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Tuning in to 'our own voice'

Jul 25, 2011

A community radio initiative in the East Indian state of Bihar enables locals to voice their problems and raises awareness on issues of mother and child health. The initiative is launched by UNICEF and a local NGO in technical collaboration with OneWorld Foundation India.

Patepur, Bihar: Lakhendra and Chandan from Mandaidih village of Patepur district in Bihar were about to realise their long cherished dream of being associated with a radio programme. As the presenter at the radio station Vividh Bharti, operating from the Eastern state capital of Patna announces the next radio programme, a wave of elation sweeps 250 listeners gathered together.

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The first episode of radio programme Apni Awaaz (Our own voice) starts with a Bhojpuri title Song, written and sung by a fourteen-year-old budding artist Praveen Kumar. The crowd goes ecstatic with tears of joy in the eyes of many including Lakhendra and Chandan.

The half an hour community radio magazine, Apni Awaaz, is an initiative of UNICEF Bihar and Swargiya Kanhai Shukla Samajik Sewa Sansthan (SKSSSS) in technical collaboration with OneWorld Foundation India. The programme aims to raise awareness in Bihar and Jharkhand on mother and child healthcare, total sanitation and promoting institutional deliveries. The programme would be broadcast on alternate Fridays at 11.30 am to 12 noon from Vividh Bharti (102.5 MHz). The community radio initiative aims to empower the rural masses by strengthening their voices and articulating their concerns to the society at large. 

CR volunteers

In September 2010, process to set a Community Radio Station (CRS) kicked off in Patepur with much enthusiasm and support from the locals. In March 2011, 96 volunteers for CRS and organised a series of workshops to train them in radio programme production. A group of 35 Community Radio Reporters (Radio Sathi) and 61 Village Reporters (Vaani Mitr) were selected.

These volunteers underwent rigorous training to identify core issues confronting the local community and contact experts for their views on the issue. They would then write scripts for a radio programme, record and edit them. “Training has refined us; today we can go out to the nearby villages to understand the problems and feelings of villagers so that I can produce radio programmes for them,” said Mannu Manchan, a Radio Saathi.  

The volunteers juggled between their livelihoods and residential training programmes demonstrating excellent teamwork and dedication.

The hard work transformed into the first radio programme based on the importance of breastfeeding for mother and child health which drew much local acclaim. 

Anchoring for success

Acknowledging one of the crucial objectives of Apni Awaaz, Block Development Officer (BDO) of Mahua, Sri Nivas said, “Radio programme will cater to the remote villages by providing a platform to the local talents and help in articulating their problems.”

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It was a unique experience for Ruby and Shailendra who anchored the first episode of Apni Awaaz. Sharing her experience about the first radio programme Ruby said, “While recording the radio programme I was very nervous but as soon as I finished it, I was elated. I am very happy that my programme was aired on radio. Now, I feel I have a voice.”

Sanjay Kumar Neelendu, who hails from Mandaidih village where Community Radio Station will be setup says, “Before joining the CR initiative I was a passive listener of radio but now I am an active participant and broadcaster”.

Sudhir Kumar Shukla, Secretary of SKSSSS stressed on the need of the community radio Apni Awaaz for the natives. He said, “Communities living near proposed CRS site lack a strong medium of communication and CRS will be helpful in bridging that gap.” 

“Community Radio programme will help in linking the government and community. This programme will enable the community to access the information related to various government schemes and policies. Additionally, it will help them to communicate and share problems with respective Panchayats, Blocks and District”, said District Planning Officer of Vaishali, who is also a member of Community Radio Management Committee (CRMC).

The excitement and enthusiasm of crowd gathered during inaugural broadcast of Apni Awaaz was worth of watching. Aarti, an ANM at Mandaidih Panchayat said, “I hope this radio programme will create awareness among villagers and facilitate the development of my village. This will help in voicing the voices of voiceless.”

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