NewDelhi: Rural pockets of Odisha often witness the absence of penetration of mainstream conventional media like newspapers and popular TV channels. The chasm in the communication is further cascaded due to the lack of literacy levels in the countryside. While conventional media works well in urban areas, its impact is still minimal in tribal and rural belts of the state.
Marred by the paucity of authentic information, several community radio stations joined hands in Odisha to create awareness in rural areas to ensure strict adherence to the COVID 19 safety protocols like wearing masks and maintaining social distancing in the local community.
With the special virtue of the community radios of reaching out to the hyperlocal population in their own languages and dialects, several positive changes were seen on the ground soon with the intervention of the alternative form of media here. Take for example the success story of Bankatala village in Puri district.
The village is home to 976 residents. From children to women, all can now be seen roaming around their village wearing masks. Bankatala village is one of the villages that have been declared as “Sampoorna Mask Gaon”. The declaration in this village was done by Pandiakera gram panchayat in order to support the mask adherence village initiative under the Nua Sakala’ra Katha campaign.
“We are happy to see that the villagers are now aware of the benefits of using masks to prevent COVID. We will continue this awareness drive in the upcoming days too,” Manmohan Samantray, local Sarpanch said after assessing the situation in the village.
The village-level mask adherence campaign aims to ensure that all residents wear masks to keep the life-threatening virus at bay. “Our objective is to make our villages strictly adhering to mask-wearing where everyone puts on a mask, which is one of the major prophylactic means to protect oneself from the killer virus,” Upendra Parida said who works at Radio Avinandan and leads the campaign in his area.
The masks are being made by members of 80 women self-help groups (SHGs) in the Gram Panchayat. The women self-help group members are selling the masks in their respective villages with the active support of radio listeners’ group members. The campaign has also helped these women earn during the pandemic.
The Gram Panchayat has made the wearing of masks in public places mandatory. Those who step out without one have been made liable to pay a fine of Rs 500. Nevertheless, villagers also laid thrust on ‘No mask, no grocery’ to drive home the message.
“The positive changes in the behavior of the local community were brought through the regular interventions by the team of Radio Avinanandan by rigorous broadcasting of radio programs, organizing different awareness activities and narrowcasting sessions”, said Urmila Pradhan who is the leader of Bantakala radio listeners’ group and had been taking a proactive role in creating awareness in the local community.
Noteworthy, a total of 81 villages have been adopted by community radio stations in Odisha to generate awareness among communities to deliver key messages on quarantine, social distancing, use of masks, handwashing, and preventing misinformation. Out of which, 55 villages have been declared as mask-wearing villages and the process is continuing.
The practice of using masks, social distancing, and handwashing has been adopted by the rural community in the adopted villages through sensitization and awareness generation works, spearheaded by these community radio stations.
These initiatives, undertaken under the campaign “Nua Sakalara Katha” are aimed to create awareness on COVID-19 among vulnerable and migrant labor communities in Odisha. The campaign is implemented by 13 community radio stations of Odisha with active support from the US Consulate General Hyderabad and Young India.