Twenty-five year old Algole Narsamma is one of three female producers working on the local community radio station in Pastapur, India. Without the station, set up by the Deccan Development Society (DDS), she would be working in the fields with the rest of her family.
DDS is a grassroots organization that aims to autonomize local communities by establishing networks, catalyzing their progress and development as local governments. Their focus is to open up opportunities to women, the poor and dalits- the lowest group in the Indian social hierarchy. The organization currently operates in over 75 villages in India and boasts 5,000 members.
“The idea was to get local voices to talk to the local people on issues that were close to their hearts.” – P V Satheesh, Co-founder of DDS
Toppling the class hierarchy.
The radio station in Pastapur is inclusive; it is open to women of lower classes as well as older women. In addition to fortifying community-bonds, the station serves to empower and enrich everyone in the community, whether or not they are directly involved in the project.
“These women have struggled all their lives and it is a big deal for them to hear their own voices on the radio.” – Supriya Menon, BBC reporter
Algole Narsamma is just one beneficiary of many. H Lakshmamma is a farmer but also makes nearly ten hours of radio programming a month for the station. Those who do not directly contribute also benefit from the information broadcasted about farming, medicine, health and music.
“It is a means of asserting themselves in this rural setting, of finding a voice and putting themselves in greater control of their own destiny.” – P V Satheesh
The idea has proved so popular in Pastapur that many local women are regular contributors. Although, at the present time, the station is funded by development organizations, it is hoped that the station will eventually become self-sufficient through the profits made from advertising.
In the future, DDS hopes to develop the project and expand it to other regions and villages in India.