Community Reporters Get Their Voice Heard
“I always wanted my voice to be heard on the radio,” says Kasiram.
Kasiram’s long cherished dream came true on 3 September 2010 , when he was selected as community reporter for Lalit Lokvani, a community radio station at Alapur, Birdha block in Uttar Pradesh. One hundred and twenty other trainees had applied, but Kasiram and nine others got lucky.
The community radio station has been set up by a Lalitpur based NGO Sai Jyoti Gramodhyog Samaj Seva Samiti and is supported by UNICEF and state government. This is one of the first community radio stations to be set up by an NGO in the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh.
Selected alongside Kasiram is Uma Yadav, a housewife, who had to fight many odds to become a community reporter in her village. “It was unheard that a daughter-in-law of the village would be actually recording programmes and getting involved in solving women related issues,” says Uma.
“Initially there were a lot of apprehensions and refusals to grant permission in my family, but once they realised how useful the work was, they gave me their permission,” she adds.
Uma adds that she still faces belittling remarks from her in- laws when she leaves for the radio station and while coming back.
“I feel it’s a small price to pay, compared to the service I am doing for the community and the women who need to be empowered in Lalitpur.”
Joining these two will be Onkar Yadav, who is delighted to be a community reporter.
Onkar belongs to a family of farmers and first from his generation to do something other than tilling land. His village Gadhcholi is nestled inside a remote forest area surrounded by hills.
Thrity year old Yadav has worked extremely hard to realise his dream. Be it the sweltering heat of Indian summer or the bitter cold in winter, Onkar has been cycling 34 kiometres everyday for last three years to reach the community radio station, Lalit Lokvani, in time every day.
The Lalit Lokvani radio station has till date created programmes on a variety of entertainment as well as development issues of interest to the community, including education, health, child marriage, breastfeeding, HIV, women and child rights and agriculture.
But what makes the radio station’s programs more popular compared to other radio services in the region, is its exclusive broadcast in the local Bundelkhandi dialect. Its frequency of 90.4 megahertz has a reach of 12-15 kilometers, covering 80 villages with over 1.3 lakh listeners.
The programs are now being broadcast daily for one hour between 7 AM and 8 AM and repeated twice, from 1 PM to 2 PM and from 7 PM to 8 PM.
The first broadcast of Lalit Lokvani was formally launched by the District Magistrate of Lalitpur, Mr. Ranvir Prasad at a colourful event. Mr. Jugal Kishor - Joint Director of the Bharatendu Natak Academy, UP, and well known theatre personality, who recently acted in Amir Khan’s popular film Peepli Live, Program Manager, UNICEF was also present.
Ms. Rajeshwari Chandrashekar, Community for Development (C4D) Specialist, UNICEF Delhi, Mr. Mario Mosquera , Community Radio Forum representative Mr.N.Ramakrishnan and Mr. Ajay Shrivastava from Sai Jyoti were also present, and together with the community of Alapur, made history by kickstarting the broadcast of Lalit Lokvani to over 80 villages in the Bundelkhand region.
At the launch function, the District Magistrate, Mr. Ranvir Prasad, distributed identity cards to each of the reporters amidst applause from a huge crowd of villagers who braved the downpour to witness the launch. He assured the full support of the district administration to the radio station in the future. Earlier, in his welcome address, Ajay Shrivastava from Sai Jyoti, spoke about how information available through Lalit Lokvani would show the path of development to the panchayat and the community.
Rajeshwari Chandrashekar, Programme Manager, UNICEF Lucknow, said Lalit Lokvani is a communication medium for the grassroot population; it is a community initiative for the community cause. She explained that all human indicators in the region are far lower compared to other places.
Mradul Srivastava, station manager of Lalit Lokvani echoed “Most of our programmes have participants from within the village community itself, who help present programmes using the Bundelkhandi tradition and language. And when heard on community radio the impact is greater and long lasting - that’s what the feedback we received has shown us.”
Rachana Sharma of UNICEF elucidated, “In the three years that Lalit Lokvani has been narrowcasting to the villages, it has shown us how community radio can be used as a powerful tool of information and awareness.”
Rachana explained the journey in setting up the radio station, “From taking reporters for field visits to different community radio stations in Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh for multiple content and technical trainings to reporters, and granting of the wireless operating license by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and installing the tower and transmitter, it has been a long road."