A community reporter shares her experience on becoming a anchor of the Community Radio station, Dharkan.
By Anil Gulati
SHIVPURI, India, 10 October 2010 - Two years back, Champa Bai Adivasi, a Sahariya tribal woman, worked with her husband as an agricultural labourer in Mudkhera, a remote hamlet in the Chambal region in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
On Friday, October 8, 2010 Champa Bai had a transformed identity. She stood on a dais and addressed a large gathering. “I work as a community reporter for Radio Dharkan,”’ she says confidently. ``My job includes production and anchoring programmes on the radio. A lot of people in the village listen to film songs on the radio. But from today, they will hear me speak on the air.’’
“Good Morning Shivpuri. This is Radio Dharkan 107.8FM,” she rehearses before the crowd.
Champa Bai was speaking at the broadcast launch of Radio Dharkhan, the first community radio station in Shivpuri.
Fifty villages of Shivpuri, many of which are Sahariya, a (disadvantaged tribal group) dominated, are spread around a radius of 15 km from the district headquarters and can be reached through the community radio station.
Initiated by a local NGO – Sambhav - in 2007, with support from UNICEF, the aim of the project was to empower community members, particularly for the Sahariya community, to create and access information relevant to their development and entertainment needs. .
The radio team operates through a network of village facilitators, a majority of which are from the Sahariya community.
The wife of a farmer, Ramshri Chande worked in the fields before she became a radio programmer.
``Activists from Sambhav came to my village in Lohrikala. They held a demonstration on how a radio works and selected 12 persons from different villages for technical training. I was one of them,’’ recalls Champa..
“For over two years, we learnt how to manage and run a radio station. All that high-tech modern equipment scared me at first. But now I record programmes, conduct interviews and broadcast. I can do it all with ease,’’ she adds.
Voicing opinion, spreading knowledge
Speaking at the broadcast launch, Chief Field Office UNICEF in Madhya Pradesh, Tania Goldner, explained that Dharkan was ``a radio for and by the community’’ to bring people together .
“Radio Dharkan will broadcast information on relevant topics like health, sanitation, village planning, education, immunization and benefits of government schemes,”’ she said. “And most importantly, it will give a voice which will be heard by neighbours, family and friends within the community. It will be a stage for discussions on caste discrimination, female foeticide and child marriage.’’
Goldner reminded the gathering that about 5,000 children die in the country every day due to reasons that are totally preventable. A community radio can help bridge the gap between people and services. It will also spread information on health so that no child will die for a reason that could have been prevented, she added.
Information on government schemes
District collector of Shivpuri, Rajkumar Pathak, in his address said that the poor tribal population has no access to television and hence, remain ill-informed about government policies. “But a large number of people here have access to radio. The government makes innumerable schemes and policies for the benefit of tribals. But the beneficiaries never get to know of them because information does not reach them,’’ the district collector pointed out.
``Radio Dharkan can, therefore, prove to be the bridge between the common man and the government. It will be the appropriate medium to reach information of government schemes and policies to people who need them the most.’’
A new opportunity
"This Radio Dharkhan is your radio," said Supriya Mukherji Communication for Development Specialist, UNICEF while addressing the gathering.She shared that UNICEF has supported NGOs in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh to set up community radio stations and is also supporting NGOs in Orissa, Assam, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Bihar to set up these stations.