Uma Negi, 35, housewife-turned-career woman, starts her working day in Rudraprayag, Uttarakhand at 7am. Since 2010 she has been picking up the mike and addressing listeners on community radio (CR) Mandakini ke Awaaz (MKA) founded by her husband, Manvendra Singh Negi on 21st September 2014.
Her first one-hour slot is to air Bhajans and Kirtans to early morning listeners. This is followed by a two-hour interactive program for school children – a mix of general knowledge and riddles. Later in the day, Manoranjan includes favourite songs and poetry. Local news comes in for all the centers followed by a Doctor Didi guest female speaker answering questions related to health issues from women listeners.
Uma considers her meeting with Saritha Thomas, founder of People Power Collective (PPC) in 2010, “a life changer.” When in 2012 MKA and PPC collaborated, it was a big step as it upgraded the reach of the CR to embrace more remote areas across rural India. One transmitter covers four neighbouring districts.
PPC’s 18-month, embedded incubation enabled the trainees including Uma to grow as local community broadcasters and enabled MKA launch as a CR station in Sept 2014, reaching many more remote locations.
Initially, Uma, along with five other women and six men underwent 18 months’ training by PPC. “we were taught radio scripting, interviewing, editing, recording and presentation. Eventually, seven of us joined PPC. It was the first station to broadcast in our local languages, Gadhwali and Kumauni.”
A graduate in Hindi and History from Agastyamuni College, Uma, mother of 16-year-old Rishab, speaks about another memorable milestone in her life. The opportunity came her way in February 2015. “Saritha ma’am told me I was to go to London to represent MKA. It was the first time I was boarding a plane! Not literate in English, I wondered how I would communicate with these ladies abroad. But we spoke in Hindi, and when needed, English was translated for me. I soon realised that the common topic was Problem of Women. During my week there I met many women and found our issues were more or less the same. It was a wonderful experience.”
Saritha elaborates, “We did an exchange program in 2015 with MKA and Desi Radio (Southhall, London) as part of PPC’s training model. Uma Negi came to London and it was a terrific interaction between her and the women at Desi Radio and people at the BBC World Service. I recall Uma learning and expressing to me on this trip, how women all over the world seem to need to reclaim their voices. She went back to MKA more energised and inspired to continue to work hard for women’s issues and voice via the airwaves.”
Uma sums up, “The CR has definitely emboldened women to come out and participate and speak about various personal topics on the air.”
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With Amita Sarwal