Patralekha Chatterjee is a Delhi-based journalist, photographer, columnist,author and and media trainer working at the national and international level. Her work straddles mass media, specialist publications, NGOs and international agencies such as the United Nations. She has travelled and reported from dozens of countries in Asia and Europe and has special domain knowledge of regions where poverty remains a significant challenge and which are coping with other challenges, such as gender disparities, health inequalities, malnutrition, HIV and AIDS, emerging infectious diseases, drugs, crime, environmental degradation, climate change, internal conflicts and displacement.
She writes regularly for The Lancet, British Medical Journal, Intellectual Property Watch and several Indian publications. Her fortnightly column (Dev 360) in The Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle, two multi-edition English language Indian newspapers with a combined circulation of 1.4 million,focuses on India and other emerging economies. Patralekha also has an occasional column in The Daily News and Analysis (DNA), a top, multi-edition English language newspaper published in India. This column, which appears every alternate week, sometimes takes an irreverent look at development shibboleths. Since 2013, she has also been contributing a Sunday column ( alternate weeks) in the widely read and influential Hindi newspaper, Amar Ujala.
A partial list of publications and websites worldwide which have carried her reports and photographs include The British Medical Journal (UK), The Lancet (UK), Intellectual Property Watch (Geneva), Liberation (Paris), Panos (UK), The New Internationalist (UK), The Guardian (UK), Chicago Tribune (USA), The Christian Science Monitor (USA), MSNBC.com (USA), The Urban Age (a quarterly magazine brought out by The World Bank Group) and Habitat Debate (publication of the UN-HABITAT, ) Khaleej Times (UAE), The Economic Times (India), Sunday (India),, Hindustan Times (India), Indo-Asian News Service (Indian) Inter Press Service (International) and IRIN — .the unique humanitarian news and analysis service, supported by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs,
Her reports about public health challenges confronting Haiti, Sub-Saharan Africa, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Maldives, and India have been published in The Lancet, one of the most prestigeous and influential journals dealing with global health issues, and are cited worldwide in academic and other publications. She has extensive experience investigating community-level innovations in India and other developing countries.
Media training and advocacy
Patralekha is an experienced media trainer who also trains professionals from other disciplines in communication and advocacy skills. In 2004, she led the effort by The Huairou Commission, a US-headquartered NGO, to mentor a group of young journalists from Asia, Europe, Africa and the Pacific islands who were selected to cover the World Urban Forum in Barcelona and The Grassroots Womens’ International Academy, a gathering of grassroots women’s organizations, that preceded it. One of her tasks was to equip the young journalists who had little experience of writing on community and urban issues with skills to look at complex community-level problems and innovations on the ground in a very short period. Chinese journalist Alfred Cheng Jin’s piece on Kenyan women dealing with AIDS in the Chinese media is just one of the many articles which came out of the project.
Patralekha has also taught post-graduate students at the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi (2008 – 2009) and conducted workshops for visiting mid-career media practitioners from overseas.
In 2009, Patralekha was hired by the Indian affiliate of FXB International, a Swiss NGO, to train medical doctors and field workers working for the NGO on how to deal with the media, both at the national and international level. Patralekha’s stories and photographs of AIDS orphans in India were published in the book “Hopes Alive, Surviving AIDS and Despair” brought out by FXB India Suraksha, the India affiliate of FXB International, a Geneva-based NGO working for AIDS orphans and other children at risk around the world. The book was released by Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen in Kolkata(February 25, 2009) and by Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari in Delhi (March 2, 2009).
Patralekha’s expertise and understanding of a broad range of development issues have led to international and national assignments with the United Nations. In 2013, she consulted with the World Health Organization, International Development Research Centre and several others. She also authored a monograph on India’s health care system for the Observer Research Foundation, an Indian think tank (http://orfonline.org/cms/export/orfonline/modules/orfseminarseries/attachments/seminarseriesissue12_1378805959342.pdf).
In the past, she has consulted with UNICEF’s Health Section in India in the areas of child survival and maternal deaths, preparing a series of web packages as well as two book-length policy documents targeted at governments, donors, the NGO community and civil society. The documents collated field experience and insights from across India and showcased innovative interventions initiated by UNICEF and its partners under challenging circumstances. She was commissioned by UN-HABITAT (Fukuoka) to be the principal author of a policy document which examined Sri Lanka’s innovative approach to a thorny issue ( ‘Innovative Approaches for Involuntary Resettlement in Sri Lanka”). Her earlier work with UN-HABITAT involved producing brochures ( text, photographs, editing) on the rehabilitation work in tsunami-ravaged Sri Lanka and Maldives. She also been following the HIV and AIDS epidemic in India since its early years and consulted with UNAIDS, UNDP and NGOs on its various dimensions. She has worked on book-length reports on trafficking in South Asia , HIV and women’s inheritance rights and best practices in urban governance for the UNDP. A full list is available on request.
The audio-visual media is a new interest. In 2008, she co-directed a 23-minute documentary film on migrants and HIV for Tele Quebec .This was based on her earlier reportage about a Canadian-funded initiative to spread awareness about HIV and AIDS among migrants in the desert state of Rajasthan.
Patralekha has won numerous national and international awards and honors.
She was the only South Asian to be selected for The Journalists in Europe Programme (1989 –’90) and won a fellowship from the French government to report from Western Europe and the new democracies in Eastern Europe during this period.
A partial list of other awards
1987 — Media India Award, 1987 – Best Human Interest Article of the Year – for coverage of rehabilitation of Bhopal gas leak victims and communal riots in Meerut , published in Sunday magazine.
2000 – Fellow, The Salzburg Seminar, one of the world’s leading educational centers committed to broadening the perspectives of tomorrow’s leaders. Selected as a participant/panelist for an academic session (378) on The Entrepreneurial City (June 2000).Panelist on a session on The South Asian City. (The session brought experts from diverse disciplines from different countries and considered the city as an engine of creativity and common enterprise).
2008 – Winner of Media 21 Global Journalism Fellowship (Info Sud, Geneva) 2008. As a Fellow, attended a week-long workshop on Access to Health in Geneva followed by a field visit to Haiti. Articles that came out of the trip include a series for Indo Asian News Service and the Lancet (UK), the prestigeous medical journal. The latter has been cited worldwide.
2008- One of eight journalists worldwide to be selected by World Federation of Science Journalists to attend the Eco Health 2008 conference at Merida, Mexico. Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), in collaboration with the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ), sponsored the competition.(2008)
2009 – Won a media fellowship from the US-based National Press Foundation to take part in a Journalist to Journalist training programme on HIV and AIDS in Cape Town, South Africa, and to attend the annual International AIDS Society conference (IAS 2009) in that city; also nominated as one of the members of the Communication Experts Network formed by the Global Health Workforce Alliance ( Geneva)
2012- In view of her extensive experience covering women’s health and rights issues, she was offered a conference scholarship by Women Deliver, an international non-profit to attend its annual conference Women Deliver 2013 (in Kuala Lumpur) and its invite-only Media Forum for senior reporters and editors from around the world to discuss challenges faced by journalists covering women’s health and empowerment issues and to strategize with peers on ways to link these issues to the broader global health and development agenda.
Patralekha was educated in Delhi, Kolkata, Pune, Oxford and Paris. She speaks English, French, Hindi and Bengali (mother tongue).