Shawn Sebastian

A Short documentary on community radio and woman empowerment

Ramvati reporting with the Zoom recorder Photo credit: Shawn Sebastian

Ramvati reporting with the Zoom recorder
Photo credit: Shawn Sebastian

Despite the considerable amount of theoretical learning that has been done about community media; especially the community radio, a first-hand experience of how community radio is acting as a tool of social change was witnessed when we decided to work on a short documentary about a tribal woman, Ramvati, who is associated with Radio Dhadkan 107.8FM, a community radio in Shivpuri, Madhya Pradesh.

The documentary revolves around Ramvati, and how she made community radio a tool of empowerment.

Founded in 2009, Radio Dhadkan has a wide range, reaching 51 adjoining villages.
The radio focuses mainly on the local tribe called Saharia. Ramvati is one among the many tribal women associated with the radio station, who produce and broadcast programs on their own.

Taking over the role of an anchor as well Photo credit: Shawn Sebastian

Taking over the role of an anchor as well
Photo credit: Shawn Sebastian

Ramvati and the others are trained to record programs in their zoom recorder. In addition to regular broadcasting, they take the recorded programmes and travel to remote villages where the radio frequency does not reach. With the aid of a pen drive, the programmes are played at public gatherings (which is called narrowcasting).

“I talk to Saharians in their own language about their village, livelihood, food etc. and broadcast them through Radio Dhadkan,” says Ramvati.

Before committing to radio work six years ago, Ramvati had a decade long association with the local NGO, Sambhav, that works for the cause of the Saharia tribal community and also runs the community radio with support from UNICEF.

“Initially when I went to villages for reporting, people were apprehensive; but now I am recognized as the radio woman,” says Ramvati, who contested an election to the local self government body a few years back as an independent candidate with the radio as her poll symbol.

“It is radio that taught me how to interact with people and gave me the confidence to move out; if not for it, I would have remained in my veil and sat at home,” she adds.

Eager listeners gathered around a narrowcasting Photo credit: Shawn Sebastian

Eager listeners gathered around a narrowcasting
Photo credit: Shawn Sebastian

Talking about women like Ramvati who are working with the radio station, S.K. Singh of the NGO Sambhav says: “These women think beyond, they have hopes. Things can be changed for the better if they organize and get more political. I have been a personal witness to this.”

The short documentary on Ramvati is intended to be a reflection of similar work of woman like her in the field of community radio across the country. In addition to empowering the local village communities, the lives of women like Ramvati shows us that community radio is bringing significant changes in the lives of many.

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