Crowdfunding plea to save Dalit women’s radio

India’s first community radio station, Sangham Radio, owned and run by 5,000 poor, mostly Dalit women in one of India’s most underdeveloped areas, is on the verge of closing down , unless its crowdfunding campaign raises enough funds. The radio station, an initiative of the Deccan Development Society (DDS), a local grassroots organisation, was started in 1998 in Machanoor village in Telangana’s Sangareddy district. It caters to the Sanghams (self-help groups) of underprivileged, rural women. It got its licence to broadcast in 2008, and has been in operation for ten years. The programming content is generated entirely by the 5,000-odd women, most of them semi-literate or illiterate agricultural workers. The technical problem pertains to its transmitter, which is supposed to reach an area of 30km but now barely covers a 3 km radius. “Very soon even this may fail and Sangham Radio may be silenced for ever,” said the statement, which hopes to raise a corpus of Rs. 10 lakh, the minimum needed for continued survival. “We could not collect donations from outside India as we have to run the community radio on our own,” said M. Narsamma, one of the two women who run the radio station. “Some of our listeners have been asking us why they are cannot hear our broadcasts. We have told them that we need new transmitters and each one costs about Rs. 3 lakh. This is the reason we are trying to raise money.” “As the first authentic community radio in India, Sangham Radio has put the small and marginalised woman at the frontier of communication… any extinction of this radio station would be a travesty,” said P.V. Satheesh, Director, DDS.

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