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

Women CelebrateFreedom Fest

 
/ September 14, 2010

Rural women in India’s Maharashtra state get to play and dance – normally considered a taboo – on Nag Panchami.

Pandharpur YatraThe Real Cost

 
/ August 23, 2010

Every year the Pandharpur yatra of Maharashtra generates an enormous pile of garbage, making people sick in dozens of villages.

Walhe’s UntouchedLeprosy Patients

 
/ August 3, 2010

In 2005, India ‘eliminated’ leprosy. But in rural belt, large number of leprosy cases go unregistered.

Going BankruptOver Traditions

 
/ July 27, 2010

India is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society.The great diversity is often reflected in the number of festivals and ceremonies.

Great Schemes Poorly Implemented

 
/ July 9, 2010

Women cast outside of society receive little support from the government.

AIDS StigmatizesChild’s Life

 
/ June 17, 2010

At this moment, India has a relatively low level AIDS prevalence rate in comparison to other countries.

Devdasi or Temple Slave

 
/ May 25, 2010

Devdasi is the institutionalized practice of exploiting women by religious organizations and temples.