Sunanda Phadtare (50) is a vegetable vendor from village Mhaswad. Alka Mahadik (42) is a farmer from village Nevari. Manjusha Shaha (49), a homemaker, has studied up to Std X. Leela Kambale, a folk singer based in village Dhakani, has never been to school. Despite their rural background and limited educational qualification, Phadtare, Mahadik, Shaha and Kambale are among the 12 women volunteers who work for Mann Deshi Tarang Vahini (MDTV) — a community radio station that’s operational in 102 villages in Maan taluka in Satara district. These women work as volunteers and contribute towards the content that goes on air. The community radio station was launched in September 2008 in Maan taluka by NGO Maan Vikas Samajik Sanstha (MVSS), an NGO.
“Community radio means radio… with the objective of serving the cause of the community… by involving members of the community… the reason we collaborated with these women volunteers is that since they are from the Maan Deshi community, they are aware of the issues faced by the community. They convey these problems to us and that helps us organise an expert discussion around it on the radio. The very aim of launching the radio station was to enhance access to information, build local capacity and empower women to improve their lives and those of their families through creative programming,” said Chetna Sinha, founder of MVSS.
Sinha said a volunteer’s job involves broadcasting relevant content during the festival season, giving feedback on programmes, interviewing guests visiting Mhaswad, sharing suggestions on content, and for the need of programmes on issues relevant to the community such as career guidance, water literacy, health awareness, organic farming, market process, natural farming, slurry making, crop insurance etc.
While most of the 12 members have been associated with the community radio station since 2010, the rest of them joined only two or three years ago. Kerabai Sargar (50), an illiterate goatkeeper from Didvaghvadi village, joined the radio station in 2010. She sings folk songs and conducts interviews on topics such as farming and drought.
Maan taluka’s rich folk songs, bhajans, kirtans, and the shepherd community’s distinctive folk music are the highlights of MDTV. “Local artistes such as Kerabai find a place in the mainstream media through community radio,” said Sinha.
Meena Mangrule (51) is a bangle-seller based in Mhasvad and educated till Std XI. Other than singing occasionally at the station, she also conducts quiz competitions and participates in informative programmes on local festivals. Interestingly, the members also include a few professionals such as doctors, teachers and professors. Sujata Kumbhar, a teacher, has conducted programmes on exams and stress management for students, while Dr Shilpa Desai and Dr Hema Pinjari have been a part of health programmes.
The women meet weekly with the radio station staff to discuss the programme topics.
Manjusha Shaha, who has been actively involved in an outreach radio programme since 2015, said, “I have conducted programmes that focused on recipes. Besides, we tell the radio staffers about the problems we face in the village, and they incorporate these topics in future programmes… recently, a programme on garbage segregation was organised.”
The radio programmes cover a wide range of topics including health, hygiene, agriculture, financial literacy, education, rural livelihoods, local market prices, capacity building, local environmental issues, self-help group promotion , and more. “Another aim of involving these women was that we wanted to train interested community members, especially illiterate and semi-literate women who cannot utilise the print media, to use field recording technology to continue their oral traditions of communication and provide an outlet for local identity, expression and culture,” added Sinha. Mahadik, who joined the radio last year as a volunteer, said, “Being part of the radio programmes, we also get to learn so many new things. Along with the entire community, we are also getting educated.”