You are here: Home Features Using arts to help rural India speak out
Using arts to help rural India speak out

Jun 23, 2014

“We feel convinced that this is the way to reach that last person of our community," says Shubhranshu Choudhary, winner of the Index Digital Activism Award.

Three months after winning the Index Digital Activism Award for his work with CGNet Swara, Shubhranshu Choudhary spoke to Index about his most recent project, teaching rural villagers through performing arts how their mobile phones can be used to report incidents and issues that may otherwise be given the cold-shoulder by the authorities.

CGNet Swara (Voice of Chhattisgarh) is a mobile phone service that allows citizens to upload and listen to reports in their local language without the need for a smartphone or an internet connection.

The new experiment, as Choudhary referred to it, ran for a month, from 15 May to 15 June, and included volunteer artists performing in market places and villages in six of India’s 29 states. During this time the average number of daily reports jumped from 500 to 800, although, as Choudhary pointed out, it is too early tell if this was just an anomaly.

The team involved flipped their conventional method of teaching on its head. Previously, rural people were brought to the cities where they sat in classrooms and lectured about how to use the service. By physically going to the villagers instead, CGNet Swara has “reversed the order”, now teaching people in a way that makes them feel comfortable.

“We have made dance, we have written songs about our work, we have made a small drama, and there are characters that are puppets,” Choudhary told Index. “So in an entertaining way we try to tell them the problems with current mainstream media, which everyone should have equal access to, but unfortunately is owned and controlled by a small number of rich people.” This has resulted in a media full of information about the rich, according to Choudhary, with 80% of the population only receiving about 20% news coverage.

Between five and six million people speak Gondi in the six states CGNet Swara has visited, but they lack their own communication platform, with no radio station, newspaper or TV channel available in the Gondi language. CGNet Swara allows people to report incidents and get their voices heard when they might otherwise have been shunned.

Choudary was clear to point out that the people for whom this service is most vital are not uneducated, but rather a huge number of them live in rural areas and “feel more comfortable listening and speaking rather than reading and writing”. In a country where most Indians don’t have access to the internet but over 70% have access to a mobile phone, services like CGNet Swara play a pivotal part in giving the majority of the population a voice.

“By improving your communication platform, by improving the structure of communication within a community, by improving it from a top-down, one-way communication method to a bottom-up dialogue model of communication we are able to solve many smaller problems,” Choudhary told Index. “And maybe we will be contributing towards solving bigger problems as well.”

Click here to read the full article.

Most Read
Most Shared
You May Like




Jobs at OneWorld










Global Goals 2030
OneWorld South Asia Group of Websites