Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Three to Tango: Teaming up with Panos to amplify a grass root voice

A month ago, the editor duo of Lilly Peel and Anna Egan from Panos, London asked me to do something I found both unique and exciting: write a 5-blog series on a social activist who had great stories to share with the world. It had to be someone who matched words with deed - a tough job, if you ask me, in the murky world of  activism where talkers outnumber doers.  

But I had a name ready: Bhan Sahu - a grass root activist from Chhattisgarh whom I have known since 2009. Bhan was introduced to me (and then to Video Volunteers - my then office) by Adiyog, a senor journalist and media trainer who has been Bhan's mentor for years.

Following a quick nod from Panos, I visited Bhan in Chhattisgarh and from 1st week of January, started to write the blogs. And thus began a unique story-telling journey in which I and Bhan and Panos were co-passengers, having a dialogue with the global audience.
A month later, the series of the blogs have garnered great response, with readers from all over Asia and beyond expressing awe and saying how impressed they are to hear a powerful and true voice from the ground. 

What were the stories about?

 This introduces Bhan to the world and why I chose her for this blog series.

 Bhan shows a simple,yet great way to create earning opportunity for rural women. The story was re-published by Women's News Network.

This highlights the constant police harassment that Bhan faces for being a social activist in a conflict zone.

This blog shows the difficulties -and the solutions - to mobilize people at grass root level and fight an issue.

In the final blog, Bhan stresses on the need - and the rewards - of being rooted in a community and knowing one's people well. It ends with some positive results and evokes faith in people's power to bring change.

And here are some of the comments from the readers:

"Bhan is fast becoming a heroine of mine. I love her unwavering determination to improve the world around her!" - Rob Safar, Panos

"What a simple,straight and practicable idea! I think this is what the world needs today – to engage community members in finding solutions to their day to day problems, because obviously the government can’t do everything." - Sarah Velozzi 

"I am a Canadian researcher presently based in Jakarta, Indonesia where I am studying roles of rural women in creating livelihood opportunities, based on local resources. Though I have never been to India, I did see similar situation in Nepal where women almost never get to earn anything. I think this idea of cooperatives can be applied there as well" - Gretchen Beau 

"I must say that this is one of the most original and powerful grassroot voices that I have ever heard." - Angelika Knapp

 You can read all these blogs and comments here.

 Meanwhile, I will thank Panos London both for giving me a chance to share Bhan's stories and for creating such a great platform to make heard the voices from the ground. Three may not be everyone's preferred company,  but for me, I, Bhan and Panos London just rock!

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