Community Media/MARAA/Projects/Bundelkhand Project

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Participatory Assessment of women’s community health issues in Bundelkhand region, India

Researcher: Ram, Maraa

Dates: 17th to 30th January 2010

It has been a few years since I ventured out on to the field to specifically do a participatory assessment of anything, much less health or women’s health for that matter. So the skills are a bit rusty and the biting cold wave in the Bundelkhand region doesn’t help one bit. If news and weather reports are to be believed, then its 1.2 degrees Celsius out there, and around 300 people have succumbed in U.P alone! To make matters worse, its Panchayat election time here, and unlike southern India, the public has to vote for the President of the Panchayat. So most of the health authorities are away on election duty, or make that their first excuse to avoid meeting me. Some of the radio team is also visiting Delhi for their annual review so looks like I’ll have limited organizational support as well! Now, that was most of the whining which I wanted to do away at the beginning, so we can get to the core of the matter.

This assessment, since it is about community, health and women, must look into the health politics and gender politics, but going beyond that, must now look at also the politics of health and gender. The instrument, through which I study various subjects, must also be “subjected” to a little bit of research to get a deeper understanding of the situation here in Bundelkhand region.

The second qualifier, is that of doing away with the “objective” research, where the researcher himself/herself is absent in the process. So far prevalent in psychoanalysis, where the phenomenon of counter-transference forces the analyst to look inwards to study one’s own reactions and opinions as a valuable set of data, I do believe that the same principle could and should be applied to sociological and ethnographic research as well. Of course, there might not be any counter-transference here, but it surely is valid to be transparent about who I am, what are my (or my organization’s) beliefs and ideologies on community, gender and health, as well as how these are shaping the current research in question. Of course, there is also a corollary of how this research and data collection shapes me (my organization) and me/our set of beliefs and ideologies, but that would be outside the scope of this assessment.

Bundelkhand To clarify the usage of the word Bundelkhand, it isn’t a term used to denote a political boundary (well, it does to many, but not officially anyway), but more of a collective cultural term which denotes broadly parts of M.P and U.P, specifically the border areas of both states, which both administrations have dutifully ignored. There is a history of Bundeli language (or the more politically correct term: dialect), Bundeli poets, and of course the increasingly powerful Bundelkhand Mukti Morchha (Bundelkhand Liberation Front), which has intensified its efforts given developments in Andhra Pradesh/Telangana, and West Bengal/Gorkhaland. For our purposes, we will be broadly looking at the two districts (amongst the others in Bundelkhand region), of Jhansi (in U.P) and Tikamgarh (in M.P). It is in these two districts that Radio Bundelkhand is heard widely. It is, for the record, located in Orchha Village, which is a part of Tikamgarh and thus comes under M.P jurisdiction. This is significant when one is trying to monitor health issues which intersect with governance and infrastructure, even more so, when in the future one will try and build learning programme, with government actors playing an active role. The U.P based authorities will almost surely decline the offer if only because of the bureaucratic headaches involved in participating in a health program of a M.P based radio station.

Radio Bundelkhand Started by Development Alternatives (DA), a Delhi based NGO, this radio station is set inside the TARAgraam campus, which also houses a paper making unit, indigenous electricity manufacturing, smokeless coal and many other such wonders. They also have a DSB (Development Services Branch) which like the name suggests, doles out various developmental services. They are the field people who regularly engage with the communities be it Self Help Group, or employment for youth etc. The radio station falls under the communication unit and was formally launched in October 2008.

Work still in progress