In today’s video Community Correspondent Sunita Kasera goes behind the rituals and traditions of Rajasthan’s Gangaur festival and finds yet another example of widows being segregated in society. On the auspicious day of Gangaur, married women light clay lamps to propitiate the Gods and pray for the well being of their husbands. The irony lies in the fact that the lamps are made in the hands of widows who are forbidden to light them. Sunita unearths the simple cruelties perpetuated on one of the most vulnerable groups in society in the name of tradition.
43-year-old Sunita Kasera is the only female member of the 150 member strong Karauli Press Union in Rajasthan. Sunita feels that Karauli is a backward district that offers little opportunity to local residents. Although Sunita completed her graduation from Jaipur University, after marriage, her in-laws insisted she stay at home. In her spare time, Sunita joined an NGO, Sathya Naval Development, that helps provide access to basic human rights to rural communities in Rajasthan. She learned about Video Volunteers from Sathya and joined as a community correspondent in 2010.
Sunita has made videos on issues ranging from discrimination against widows to non-implementation of the Right to Education Act. She has managed to make successful impacts in many of these cases, be it through fighting with excise authorities to ensure that 20 women received the grant they were entitled to under the Navjeevan Yojna scheme or to put an end to discriminatory practices against Dalit women in Dangariya village through an online petition. “I try to report on issues that local newspapers don’t take up,” says Sunita. “I am the only woman journalist in Karauli, so sometimes, there may be a small piece on something related to a woman in the newspaper. My male colleagues tell me about it and I pursue that issue because I think I can do a good job of reporting on it. As I am a woman, women feel more comfortable talking to me about their problems.”
Sunita is also interested in documenting the traditional art and cultural practices of her region, which she feels are getting eroded. She has reported on interesting practices like the Sanjhi ritual observed by married men for the well-being of their wives or the alternative way of living of the Gadiyanwal tribe who live out of a cart.
In 2015, she was awarded the prestigious Laadli Media Award for her story that put an end to the practice of untouchability in Dangariya Village in Karauli district and her documentation of the traditional Sanjhi art form that creates gender sensitivity. She feels that her work with VV has earned her a good reputation in her district that has also enabled her to get a job as a legal advisor in a court. “Earlier, people used to know me only as a housewife. Now I have a new identity because of VV,” she says. “My children feel proud of me and tell their friends at school that their mother is a reporter. Every impact that I have made has made me very happy because I have been able to change people’s lives for the better. I want to keep doing good work and want every video of mine to go viral so that it creates meaningful impact.”
Sunita 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.