New Delhi, November 29— “A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult,” Melinda Gates, American Philanthropist and former General Manager at Microsoft, had once famously said. Thousands of miles away from America, a community radio in Mewat, India’s most backward district, is giving voice to the voiceless, particularly women.
“Radio Mewat is a medium which hears the suppressed voices of women and helps immensely in awakening them,” said Farheen, reporter and presenter of the Radio Mewat.
(Pluc and South Asia Monitor Present Reimagining India – A Positive Journalism Feature supported by Frank Islam Foundation)
Here is the text story based on the short video documentary above:
Despite being less than 100 km from the National Capital New Delhi, Mewat in the state of Haryana seems to have been untouched by modernization or economy advancement and the conservatism of local society is manifest with girls being married off at a young age and barely getting a chance to complete their education. However, this has changed in the past couple of years with the help of Radio Mewat which has raised awareness, created opportunities, and given a chance to the women of the villages to voice their grievances and aspirations. This is a story of how the communication medium can become an important tool to empower the marginalized in society.
Archana Kapoor, Founder, Radio Mewat, says: “Patriarchy is something that transcends states, villages and cities. In Mewat, it is a peculiar problem because infrastructure is very poor, commuting is a problem, and so are electricity and the safety of women. It’s a very conservative society. People feel that if a woman voices her views, no one will marry her.”
Farheen, Reporter & Presenter at Radio Mewat, says: “I had to face many problems when I started working at Radio Mewat. The first criticism, I faced was from my own relatives. They had hundreds of questions – how will I commute daily to what work I will be doing. Girls in Mewat usually don’t go out.”
In just the past year, over 100 women from Mewat have now filed lawsuits to fight against injustices they faced. This has been possible because of Smart, an NGO which launched the radio station.
Radio Mewat’s shows mostly deal with education, health and domestic problems of women.
Archana Kapoor says: “I still remember the first time we got a call from a woman to the radio station which was almost after one and half years of functioning. We celebrated because a woman had at last found the courage to call the radio station and ask us a question.”
Farheen says: “For the past year around 117 women have shared their stories of domestic violence with the audience on Radio Mewat. We have tried to solve their problems. Many of these women were not even aware of their rights. They did not know that there was a police station dedicated to women. We told them how they can get help.”
Operational for over a decade, Radio Mewat is one of the first community stations in Haryana that was started by a non-profit. The radio station broadcast to over 168 villages in Mewat which is now officially called Nuh and is a perfect example of the transformative power of community radio. The community spirit of Radio Mewat, which has won two national awards for its community engagement and innovative programmes, helped in bridging the gender gap. In the long run, it became a medium that not only served as a platform for expression for these women, but also as a one-stop destination for finding solutions to their problems.
Sakunat, another reporter and presenter at Radio Mewat, says: “I joined Radio Mewat because the shows made here are women-centric and I thought that I too can do this work and spread awareness and find solutions for these women.”
Why I Joined Radio Mewat
Farheen, reporter and presenter at Radio Mewat says: “I joined Radio Mewat because it was a means for us to get our voices heard by thousands of people. If we work at other places, we can meet and talk to five, maybe 10 people but the radio is a medium through which our voices can reach millions of people. I also joined Radio Mewat because Mewat is an economically and socially backward district and I wanted to highlight the issues faced by women here. I wanted to add to their voices.”
Sakunat says: “Only through my work, I could prove that girls can do things on their own. They are not dependent on anyone. This was also my motivation to join Radio Mewat.”
There are about 300 community radio stations in the country and these radio stations are very popular especially in remote areas of India where there are low literacy rates particularly of women. Over a period of time, they have become the voice of the voiceless. And, like Radio Mewat, which has touched and improved the daily lives of the women of Mewat, these radio stations are harbingers of change and a better future for marginalized women of Indian society.
Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of United Kingdom, had once said: “If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.”