Appan Samachar: Creating a new wave in community news



SHAILY LAMBA

Bihar is a synonym for development. The proof of the pudding is an all-women news channel which has become favourite in rural areas of the state

The media all around the world is going gaga over these girls; everyone wants to know a little bit more about them. This is a tale of four girls who wanted to unmask the corrupt and malicious faces of the society. The best way of doing it turned out to be coming up with their very own news channel. Hence was born ‘Appan Samachar’, which means ‘our or my news’.

 

In this world of commercialised media which has forgotten the country’s rural background, Appan Samachar focuses on issues concerning development, farmers, environment, social evils, women empowerment, public health and hygiene and many such welfare related matters

It is an all-women news network run by village women from marginalised and other backward communities in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar. The unique initiative took shape in December 2007 at Ramleela Gachhi near Deoria police station in Muzaffarpur. Presently, it has expanded its reach to about hundred villages of six blocks; namely, Paroo, Sahebganj, Saraiya, Marwan, Kanti and Mushahari. The credit of this unique concept goes to social activist and journalist Santosh Sarang, who is also the chairperson of a trust named “Mission Eye International Service.”

 

It was started by four girls but later inspired many to hop on and help bring change in the nearby villages. Young camerawoman Ruby Kumari and script-writer Ruma Devi says: “We sit down daily to look around for issues that affect directly the villagers. Then we work on them from every angle and then put them on air”. In this world of commercialised media which has forgotten the rural background of the country and their problems, Appan Samachar focuses on issues concerning development, farmers, environment, social evils, women empowerment, public health and hygiene and many such welfare related matters.

The news bulletins are screened for free in the villages where there is no electricity or cable through a projector in markets or places where maximum crowd can gather for maximum impact. Without any formal training, the team gets village media workshops which are conducted by “Mission Eye International Service” in order to enhance their skills. Carrying a low range Sony handycam, a tripod and two microphones with the channel logo, they bump along on the dusty narrow village tracks to talk to people and shoot their stories.

The gang of these girls prove to be an inspiration for many around the country; for not just for the rural classes but the urban world is puzzled with the strength and courage they possess. The self-brand journalist team belongs to various Scheduled Caste and Tribes, and communities including the Mushahar community (the Mushahars are people who live by trapping and consuming rats).

The popularity of this unique assemble has prompted many to be part of it including Dr. Carolyn Heising who is the patron and advisor of Appan Samachar. Heising is a Professor at Iowa State University in United States and she was also appointed at the Chair of the national Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Women in Academia (WIA) committee in 2006. Dr. Heising, who takes special interest in gender related studies, told us that “the initiative taken by Mr. Sarang is applaudable and the determination of Dipesh Chandra to carve the lives of these girls on camera would hopefully wake many more to do the same and be the change they want to see”.

 

Due to the ripples created by this programme, many people and organisations are coming forward in an attempt to help these women learn more and realise their potential

For this innovative effort, 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.

 

Due to the ripples created by this programme, many people and organisations are coming forward in an attempt to help these women learn more and realise their potential. One such effort is by a youth activist and director Dipesh Chandra who is making a character-driven documentary on the lives of these girls. Chandra in the past has worked on various documentary projects including Prisms of Light and many others. On being asked about this project, he said: “After meeting these girls I realised their potential and now it is on us how we help them realise the same. It will also project the lives these girls have been living. Hopefully this will be helpful to raise awareness among people”.

The courage and conviction of a few people takes the whole world forward. In this case, the girls have taken a giant step of letting the world know how just the union and power of a few adjoined forces can put the whole world bewildered and amused but at the same time inspired. Hopefully this will provoke many more people about raising one’s own hand in the crowd and lead towards self empowerment.

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