Pesticides do not decipher caste, gender or nationality. They will kill anybody irrespective of his or her origins.



Is it possible for community video and radio to play this role?



"DDS Media Women at International Association of Women in Radio & Television (IAWRT)"

About ten media women of the DDS Community Media Trust took part in an international festival of women's films held at New Delhi from March 8-10, 2005 on an invitation from the International Association of Women in Radio and Television. The reception they got was overwhelming. In spite of the fact that most of them came from extremely marginalised backgrounds and some of the poorest families, they were heard with rapt attention in various fora. They spoke to a large group of professional media women, to the faculty of the Central Institute of Educational Technology of the National Council of Educational Research and Training, the students and faculty of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication.
The following media reports and the impressions of their participation in various events summarise the impact they left behind.



Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Wednesday, Mar 09, 2005

'Real' woman using the power of `reel'
By Our Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI, MARCH 8. The fields in their films are never in the background. The "real'' women who are using the power of "reel'', these are directors who have made change possible with nothing more just a camera and a little freedom. Not belonging to the breed of directors who want to make blockbusters, they screen their films to packed houses, but their "hit" films are about unheard voices.
Hitching up her bright red sari and a headphone strapped to her white hair, Suriamma could easily be the perfect picture of rapidly narrowing technological barriers in the country. But more important than being a poster-girl of a techno-savvy India, this 57-year-old agricultural worker from Andhra Pradesh is a more powerful symbol of a people's resistance and empowerment.
"We used to wait for filmmakers to come from Hyderabad to record our lives. But they never understood our language and they spoke in Hindi or English. They really didn't have the time to understand what we had to say either. They used to come for one or two days and shoot in a hurry. So we decided in our `sangam' that if one of us could shoot, we could document our stories,'' says Laksamma, president of the Community Media Trust (CMT) who is here in the Capital for "Expressions in Freedom'', a festival organised by the International Association of Women in Radio and Television.
The Deccan Development Society which started the CMT has been working with the most marginalised sections of society, mostly Dalits, for the past twenty years to band them into groups so as to use the power of the collective to make a difference in their lives. The CMT is a project that aims to give some space to these women to tell their stories. Besides, training them to use cameras, they have also started a community radio.
"We are agricultural labourers, we spend out lives weeding. Our hands are hard and we first wondered whether we could handle such sensitive equipment. But then, we were taught with a lot of patience and allowed to use the camera the way we want and subsequently the fear was gone,'' says Swarupa.
These are filmmakers who use their cameras to tell only `their' stories of crops and fields. Documenting their struggle against the endless drought in Andhra Pradesh and the more recent battle against genetically engineered seeds like Bt Cotton being dumped on them, they are using technology to make it their own and speak their language.
"We screened our film about Bt Cotton at a public meeting, it helped us make our point much more strongly. Otherwise we would talk about our experiences and it would not make such an impact, but this way we had documented it and even the Government had to listen,'' remarks Manjula.
Much sought after film-makers, they are constantly bombarded with requests to be present at weddings or to include people at protests, they are now training a new generation like Suriamma.
While armed with a camera they have made their cinema relevant to people in a way most directors can only dream about, their radio initiative is still to make the desired impact. With more than 400 hours of edited material ready to go on air, these women have the capability to touch lives, but are still waiting for a license to do so. "We have so much material on bio-diversity, women, agriculture and tradition, but we are yet to get a license. We have to use the cassettes and play them at `sangam' meetings. I want to know what is the use of a government that has not given us a license and granted licenses to big institutions who use our cassettes on their stations?" asks Narshimma.
A 21-year-old woman who wants to have a voice even though she is marginalised, she might not be literate, she has studied in the DDS schools to now mans a radio station. While she might have been able to overcome huge obstacles in her path set by society, she now just wants the chance to reach out to inspire others.



'Camera breaks caste barrier'
Pallavi Srivastava

New Delhi, March 9: CASTE is not a barrier anymore. And that's because of the camera that I carry,'' says Humnapur Laxmamma. The 40-year-old Dalit woman is a member of the Deccan Development Society (DDS), a voluntary organisation that works with rural women in over 70 villages of Andhra Pradesh.
Laxmamma is one of the 17 women to have received video training at the DDS, so that they can record and showcase how they earn their living and the problems they face. Some of these women are in town for 'Expressions in Freedom' - a festival of films by Asian women filmmakers, being held at the I IC. A short film, Ten Women and a Camera, which shows how the process of filmmaking has helped them grow economically and emotionally, will be screened on Thursday.
At an interaction with students at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication on Wednesday, the women also talked about how they are using their own media for community development. They fielded questions, narrated their experiences and walked around the room, filming the proceedings on their video cameras.
''People give way to us when we go to public gatherings with a camera,'' says Manjula. ''We were earlier made to wait outside the house of the patel (landlord), but now he even asks me to come inside his puja room for filming the rituals,'' smiles Laxmamma, who is the single parent of a 17-year-old girl. Her colleagues have a similar background. The DDS, which has also trained two women in radio recording and transmission, is waiting to launch its own community FM channel.
''We should have a slot on television channels like Doordarshan and ETV,'' says Manjula. Laxmamma wants to go further. ''We should have a rural women's TV channel,'' she says.
(The film will be screened at IIC at 4 pm on Thursday)






Dear Sateesh,

The women were powerful and it was a hit!!
The DDS women got more press than the " professional film makers"!
Mayuri will be a great photo journalist!!
We even got a signature campaign seeking permission for the DDS community radio station. Will get Kapila ji to hand it over to the Minister!!
The DDS group made presentations at CIET IIMC and Aurobindo School of communication.

Many thanks for your support.

With warm regards

President IAWRT
D2D, First Floor, Munirka New Delhi 011-26171259 (Res.)
Mobile: 9811277004