Appan Samachar, an all-women village news network-is a fortnightly rural news channel run by a group of women, most of them from marginalized Dalit (downtrodden community), Other Backward Classes, Mushahar (rat eating community) & Muslim communities in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar in north India. This unique initiative began in December 2007 at Ramleela Gachhi near Deoria police station in Muzaffarpur. Presently, It is expanded in about hundred villages of six blocks like-Paroo, Sahebganj, Saraiya, Marwan, Kanti, Mushahari. This unique programme is the brainchild of a Social Activist & Journalist Mr. Santosh Sarang. Mr. Sarang is also the Chairperson of a trust named “Mission Eye International Service.”
In the race of TRP and advertisement, maximum news channels telecast horror and spice based news. The village and poor people and farmers’ problems are not in the objectives of these channels. The participation of women in media as a professionals is very low in
Northern India. The voice of women can’t be raise without participation of women journalists. Thus, from these thoughts, the concept of Appan Samachar came on floor as an alternative media.
In a state where beating up and killing of women after branding them as witches is common, An all-women news channel seems impractical which was made practical by Appan Samachar is now creating waves in the rural backwaters. The team have no any formal training so they are learning it on the job. Time to time, a trust “Mission Eye International Service” are conducting Village Media Workshops to strengthen their skills.
Appan Samachar focussing on development issues, farmers problems, environmental issues, social evils, human rights issues, corruption in welfare schemes, women empowerment, child marriage, gender discrimination, female feoticide, child labour, public health & hygiene, sanitation etc. are grabbing eyeballs in these remote villages. This innovative initiative is bringing a change in the concerning villages. The team of these firebrand village based young girls and energetic journalists are inspiring thousands of girls & women who feel herself weak and are neglected. The team of Reporters, Camerapersons, Anchors, Video Editors, Scrept Writers are composed of young girls belonging to Scheduled Castes & Tibes, including Mushahar community. These are people who live by trapping and consuming rats from the fields. Also included in the production of news bulletin are girls from other backward classes like kahar, mallah, dhobi, koiry, badaee etc. who are marginalized and under-represented in the mainstream. When these girls ride bicycle to gather news & interviewing villagers, then the corrupt Panchayat Representatives, Officers, Bankers, Politicians face an afraid.
The screening of the news bulletin is free to air. Villagers watch Appan Samachar’s bulletin on a projector in villages’ markets. Sometimes, the reports are shown on portable TV set through CD player at weekly village haats and among community in the evening where there is more village crowd for its maximum impact and reach. Appan Samachar’s viewers are both rural and urban people. The bulletin is also screened in the district head quarter. Since the village has no electricity or cable network facility to watch satellite channels, Appan Samachar hires a generator to supply the power for the projector and other equipment.
Soon, the channel will put out programmes every week. The reaching of Appan Samachar made easier through CDs. Every edition of the bulletin is available in CDs for distribution on production cost. About two hundred CDs are sold by the team of girls fortnightly. The audience is spread over the district villages which counts over 5000 viewers.
Appan Samachar produces news capsule in Hindi and local dialect Bhojpuri & Bajjika. The centre of operations is a gloomy room at the remote Ramleela Gachhi village on the crime-ridden banks of the Gandak river. The asbestos roofed room has one table, two chairs, an old portable television. In this bleak lawless boondocks of one of
’s poorest states, three young girls and a newly-wed woman cycled around to gather news for their programme, when the initiative started. Now, two dozen girls are working with Appan Samachar as a journalist. India
Carrying a low range Sony Handycam, a tripod and two microphone with the channel logo, they bump along on the dusty narrow village tracks to talk to people and shoot their stories.
The first edition of this fortnightly news programme was screened on a projector and featured such issues as witchcraft, empowerment of women, poverty and farm problems. For the second edition, Appan Samachar chose to do stories on education for the girl child.
Since the initiative started, Appan Samachar team received an opportunity to gather news of a visit of Bihar CM Nitish Kumar in a Mega Camp during Kosi flood in 2008 and to cover a programme where the former President and Missile Man Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam participated. These two opportunities were great moment in the life of village women reporters.
As television has not reached the far-flung areas, Appan Samachar’s team wishes to bridge the information and education gap for the people. Managing with bare minimum resources, the channel has far-reaching impact. But despite the obstacles, the women feel the show must go on!
All-girls team of Appan Samachar is heralding a media movement from below. It is a surge from within where information is new found power and news broadcasting promises to become an agent of change. The villagers are excited with the prospect of their faces being displayed and voices heard by one and all in the area.
There are 24 women staffs fulfill their responsibilities as a journalist for Appan Samachar and about two dozen volunteers related to various fields like-Doctors, Professors, Social Activists, Lawyers, Businessman and Students help the team. Some prestigious & Government supported NGOs like-Bihar Mahila Samakhya Society, Rotary International (Muzaffarpur Chapter) also co-operate this initiative. The team raises fund for the channel throught local donation, episode sponsored, local traders, volunteers, to sell CDs and advertisement.
