Community Correspondents

Yashodhara Salve


Yashodhara Salve is a Dalit rights activist, who has been a part of the Video Volunteers family since 2006. She was trained by VV to work as a producer with Apna TV, the Community Video Unit of the Mumbai-based feminist organisation Akshara.covered the gender inequality faced by women college students and slum dwellers, such as unavailability of toilets for women in Mumbai, cat-calling, and lack of sports facilities. At first, her community was amused and wondered what girls with a camera can do, but Yashodhara persisted. “Our films became a mirror of their lives, our screenings became bigger and we grew more confident while speaking to the community. There was a visible change in the way our community perceived us then They saw and believed that I was better than the boys there. I was proud of myself,” she fondly recalls.  

 Yasho, as we lovingly call her has battled against gender discrimination from an early age be it education or individual identity. She was brought up by a single mother who was controlled by the maternal grandfather and uncle were the primary decision-makers in my house. “They were of the thinking that women should not be very educated and should be married off at the age of 18. I've also witnessed dowry harassment, domestic violence towards my sisters who got married at a young age and had an awareness that this was discrimination at a young age,” she recalls.

However, the constant discrimination only made Yasho’s resolve to fight patriarchy stronger. She clearly recalls her first concrete experience with gender discrimination. “I was eight. I loved wearing pants but knew my mama (the primary decision maker) was absolutely against it. I still wore my brother's pants and stepped out on the streets. When he saw that I wore a pant and that too in public, he slapped me right in middle of the road and said, "You can't wear these clothes at this age!". I shot back, asking 'when am I supposed to wear it then?" He didn't think it through and said, "After you complete your 10th." Back then, no girl in my family had studied till 10th grade, and he assumed I won't either. That day I decided I will study further,” says Yasho.

Yasho braved a lot of odds, both patriarchal and financial, to finish her education. “When I was 13, I made her loan her mangal sutra (similar to a wedding band) to a local money lender for Rs 1000, to fund my school fees. It was her only piece of jewellery. I had promised her to earn it back, but back then I couldn't manage to,” she says. Her family tried to stop her education after 10th grade because they didn't think girls should get educated. When she questioned their belief, she was slapped once again. But Yasho had learned an important lesson, she says, “I had realised by then that the violence was only to keep you quite, but if you speak up, it eventually stops. In due course of time, the question why stopped a lot of unnecessary beatings. I still ask that question when people try deciding the way women should 'behave'. It almost always puts an end to that argument.” 

She funded her education from the age of 15, by doing part-time work with Trimurti Sangathan, a social group her mother and other rag-pickers were a part of. Akshara, the NGO supported this group and gave her a fellowship to study. It is here, that Akshara Foundation approached Yasho to join their community video unit, and her life changed forever. 

During these training with Video Volunteers, she met Bipin Solanki, a Community Producer with an all Dalit Community Video Unit in rural Gujarat. What began as mutual admiration for each other's work soon developed into love and then marriage and the birth of a daughter. Yasho and her husband Bipin now live in  Dhrangadhra, a town in Gujarat. Their work for Dalit rights was chronicled in a 12 minute documentary for France24. 

Yasho continues to work for gender equality, awareness (menstruation video) and justice in Dhrangadhra. She is 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. She is working with a group of mother and daughter-in-laws in the city. “In the past few months, they have come together and help each other. They still don't know the meaning of complete meaning of Pitrusatta but they know it has to do with men controlling them - Pita, Pati, Putra, (father, husband and son) they say. The older women relate to the patriarchal restrictions we discuss. They put it in context, explain it and inspire the younger women to break the unnecessary norms,” says Yasho. 

As part of the campaign, she makes films that capture the nuances of routine, normalised gender discrimination and runs Gender Discussion Clubs where lively, introspective conversations are happening.

Videos from Yashodhara

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