Kansas City Public Television, Dahal intends to learn techniques and methods of investigative journalism as well as the specific skills required for in-depth reporting.

She wrote in her professional statement that her mission is clear: Study journalism and tell untold stories of Nepali women in order to make a difference in her country.

Binita and the other Fellows has a replica Thanksgiving Dinner at Lisa Schwartz’s house