Stella Paul

@stellasglobe

Stella Paul shares stories of those who have been silenced. Consistently enduring death threats, threats against the welfare and safety of her family, detention, and physical harassment in pursuit of stories, Paul is perhaps best known for her work to amplify the voices of rape and sexual violence survivors, sex workers, and other marginalized communities in India. She has been crusading for honesty and integrity in journalism for 9 years. Paul sheds light on the impact of climate change and sexual violence in the the most remote and conflicted regions of India. For this, she receives criticism and threats of violence on multiple fronts. Freedom of the press exists in India; however, many journalists face intense intimidation and threats and live in fear of retaliation—which explains why India ranks 136 out of 180 in the RSF freedom index. Women journalists find themselves at even greater risk due to India’s high rate of sexual violence and attacks on women alongside rigorous social protocols that keep women modest and at home. But Paul refuses to shy away from covering controversial subjects. She writes honestly about politics, sexual violence, human trafficking, child labor, and women’s rights despite the intimidation she faces. When Paul was less than 2 years old, she contracted Diphtheria, a disease causing difficulty breathing and swallowing. Because of a cultural preference for male children, Paul’s disease nearly went untreated. “Part of my family didn’t want me to live as a girl child… My gritty mom fought hard.” Stella Sumita Paul lived. “That story was not told to me until I was 15. It made me think how many millions of women and girls are facing this horrific situation where they’re almost killed because of just who they are. If I stop telling those stories, who’s going to tell them? I’m doing this because I believe in integrity and honesty and the power of journalism as a tool of social change.” Her favorite piece of work is a 2013 story she told of women who had been forced into the commercial sex industry in Hyderabad, where Paul is based. Many of these women had come from farms in the surrounding provinces, where they used to grow food and have families. Then, drought resulting from climate change stole their ability to break even and many fled to Hyderabad—where, having no professional skills beyond farming, many of these women were forced to sell themselves. Paul witnessed direct impact on her subjects after this story: some were given jobs, others access to rehabilitation. Journalists and activists throughout the region began reporting on similar situations in their areas—Paul hit a pervasive, sensitive nerve and sparked a series of stories on the subject. Follow on Twitter: @stellasglobe

Highlights