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

Devadasi: A Life Without Education

 
/ December 28, 2010

The outlawed tradition of ‘devdasi’ which sanctions religious prostitution continues in rural Maharashtra.

Religious Devotion Overpowers Pain

 
/ December 13, 2010

Possessed devotees jump into heaps of thorns during a religious festival in Maharashtra.

Deulewale – An Unheard Community

 
/ December 3, 2010

This video tells the story of the Deulwale (temple folks) – an invisible community of India.

Microcredit Empowers Our CC

 
/ October 27, 2010

VV Community Correspondent  Rohini takes microloan, buys a computer to improve her livelihood through IndiaUnheard.

Gender Bias In Wages

 
/ October 15, 2010

Women farm workers in rural India labour hard, but are paid only half of what men are. This video captures the bias in Maharashtra state

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.