|DDS and Community Radio|
|A short introduction by P V Satheesh, Director, Deccan Development Society|
Many global examples demonstrate the potential and viability of community radio. Apart from Indias own experiences in rural broadcasting, many of these could also serve as models for similar initiatives in India outside the state framework. The Supreme Courts reaffirmation in 1995 that the airwaves are public property has re-energized the movement towards a media based on community participation in a non-profit mode.
The Bangalore Declaration on Radio of September, 1996 has stressed how community radio would: besides educating and entertaining people, connect people with people through participatory or circular communication, connect with organizations and communities, and finally, connect people with government and public service agencies.
The DDS project to establish a community radio is perfectly in accordance with the global recognition of the need to democratise the media of communication. The Milan Declaration on Communication and Human Rights passed at the 7 th World Congress of the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters held in Milan, Italy in 1998 called for
International recognition of the community broadcasting sector as an
The Declaration emphasised that:
Community media can play an important role in strengthening cultural
rights, and in
Access to the means of communication must be supported by education
The market economy is not the only model for the shaping the communications
The democratic participation of women in communications media should
The media-related activities undertaken by the DDS in the Zaheerabad
The Geographical Setting
The Zaheerabad area in Medak District of Andhra Pradesh where the DDS works falls in one of the least developed regions of the country, Telengana, and is contiguous with the least developed districts of North Karnataka. It is a semi-arid tract where the land is extremely degraded and offers limited livelihood opportunities in agriculture to people. Since most of the agriculture is rain-fed, very little institutional finance is available for investment in agriculture. There is hardly any industrialisation. Other capital inflows into this region are very slim. Therefore, there is a lot of seasonal out-migration to look for wage labour outside. Development schemes dont reach the targeted populations because of power relationships : between different castes within the villages, between the poorest social groups and the more affluent sections.
It is in this geo-political and developmental context that the Deccan Development Societys efforts are centred. The Society works with about 100 Dalit womens groups (sangams) consisting of nearly 4000 members in 75 villages. These women form the poorest sections of the rural community with an average family income (mostly from farm labour work) ranging from Rs.600 to Rs.1200 per month. Wage levels in some places are still as low as Rs.10-Rs.15 for a 6 to 8 hours working day.
Deccan Development Society (DDS): Participatory Development and Empowerment of Women
DDS started in this environment as the commitment of a group of professionals to the people in the Zaheerabad region to continue a rural development project abandoned by an industrial house due to its own compulsions. The earliest objectives of DDS was to combine ecological and employment parameters to regenerate the livelihoods of the people in the area through a string of activities:
An associated objective was to transfer people-oriented technology. This included housing technologies, use of solar energy, permaculture way of organic farming etc. Gradually all these efforts have moved in a reverse direction. Today DDS recognises that people have more knowledge than we have credited them with, and more appropriate technologies than we can think of. Therefore the DDS programmes have evolved into three principles:
Deccan Development Society (DDS) is a grassroots organization working with Sangams (village level groups) of poor women, most of who are Dalits. The Society has a vision of consolidating these village groups into vibrant organs of primary local governance and federate them into a strong pressure lobby for women, poor and Dalits. The Society facilitates a host of continuing dialogues and debates with the public, educational and training programmes to try to translate this vision into reality.
The Society is trying to reverse the historical process of degradation of the environment and peoples livelihood system set in this area, through a variety of land-related activities like:
Education at all levels was a very strong component in this string of efforts. Education, for DDS, encompasses a range of activities starting with balwadies to provide a creative learning environment for young children to Pachasaale, a unique school for working children which takes formal learning and life skills under one umbrella and redefines education into an area of relevance for rural children. Within this range are fitted intensive workshops for adult women, village night schools for out of school children etc.
Central to these attempts is the relocation of people's knowledge in the areas of health (through revitalising the traditional healthcare systems), agriculture (understanding, documenting and promoting people's knowledge of farming systems and practices) etc.
New forms of expression
The DDS has successfully adopted a participatory communication approach to strengthen its initiatives in the region. Over the last 15 years, the organization has used a wide range of horizontal communication techniques. These include:
These strategies have been essentially interpersonal in nature with all its inherent strengths and limitations. However, in the new environment of decentralisation and optimal use of new information and communication technologies, DDS is exploring ways and means by which its communication potential can be enhanced.
When the commitment of an organisation is to value peoples knowledge and build its work on the confidence of the people, there is a need to explore various tools of expression with which people can communicate among themselves as well as with the outside world. In this effort, literacy was clearly considered inadequate. For DDS, the possibility of providing video and audio technologies as a means of expression and an alternative to literacy for the disadvantaged rural women was an exciting idea. To crystallise this idea, DDS contemplates a Community Radio station.
Women Speak to Women: DDS Community FM Radio
Based on these felt needs and UNESCOs interest in womens development and democratisation of communication media, DDS was identified as a suitable partner for UNESCOs Women Speak to Women project. As part of this, DDS has initiated necessary steps for establishing a radio station.
It is proposed to operationalise a low-cost radio station, subject to issuance of a license by the Government of India. The FM station is designed to work on the audio cassette technology. It has a 100 watts transmitter, which can reach a radius of 30 kms, which is roughly, the coverage area of DDS.
Once the station is in operation dalit women from 75 villages will own and operate it. They will bring their form and content into it and make it a tool for their horizontal communication with their communities as well as to reach out to the outside world. They have already recorded over 150 hours of programmes and are also editing them into one hour broadcast modules.
Programming content of the station seeks to serve the information, education, and cultural needs of the region. Programmes would promote the following:
The DDS is currently being assisted by development and communication experts from universities in the region, such as the Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University, the University of Hyderabad, Osmania University, the National Institute of Rural Development, and the B.R. Ambedkar Open University. Discussions are in progress about the possibility of linking with the Open University for broadcasting their educational material over the community radio station.
As the women get equipped with the capacities to express their thoughts, their knowledge and their vision for the future, a major breakthrough would have been made in providing a low cost communication technology for the education of deprived rural communities.
|A RADIO OF THEIR OWN
Dalit women of Medak have reasons to want their own radio
On October 2, 1996, Mr James Bentley, Regional Communication Adviser (Asia), UNESCO had a consultation with about 35 women from the sanghams of the Deccan Development Society. Most of these women were dalit agricultural labourers. The following are some extracts from the Consultation:
Sammamma from Bidakanne village (a 35 year old non literate
dalit organic farmer) .. explaining why we must have our own radio
Sidddamma from Matoor (a 45-year old non literate woman) .. discussing what can be the content of our radio
Pushpalata from Pastapur (a 40 year old single woman who has studied upto class V) .. reacting to a suggestion, (if it is very important for us to disseminate our messages through radio) why can't we invite mainstream radio to come and do programmes with us.
Metlakunta Susilamma (a 28 year old rural dalit woman who has not passed class V) .. reacting to a suggestion why can't we persuade the government to open a radio station here and preserve our langauge, culture and our issues.
Chilukapalli Anasuyamma from Pastapur (a 30 year old non literate dalit single woman) .. when asked to suggest what can we do with our own radio.
Nagamma from Ranjole village ( a 45 year old non literate dalit woman) .. expressing her concern about people having to depend upon the mainstream radio for their information and knowledge
Ratnamma from Algole village (a 45 year old non literate rural dalit woman leader) .. reacting to a statement that it might be very difficult to get a license to run the radio from the government.