It’s Tuesday. The elderly women and men gather along with the young. Everyone from the mohalla is excited. A radio sits in the centre, tuned into FM 107.8, Radio Nazariya. The excitement is in the air as they listen to their mohalla girl Gulnaz, an RJ. Gulnaz engages her listeners across many such mohallas, focusing on women’s issues and access to micro-finance for women.
In another chawl, a similar scene is unfolding. Dimple’s mother is all ears, tuned into Radio Nazariya. She loves listening to her daughter presenting a programme on women’s issues. Dimple digs out stories from such chawls crawling with innumerable unresolved problems that need to be voiced and solved.
Gulnaz, Dimple, Uzma, Binas, Ankit, Sonal, Rohit, Naimisha, or Jyoti are RJs from mohallas and chawls spread across Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
Radio. An apparatus for receiving or transmitting radio broadcasts. Over the years, the power of the radio has been harnessed for myriad purposes across the world. In India, a number of commercial radio stations normally belt out film music and spend considerable airtime cajoling their listeners to buy innumerable products. But little is known about the not-so-conventional yet valuable contribution of “community radios”.
Community radios, managed by the communities themselves, allow the vulnerable and the marginalized to avoid “voice over”, but rather come forward and help address issues that concern the community’s well being. Radio Nazariya is one such example.
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Radio Nazariya is currently is on air for eight hours from 10 AM to 6 PM every day. Its range is about 7-8 km, with Khanpur at the centre of its radius, covering areas such as Paldi, Khanpur, Shahpur, Kalupur, Astodia, Mirzapur, and Raikhad, reaching out to about 6-7 lakh citizens.
Radio Nazariya operates on the principle of acting as a link and creates a space that facilitates dialogue on critical issues. This allows the community to come forward and participate in this dialogue, to create and develop, drive, and execute it. The radio jockeys are from the community, and often come from environments that are restricted in every sense.
Radio Nazariya inches its reach into numerous vulnerable communities through its strategic local partners/organisations that provide access into their issues.
The radio has the following programme focus areas—Behengiri, focusing on issues related to women; Yuva Front, addressing issues of the youth; and Sahernama addressing health, hygiene, and sanitation in slum areas of the city, SMART cities and inclusivity, and issues of disability.
Abhiyakti focuses on Indian classical music, Gujarati literary artists—poets, writers, and dramatists—and caters to the elderly, presenting the literature and music that they would like to listen to, while Kalrav emphasises children and the problems they face. Road shows are an important intervention to popularize the content and invite the community to participate.
Meet the RJs
Gulnaz is all of 20 years old, and lives with her parents and six siblings. She could study only till Class IX. A restricted environment made life dull for Gulnaz, but she would volunteer for events and activities within her mohalla (area). During this involvement, she came to know about Radio Nazariya, and with the support of her parents applied to become an RJ.
Today, Gulnaz is a professional RJ. She learned to think about issues and conduct audience analysis, and the technical aspects of producing a radio programme. Her focus area is financial inclusion for women. In her area, people respect her, as the community listens to her on the radio.
In her words, “Radio Nazariya is for communities such as the one I belong to, where we highlight our issues and make effort to seek redressal.”
The community also provides her with feedback that helps her make the programmes more interactive. Within the family now, everything revolves around Gulnaz’s schedule, something which this young changemaker never ever dreamed of.
Dimple belongs to the Rabari Community, known for highly restricted roles for women. But she had parents who were brave enough to move beyond “community diktats”. Dimple’s father works as a cinema hall manager. Her parents provided Dimple and her sister with all possible opportunities to educate themselves. Dimple, now 24, has a Masters in Psychology, while her sister is a law graduate. Her two other brothers are studying for Class XII.
Dimple volunteered with an organisation that focused on creating youth groups to discuss various issues affecting the communities in her chawl. As a young leader in her area, she got an opportunity to work with Radio Nazariya and with intensive training – both conceptual and technical – she move ahead to become a fellow, an RJ.
Dimple’s programming focus is to address violence against women and she has been able to air 35+ stories. The one closest to her heart is that of a Muslim woman fighting a lone battle in court for maintenance from her estranged husband. Her status in the community has risen as she works at a radio station.
Dimple says her voice on the radio is the voice of and for the communities. It does make a difference.
Sustaining initiatives such as these requires funds, and currently, Radio Nazariya is campaigning to raise funds to manage their operations. With adequate funding, they hope to turn their focus on the communities and help them resolve their issues for a better quality of life. It is after all the community members who support and run the radio station.