Since joining Digital Green, I’ve been training extension workers to produce and disseminate videos that capture best practices in the field of agriculture, health and nutrition. This has been a great opportunity to learn and contribute while using this unique behavioural change communication approach.
Altogether a new journey for me, where my primary learning was to change myself prior to changing others.
In this profession, most of us tend to believe that the beneficiaries do not have much awareness and that only we can help them change their attitudes and benefit from the new knowledge that we share with them. I have had my own reasons to form such opinions. The poor rural infrastructure, lack of health and hygiene, the crisis in the agricultural sector, the skill gap among the youth, shrinking employment opportunities due to poor education system contributed to my forming these opinions. Looking at it from a distance, I felt that a large part of the reason for this is that the rural folk donâ€™t know enough about these issues or how to tackle them.
It was only right that this opinion would take a beating when I was confronted by opinions of the rural youth at a recent training I organized.
The particular training I refer to is the community youth from one of the most backward district of Jharkhand, West Singhbum. The entire district has been in the grip of the Naxal movement (a far left radical movement) due to which infrastructure and services are in a dilapidated state. Digital Green and its partner, Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society (JSLPS) selected six youth from the district, of which, three were young women. The youth were selected for video production training. As part of the training, a small exercise was given to test their creative skills and writing ability.
I was of the firm opinion that we would need to work hard on training the youth, as they had never been out of their block or district, had a very little educational qualification and exposure.
The exercise given to them was to create a story from random pictures cut out from newspapers. Each of them was given different paper cuttings with only picture and no text.
The next day when they read out their stories, it was an eye-opener for me. It demolished my biases, prejudices and false notions. The stories were talking about their own expectations, aspirations and also for their country. We are, as a nation, dreaming of campaigns such as Digital India and Skill India and think that rural India is completely disconnected. But these stories demonstrated how rural youth also have similar aspirations and expectations from the country and for the country.
In the last three years, I have conducted numerous training on video production and dissemination and it was an experiential learning. Every time the community has taught me a different lesson. I had no doubt over their knowledge of traditional practices; however, I always underestimated their vision of development-related issues and thought that they are always preoccupied with their own individual problems.
Here I’d like to share one of the stories a very young mother, Shivani, wrote. Her powerful story changed my perceptions forever.