Community Correspondents

Rohini Pawar

Rohini Pawar

State: MAHARASHTRA

Rohini Pawar is a feminist, self-help group leader, onion farmer, juice stall owner, ASHA (health) worker, and a Community Correspondent.

This woman of boundless passion and open-hearted courage dreamed of becoming a doctor, but her dreams were curtailed when she was married at 15. “I felt like 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.”

Rohini came to her first Video Volunteers training accompanied by her husband. It was her first time on a train, and they’d had to tell her in-laws she was going on a religious pilgrimage, or they wouldn’t have let her come. In her life before VV, she had begun to gain financial independence by doing stitching work and running her women’s training group. After a VV training, she and her husband bought a computer -- the first in the village -- and started a photo business. Soon, Rohini began to offer computer literacy classes to the women in her gender discussion club.

Describing her personal motivation as a Community Correspondent, she says: “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.” In one of her most important videos, “Gender Inequality in Wages” Rohini empowered 600 women agricultural workers to demand equal pay as their male counterparts. “I told them they should protest against their wages by not showing up for work,” says Rohini. The women did this and their demands were met by the employers in just six days.

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

Nowhere 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.

For the many hats that she dons, Rohini has been recognised and rewarded with awards, special projects and guest invitations, she has even been interviewed by actor Abhay Deol! Deol has known Rohini and has followed her work since 2010 and he tells her that it’s a pleasure to see her grow in her work. Of her many Video Volunteers awards, Rohini is happiest about the awards she won for her impact stories on equal wages and temple entry. As an ASHA worker, Rohini has been felicitated for her work at the block-level and her village of Walhe has also decorated her with an award.

Rohini’s engagements with issues are wide and varied, and her grit is to be admired. In 2015, Rohini was set to work on a project HIV+ patients at a Kerala-based group but unfortunately, she could not travel to Kerala for three months at that time. She did not let this dampen her spirits and set forth to undertake the project on her own, in her village in Pune. Eventually, NDTV picked her initiative up and followed her efforts to help the patients build self-help groups. Most recently, Rohini’s story on women taking the names of their husbands for the first time made waves in the mainstream media. Apart from the media, local bodies also recognise her work and she is invited to speak about issues of gender at village programmes. Most recently, she has been speaking about reproductive rights.

Now, six years into her work as a Community Correspondent, Rohini is the State Coordinator for Video Volunteers Maharashtra. When asked what changes she’s undergone personally 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 would 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.” However, Rohini knows 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

Dismantle Patriarchy: Years after Marriage, Women say their Husband’s Name for the First Time

 
/ June 8, 2017

Community Correspondent Rohini Pawar shares how women in Walhe village are breaking away from patriarchal cultural practices.

Impact Story

Orphaned HIV+ Student Goes to School Again

 
/ March 8, 2017

Community Correspondent Rohini Pawar succeeds in her battle against prejudice and discrimination

A former Child-bride, stops seven child marriages

 
/ July 15, 2015

Four girls and three boys aged 12-15, were set to get married in a mass wedding in Walhe, a village on the outskirts of Pune– one of the fastest growing cities in the Asia Pacific region and one of India’s biggest education and IT hubs. Rohini Pawar, a 29-year old...

One Billion Rising: Changing perspectives with a camera

 
/ February 5, 2015

February 5; Pune, Maharashtra Heena Sheikh had been a victim of domestic violence ever since she got married. Undocumented instances of domestic violence are still quite common in India. The societal norms, which revolve around a patriarchal system, make it difficult for women to raise their voices. That’s what happened...

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...