Established in 2010 by MANT, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Purulia, which is one of the least advanced districts in West Bengal, Nityananda Janavani (NJ) provides a voice to the tribal community in the area. In a region that is media starved, the community radio centre has nurtured a vast pool of tribal volunteers and Radio Jockeys.

The Santhali women are recording a programme in Nityananda Janvanis studio

Music and song are an integral part of the tribal community. Realizing this NJ has adroitly used the medium of songs to package and disseminate important social messages. The strategy has worked wonders with the community. For instance, the community had for long been resistant to the idea of latrines at the household level. However, the appeals of the tribal singers through songs performed by them as they wandered down the village paths were successful in persuading community members to change their mind. In fact, the success of such endeavours convinced MANT to establish 50 Community Radio Listening Centres in as many tribal villages.
These efforts have also had other positive benefits. Apart from social impact, they have been successful in developing a bank of musical talent. A case in point is Ms. Srimanti Hembram, the first ever tribal radio jockey in West Bengal (or perhaps in India). Her songs as well as her brisk but telling jingles are broadcast daily by NJ with the result that she is today a household name in her own community.

A tribal artist doing a live programme.

NJ has also contributed significantly to women’s empowerment through the participation of women in the station both as singers and produces. Tribal women singers like Ms. Mamoni Murmu, and radio producers like Snehalata, Pirani, Laxmimoni are a few examples. All of them script songs, produce radio dramas and radio magazines which cover a range of issues like early marriage, child abuse, “water, sanitation and hygiene” (WASH), Reproductive and Child Health (RCH), (Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome)AIDS etc.
Recently, NJ trained tribal women and encouraged them to visit the radio station and share their stories. It was found that almost 1300 hours programmes were prepared by tribal women.

 

Nirmalya Mukherjee

Manbhum Ananda Ashram Nityananda Trust – MANT, Kolkata