I recall the day I was in a village in Orchha in Bundelkhand region, one of the most drought prone areas of the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. As I walked down the narrow village lanes with Prachi, the local community-radio broadcaster of Aapno Radio Bundelkhand, the greeting and smiles from every house made me feel confident that Prachi was a very famous person in her village. Slowly, through the various interactions with her, I gathered the story of her life.
She often walks down the nearby narrow lanes of her house and imagines a different life. Coming from a small village in Orchha, Bundelkhand region, she was 22 years old and struggled to move out of her comfort zone in order to create a space in the big world for herself. She describes her change from being the rebel of the community to the role model many wanted to follow as one life changing moment. It took her years but she loved what the change brought to her in terms of monetary gains but more importantly gains in confidence.
As a community broadcaster, she knew what the issues of the people around her were. She was well aware of the struggles at the local level. As a woman, she knew that she carried on her shoulders the difficult yet important task of making women’s voices heard.
She says, “The community-radio came up as a ray of hope since I wanted to do something and this was just the right platform.” When she came to work at the station, the community taunted her about moving out of her house to work with men. The fact that she had no mother and she was responsible for her brothers and sisters made her life tougher. After all balancing work with no help was not easy.
She describes her daily routine along the following lines, “ I get up, cook for everyone, clean the house and then head to work at the station. Earlier, no one valued what I was doing but when they heard my voice on the radio and saw me solving community problems, they started appreciating my work. At home, I am the breadwinner, while in the community I am recognized and respected. Initially, I struggled with technology and fieldwork but the support from the radio station along with my commitment to myself made me persistent. The struggle in the past four years has been hard, but it has been worth it. I feel confident and there is nothing that I am scared of now.”
Prachi’s connection with the community brought grassroots issues to the open, and helped accelerate the pace of local development.. Her relationship with the station is symbiotic in nature. On the one hand, while she develops programmes, helps attain the station goals, increases community involvement, the station has given her not just financial benefits but also has also brought opportunities for skills development and on the job training (such as on editing software, audio recordings) as well as overall empowerment.
Prachi is not just another story. She is the evidence that community radio can change women, their lives, and aspirations in a very strong yet subtle manner. Access to, participation in and ownership of women in media has traditionally been extremely limited.Breaking the patriarchal shackles and stepping out of the mental walls is a task needs a lot of attention and support.
My journey with community radio broadcasting is extremely close to my heart. Not only has it been a part of my life the past 7 years, I have also met some of the most inspiring and motivating women in small villages, districts, and towns of various countries. I found women participating in community radio in different capacities, struggling to find a space with limited prospects and facing unlimited challenges. I have identified three different angles of women’s involvement in Community Radio, as listeners, as station heads/managers and as broadcasters. In all these areas, there are opportunities for women’s empowerment in radio.
The above story illustrate how women’s participation at all levels of community radio management could supports the broader inclusion of women, as well as of development concerns.When both women and men being keenly involved, I have seen that women’s involvement has been beyond music and farming issues. They are the ones concerned about their children, health, their vegetable produce, care of their animals, as well as knowing their rights.
This article was prepared by our Global Community Champions Suchi Gaur, PhD Research Scholar, Department of Development Communication Extension at the University of Delhi