BACKGROUND OF FIREBRAND GIRLS :
Most of the girls belonging to remote villages and poor families. Their parents are illiterate or semi literate. Family is also economically poor. The base of their livelihood is farming or labouring. Khushboo Kumari is 16-years old studying in 10+2. She is an Anchor cum reporter. Her father is a farmer who has not got a TV set. Radhika Kumari belongs to Scheduled Tribe “Mushahar”. She is studing in Kasturba Gandhi Vidyalaya and her father is a poor labourer. Radhika runs camera for Appan Samachar.
STRENGTHENING GRASSROOTS DEMOCRACY :
In the recent General Election, Appan Samachar team organized many programmes named “Vote Kee Chot” in different villages to aware voters. Appan Samachar also telecasts many programmes focusing on welfare schemes and the programmes on human rights to strengthen and educate the citizen particularly by villagers. Appan Samachar is education and creating awareness among them about ‘Local Self Governance’ and its impact on our society.
IMPACT OF APPAN SAMACHAR :
A report on Self Helf Group running at Chandkewari village highlighted corruption in a Rural Bank. After this report, the Manager of that bank promised to distribute KCC loan and revolving fund to farmers and SHGs without any bribe. Within one and half year, many farmers were granted KCC loans without any bribe. A report on corruption in NREGA scheme forced Block Programme Officer to lodge an FIR against Rojgar Sewak.
FACING PROBLEMS :
No doubt, this initiative is the medium of empowerment of women and voiceless people. We can say, Appan Samachar is a media movement which is the strong tool of an alternative media or citizen journalism. But, the team has to face many crucial problems. Sometimes, girls reporters face vulgar words delivered by some taporytype youths or neighbourers. Local pressure is also forced, when any report on corruption is covered by the team. One day, a team of Appan Samachar went to gather a story on corruption in ‘Public Distribution System’ at Saraiya Block. The BDO (Block Development Officer) forced the team to go back without cover the story and use some hard words before these girls. But, the firebrand girls covered the news and interviewed Marketing Officer. It is not so easy to gather news by bicycle. Sometimes, these reporters have to go to far distance in remote and crime-ridden areas from their houses.
CHANGING LIVES :
Apart from all the wider impacts of Appan Samachar in the world of rural
Bihar, this innovative concept has had a very crucial impact on the lives of the women who work as its production, editorial, screeing and advertisement team. They’ve had to push at the boundaries of the spaces they are conventionally expected to inhabit-whether to study further than they have been given the opportunity to, or negotiate the public sphere in an active sense.
More fundamentally, all the members of the team have become reflective about their gender, class and class identities, and the way in which this moulds their lives and work. Take for example, Rinku had no interent to watch news bulletin on her TV set. She always saw only serials or films. After joining Appan Samachar, her more time spent on TV to watch news bulletin. Now Rinku has more knowledge about current affairs and various government schemes. Like Rinku, other girls also gain more knowledge and want to get a job in big media houses. This had a huge impact on her life. It gave her a confidence she never had before.
LEARNING JOURNALISM :
Over the last two years, several inputs have been organized for the Appan Samachar reporters to build their skills in various areas. Efforts have been made to strengthen technical skills like reporting, script writing, video editing, anchoring, camera, production and documentary film making as well as to facilitate an understanding of current issues and politics. These inputs have been structured to cater to the specific needs of the women, many of whom have low levels of literacy and little access to other sources of information. Interactions and discussions with other media groups, women’s collectives, academics and other external resource people have also provided an excellent learning opportunity for the group. Inputs are provided to the team periodically on various current issues. Examples of some of the issues discussed have been the witchcraft, Right to Information, child marriage, female feoticide, crisis of water and issues around producing information in the local language have been held with the team so far.
RURAL JOURNALISM WORKSHOPS :
Designing the journalism workshops for rural girls/women with little exposure to mainstream media has been exciting and challenging. The workshop content has included discussions around what constitutes news, as well as the practical aspects of identifying sources of news, gathering information, validating news sources and conducting interviews. The workshops have adopted a hands-on approach, where participants gather news, do interviews and then file their story. An exposure to different styles of writing is also provided. These workshops are organized by a trust “Mission Eye International Service” has also developed a training module. The workshop was visualized as an input that would enable women to understand the basic principles of journalism. Developing an understanding on what constitutes news, sources of news and information, news collection, interviews and writing news were some of the key content issues.
MEDIA COVERAGE & AWARDS :
This unique concept and the success story of the Creator & Director of Appan Samachar and these girls are highlighted by different national-international print and electronic media. The BBC, CNN-IBN, IBN7, NDTV, Vioce of Jermany, DD News, Zee News, Sahara Samay, India TV, Live India, ETV, FM radio, Aakashwani, Mahua Channel, UNI, PTI, The Pioneer, The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, Deccan Herald, The Hindu, The Telegraph, Outlook, Civil Services Chronical, Sopan Step, Dainik Hindustan, Dainik Jagran, Aaj, Prabhat Khabar, Sampadak, Media Scan, Kashmir Times, Down to Earth etc. are covered the story on Appan Samachar. A documentary film on Appan Samachar is also made by a freelance documentary film maker K. Niraj and 52 minutes documentary film is also under production by NEXT STORY team.For this innovative effort, in October 2008 Appan Samachar received the prestigious “Citizen Journalist Award”-a national award from CNN-IBN (Network-18 group). This award was presented by the Chief Minister of Delhi Smt. Sheila Dixit.