Community Correspondents

Rohini Pawar

Rohini Pawar

State: MAHARASHTRA

A vocal woman-rights activist in a conservative society in a Pune village, Rohini is the feminist icon everyone, everywhere should look up to.

For the longest time, Rohini Pawar, from Walhe, Pune, dreamed of becoming a doctor, but these dreams were curtailed when she was married at 15. “I felt all my dreams would crash and end there,” she says. “I was scared, everything was different. I suddenly found myself living away from home, burdened with responsibilities,” she says.  “I wanted to make sure that other girls didn’t have to face the same problems.

After slowly gaining financial independence by doing stitching work and then buying her own computer, Rohini started to transform not only her own life, but the lives around her.  In her small village in Maharashtra state, she offered computer literacy classes and started a women’s savings group. “I want to change things in my society for women – get them equal wages, stop child marriages, help them speak up and stand up for themselves.” She has used her role as a Community Correspondent at Video Volunteers, which she joined in 2012, to achieve just that.

In one of her most important videos, “Gender Inequality in Wages” Rohini empowered women agricultural workers to demand equal pay to their male counterparts. “I told them they should protest their wages by not showing up for work,” says Rohini, “the women did this and their demands were met by employers in just six days.

Another benchmark video for Rohini features authorities from her village who claim that women not be permitted into the temple due to cultural traditions. Rohini challenges this version of her own culture and ascertains that “One of the main features of the Women’s Act of 2005 is the equality between men and women.”  She goes on to ask viewers if this is “the reality today especially in the rural areas of India?

Nowhere, however, has Rohini chosen to set aside her fear of being “boycotted from the community or befalling misfortune” for breaking with cultural norms, more than in her work around child marriage. In 2015, Rohini became aware of four girls and three boys aged 12-15 who, despite the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006),were set to be married in a mass wedding in her region. Her persistence, dedication and mass network of allies, stopped the weddings just in time. Rohini is now guiding these young girls to become shining examples for the rest of their community.

Now six years into her work as a Community Correspondent, Rohini is a mentor for newer Correspondents of Video Volunteers. When asked what changes she herself has undergone since joining the NGO, she says that it has been her self-confidence. “Not only have I become better at shooting videos but I can do things on my own, not depending on people.” She has since become the “voice of the village,” an accomplishment which she says she could never have achieved without the support of her husband, who is both inspired by her work and adamant that she “go out and do the work she wants.” Rohini knows however that not all women are lucky enough to have the support of their families, and so she continues to fight for their choices and their rights.

Rohini is also a part of Video Volunteers' campaign #KhelBadal to dismantle patriarchy. The campaign is taking on patriarchy through stories of women and men who face, negotiate and challenge patriarchy in everyday life — at home, at work, at school, in cultural and public spaces. Under the campaign she makes films that capture the nuances of routine, normalised gender discrimination, stories of change and runs Gender Discussion Clubs where lively, introspective conversations around gender equality and patriarchy happen.

 

Videos from Rohini

Challenging a 400 year old custom that denied women temple entry

 
/ December 16, 2016

From Hinduism to Judaism to Christianity to Islam, religious restrictions surrounding menstruation and the belief that it makes women’s bodies impure are common across the board. While the judiciary has upheld women’s right to equality in cases of Shani Shingnapur, Haji Ali and Sabarimala, where women were denied entry to...

Challenging a 400 year old custom that denied women temple entry

 
/ December 16, 2016

From Hinduism to Judaism to Christianity to Islam, religious restrictions surrounding menstruation and the belief that it makes women’s bodies impure are common across the board. While the judiciary has upheld women’s right to equality in cases of Shani Shingnapur, Haji Ali and Sabarimala, where women were denied entry to...

Children attend preschool in a temple in Pune

 
/ July 26, 2016

While Pune city is all set to be a smart city by 2020, an anganwadi in hinterlands of Pune district functions out of a temple since 2009. Located in Walhe village of Pune district, the anganwadi has 20 children between the ages of three and six who study in a...

Farmers cheated, land grabbing unchecked in Pune

 
/ March 2, 2016

Farmers from Bongvali village of Pune district in Maharashtra are losing their land to a money lender who cheats them on the pretext of helping them out during times of crisis. Sitaram Shevram Surve keeps a farmer’s land as mortgage against loans and when the farmer goes to return the...

No Entry for Women

 
/ September 9, 2015

Pune, Maharashtra | Rohini pawar In Veer village, women are not allowed to enter the Mkhaskoba temple. It is an old tradition that people of Veer village have been following for a very long time. On Women’s day, Rohini visited the Mhaskoba temple wondering may be, on that day they...

Misdiagnosis by doctors forces pregnant woman to spend out of her pocket

 
/ August 24, 2015

When Vishakha Limbore went into labour and was brought to Saswad hospital, she was told by the doctors that her baby had died inside her womb and was asked to go to a private hospital to seek immediate care. However, at the private hospital, doctors said that there was nothing...

Crumbling Infrastructure: Defunct sonography machines force women to spend out of their pockets

 
/ August 10, 2015

Sonography machines at Saswad Rural Hospital, Pune have been defunct since January 2013. Pregnant women seeking pre-natal check-ups are turned away, forced to travel faraway distances and spend out of their pockets, whereas according to the Janani Suraksha Yojana, pregnant women below poverty line are entitled to free of cost...

One Billion Rising: The inimitable spirit of Asha Kumbharkar

 
/ February 11, 2015

February 11; Vanpuri, Maharashtra Community Correspondent Rohini Pawar reports on the life of Asha Kumbharkar; a woman who is battling the chronic ailment of HIV while still earning livelihood for her kids. “Whenever I see a woman who is losing hope after a severe diagnosis, I show her my own...