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What is community radio? How beneficial has it been as a medium for broadcast and social networking especially in small towns and villages?
While most of India’s rural population resides in areas with limited communication with the rest of the country, community radio has proven to be developmental tool. What does this form of regional media offer to locals? How does it change the life of women in rural India? Read to find out.
Community radio is a short range, non-profit radio channel or station that is run specifically for local people in an area. The broadcast, which is in the local language, features local news, announcements, and informative programmes. In most cases, locals manage and operate their own community radio.
Social issues and awareness
In remote areas, which may not be well-developed, community radio gives voice to campaigns that address local issues. This may be social and cultural issues that are prevalent in the area or information about government initiatives.
To draw an example, Apno Radio in Rajasthan which was launched in 2005 covers issues such as women’s education and societal evils like child marriage that are prevalent in the area.
Community Radio is also used to deliver news and announcements related to the area through a medium convenient for the locals.
Additionally, these radio stations also focus on agricultural issues, farmer’s markets and weather reports. People in rural areas wish to know more about these topics than the headlines on mainstream media.
Communication in regional populations
Rural areas may not have the infrastructure to connect to mainstream national or regional media. Connection for television and internet may not be present in small villages. Issues from some parts of the country, like the North-eastern states, are often ignored in mainstream media.
Here, community radio becomes an important tool of communication.
While newspapers may cover community affairs, print cannot be a solution for the largely unlettered population. Community Radio thus becomes a convenient source for locals.
Language and local familiarity
Community radio is usually run by locals themselves in their own language. This is especially beneficial for communities that speak languages which are not widely spoken in the country.
Locals also recognise people from their own communities on the radio. This builds a connection and familiarity between the audience and the radio which may not be the case with mainstream radio.
Local art and culture
Since participants are locals themselves, local art forms are given importance. Radio programmes may feature local music, folklores, poetry and even narrations of local history. While mainstream media may not give space to culture of remote areas, community radio creates the space for these art forms while offering locals entertainment that they enjoy.
While community radio is aimed at improving life and awareness of people in remote localities in general, these broadcasts are doubly advantageous for women.
As mentioned before, radio is the prime source of information about societal issues. It brings about awareness about social evils targeting women.
Females are often held back from education and employment by parents, husbands and in-laws. Programmes may be a source of information about women-centric issues for rural families.
Women centric programmes
The listeners are usually unlettered women who have little access to other information. Since the medium is audio, information that is usually in print media/ newspaper is available to them.
Various programmes give out information to women about education, savings, family systems, food habits and sanitation. It is also a source of information about women-centric schemes of the government relating to education, property etc.
Offering positions to women
Since community radios are locally run, they offer positions to rural women.
For example, Sangham radio in Telengana is entirely owned and operated by local women from Dalit communities. While offering a platform to women, community radio offers them a chance to showcase talents in a society where female participation is undermined.
Along with stable income, women involved in managing radio will develop skills with technology. Furthermore, they will develop a sense of confidencethat is missing in the female population due to the existing gender discrimination.
While Panchayats exist in rural communities, the participation of women is proportionally lesser than men. Community Radio spreads information about Panchayat elections, increasing the female voter turn-out.
Many women have taken up positions in community radio to address women-centric issues and to promote awareness on diverse issues in rural India in general. We have already featured a few such inspiring women working in community radio, like RJ Vijaya, Shamantha D. S., and transgender RJ Shanthi Sonu.
Here are two more women you should know about.
Radhika Shukla works for Waqt Ki Awaaz in Kanpur. Radhika leads a group of six who go from door-to-door to ask locals about what they would like to hear on radio. Following this, her team prepares a script related to the issue.
To keep the audience entertained, Radhika and team ensure that the script is dramatic and often include voices of people from the community itself.
Shantaben Koshti coordinates a group of women who run Sanand. Shantaben, who is the coordinator of Self Employed Women’s Association, gathered women from 20 neighbouring villages.
These women were trained in data collection and were taught how to take interviews. Soon, a self-sustained team of women were interviewing experts and providing information about agriculture, health etc. on community radio. The broadcast also spreads information about women’s wellness and education among women listeners who are bidi rollers, incense stick makers and weavers.
Image source: a still from the film Tumhari Sulu
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A student of International Relations at Shiv Nadar University. Enjoys old bands and acrylics.
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