Charkha conducts residential Communication Skill Building Sessions with rural groups selected from the villages in the region comprising social activists, panchayat members, women’s groups, students and even media persons, teaching them to understand the nuances of good quality writing; and of factors that cause social exclusion of certain communities, so that they become the voices of the most marginalized among them through their writings, spanning a wide readership from the district to national levels.
Over the 15 years since its inception, Charkha has conducted such Communication Skill Building Sessions in Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Orientation and capacity building sessions are also conducted with a smaller core group of individuals, handpicked for their potential as leaders, to give them insights into running an effective and sustainable Information Network that, with sensitivity and in depth understanding, caters to the felt needs of the communities whom the Centre is expected to benefit. This requires an awareness of the existing processes for availing government schemes, keeping updated information on existing policies and schemes for marginalized communities, and documenting these systematically in the Multimedia Rural Resource Centre that forms the physical hub of all activities to strengthen the Network.
Converting this wealth of knowledge to a medium that is appropriate and beneficial to the marginalized communities also requires the core group to be aware of the present systems of communication within and among villages, so that the best means of transmitting this information is devised. Often, Wall Magazines prove to be the most appropriate, since they are easy to create, cost effective and generate awareness among those involved with the activity.
Recognizing that the focus on enhancing writing skills to enable people to express themselves was excluding larger groups who were unschooled but equally keen to join the process and be heard, led Charkha to an exploration into other media; most evocative among which were Cartoons and the Audio Medium. Skill Building Sessions to teach the creation of cartoons and radio programs have been held in several locations, empowering larger numbers to express themselves in a 30-minute Magazine format; and have the edited programs broadcast by the local All India Radio broadcasting Centre. An experimental effort was also made with photography in some regions.
Cartoons are also an interesting medium of communication; several Cartoon Skills Teaching Sessions conducted over the years have revealed many skilled artists among rural, unschooled community groups. Wall Magazines often include cartoons, providing visual relief and some humor to the contents of the magazine.
The Multimedia Rural Resource Centres also introduce people to computers and the Internet where feasible, facilitating digital access to specific information that they need.
Women are the key change agents in any community, presenting a unique perspective and ability to work for the benefit of their families and communities. Despite this, they often remain socially marginalized in many communities across India. At all capacity building sessions, therefore, efforts are made to ensure that at least half the participants are women. Occasionally, on requests received from the communities, additional Skill Building Sessions are organized for women only.