Last semester in my Development Communications course we had to read a book called Communication For Another Development. It gave candid accounts and insight into the world of working in the field of development communications. It did not hold back in describing the ways in which working in development communications can be challenging.
It conveyed the sense that there are many external factors (social, political and economic) that prevent progress in development. Whether there is a need for development and whether it is just creating a binary between the underdeveloped and developed based on the model of the Global North as the benchmark for development is another topic all on its own. The reality is (according to the book) – working in Development communications can be incredibly tough.
The book posited that even though many hurdles await development communicators to jump through, there have been many “champions” in the field. These are the individuals who perservere despite unfavourable circumstances which emerge during development practice. Our month in Auroville certainly exposed us to such champions. Anbu is the Director from the Non Governmental Organization I worked with – Auroville Village Action Group (AVAG). She is a real champion for creating an NGO that aims to emancipate the community and integrate the lowest caste through AVAG’s activities. Ribhu’s Wasteless team is contributing significantly to recycling education through imparting information about sustainability to more than 1000 schools in India through their Garbology 101 curriculum. Bruno’s Samugam orphanage that he started after he felt compelled to change the lives of Dalits in India is indicative of why he is a champion. Karthikeyan from Sristi village created a village for those with psychiatric disorders who were marginalized and neglected by society. Sristi Village is a place that offers this community employment and wellbeing support. The team from the Sahodaran Community Health Oriented Development Society (SCHOD) is bringing the LGBTQIA community in Pondicherry closer to true liberation.
I produced a video for UNESCO’s World Radio Day that reflected John Nelson’s story concerning the Cuddalore emergency radio station that he established in response to the devastating floods that occurred in the area in November.
An image of John and his team of fellow champions from Cuddalore.
The Adecom team’s dedication to protecting marginalized caste members speaks to their champion work for this community. These are only a few of the plethora of organizations that we were exposed to, that persisted despite hard conditions they continue to try and overcome.
Change takes a long time, apartheid in my home country South Africa spanned over three generations in time, Nelson Mandela was in prison for 27 years before he was eventually released to become the president of the country. It took lifetime upon lifetime for slavery to be abolished, for the civil rights movement to change its society. These examples reflect that change can eventually happen. It takes champions: Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Ribhu, Anbu, John and others like them to lead to triumph!