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Tuesday, October 16, 2001

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A media centre for rural women

By Kalpana Sharma

PASTAPUR, (DIST MEDAK), OCT. 15. Armed with video cameras, poor, non-literate Dalit women are demanding their share of the media pie. On International Rural Women's Day, the country's first rural Community Media Centre was inaugurated in Pastapur village, around 104 km east of Hyderabad, as the women already trained to run the centre filmed the function.

The Centre is the result of the initiative taken by the Deccan Development Society (DDS), which works with rural women in Medak district, following a demand voiced by the thousands of women who are a part of the DDS sanghams (groups).

Says Chinna Narsamma, one of the trustees of the new centre: ``Educated people have been dominating the media. We have learned how to make films on video though we are uneducated. Now we have gained the confidence that we can do everything on a par with the educated people.''

The inaugural function was held in a vine-covered circular hall on the DDS campus in Pastapur village and attended by representatives of all the 70 DDS sanghams. The District Collector, Mr. L. Premchandra Reddy, the MLA from Zaheerabad, Mr. Farid-ud-din, and the chairperson of the Medak Zilla Parishad, Ms. Sunitha Patil, were among the local dignitaries present.

It was an unusual occasion as everyone listened to the trustees of the Media Centre - women who have been trained to film and record events in their own lives. They spoke of the different perspectives they bring to the media because they speak the language of the people they film and treat them as equals. A film on their work illustrated this point. It showed what they called the Patel shot, where the person is photographed from a low level to make him appear larger than life; the slave shot, where the camera is held above the person to make him appear small; and the Sangham shot which gives the person a chance to speak directly to the camera.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mrs. Mekhala Laxmamma from Humnapur village, a remarkable woman who has demonstrated on her own land how it is possible to sustain agriculture that preserves local biodiversity, talked about the power the camera gave her. ``Now the higher castes offer us hospitality, and even carry my camera bag when I go to film them.''

The Community Media Centre, housed in the DDS campus in Pastapur, has an edit suite, a dubbing booth, a computer room and rooms for storage and rehearsal. The DDS also has a radio centre which makes broadcast-ready programmes. It has still not got a licence for FM radio, something that many groups have been demanding since the early 1990s.

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