Usha Rai is a veteran journalist and a pioneer in reporting on social issues. She has worked for mainline newspapers like the Times of India, Indian Express and Hindustan Times for over 40 years and was among the first women journalists doing reporting in the country. In what was then a man’s world, she fought for space and reported on women’s issues, health, education, environment and development. She was among the first to bring out a development page in the Indian Express for five years from1992 to 1996
She has also worked as media and communication consultant, travelling extensively and reporting as well as documenting the work of the Aga Khan Foundation, the Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojana; Engender Health and for CHETNA, Ahmedabad, on tackling malnutrition and adolescent issues.
For four years as the deputy director of the Press Institute of India, with the support of UNFPA and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, she ran a project on population and reproductive health which included bringing out a newsletter in English and Hindi on reproductive health issues and holding workshops for the media.
For the National Commission for Women and the Press Institute of India she brought out the first report on the Status of Women Journalists in the Print Media in India in 2004.
For the first five years after the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights was set up in 2003, she and her team brought out their newsletters, documented their work and facilitated the NCPCR’s media relations.
For the UNDP and Population Foundation of India, she brought out a manual for journalists, called ‘Journalists as Catalysts, A Media Manual on HIV & AIDS Reporting. For UNIFEM and UN Women, she has done three studies on widows – two on the widows of Vrindavan and one on widows in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. For Plan India she and her team did a series of articles, documented in a book called Stories of Change on innovative ways in which problems of child sex ratio was being tackled in five States of the country. For Action Aid India, she documented ‘Critical Stories of Change’ based on their eight to 10 years of work with local NGOs in Odisha, Punjab and Maharashtra.
Awards: Chameli Devi award for outstanding women journalists; FAO/Science Writers Award for article on forest right and tribals; Media India award for series of articles on school education in Delhi published in Times of India. She has also received the Stree Shakti lifetime achievement award as a woman journalist.