Community radio is making waves in Haryana's Mewat region by fostering change in a notoriously backward community. Over the past seven years, Radio Mewat 90.4 and Alfaz-e-Mewat have been able to achieve what governments have been trying for seven decades.
Pooja Murada, a Delhi-based communication specialist, who had been working on social projects in Mewat since 1999, launched Alfaz-e-Mewat in 2012. Today, her radio station reaches 2.5 lakh homes in 225 villages.
The programmes address community issues, connect local people with experts and educate listeners on a host of subjects from agriculture to government schemes.
Community radio has ushered in employment, new ideas and has opened up communities to discuss issues. Shakir Hussain of Hasanpur village began working for the radio while he was in college. He underwent training in scriptwriting and vox pop. Today, he hosts shows on farming, water management and governance. And, he often gets government officials and researchers to answer the villagers' queries.
Anuradha Dubey, 25, from Madhya Pradesh, manages programmes related to women's and health issues. “I do shows with women in groups; then they feel less shy,” she says. “We have talked about toilets, merits of in-hospital deliveries, and nutritional and postpartum care of the mother and baby.”
Earlier, such issues were not openly discussed in this society. Dubey is venturing deeper into the taboo zone, getting people to talk about issues such as sexual abuse.
Such subjects are handled sensitively, and even local religious leaders approve of the community radio shows. “They are informative,” says Muhammad Iqbal, a maulvi. “Today, we are aware about anganwadis, midday meals and other government programmes.”
Asloop Khan, a farmer from Kaliabaz village, says he learnt about the government's financial schemes through community radio programmes. “We learnt that money could be transacted through the mobile phone, too,” he adds.
Radio Mewat 90.4 focuses more on social taboos and myths, especially regarding women's health. Delhi-born programme coordinator Komal Sharma says women's health is a neglected issue in this predominantly Islamic region. Through her innovative programmes, information such as as nutritive values of locally available greens is discussed, and superstitions are busted.
Farheen Bano, 18, from Kherla village is from a family that would not have sent women to work in a radio station. She, however, does a programme called Apna Swasthya Apne Haath, and her family enjoys listening to it. The station also has a programme called Masti Ki Paathshala that teaches mathematics in a fun, engrossing way.
Way to go, indeed!