Story of a Story-teller

“Don’t judge a book by its cover”. This popular phrase succinctly explains the persona of Amita Devi. Short in appearance, extremely quiet and  bit shy, it’s quite difficult to figure out that she is a community journalist. Yes, you heard it right! This story is about a woman who herself is a storyteller. Amita is an established Samvaddata Sakhi who covers the success stories as well as stories of change from the villages.  

Amita, aged 32, is a resident of a small village named Gadhsidam in Rania block situated 70km away from Khunti district headquarters. She got married 12 years ago and is a proud mother of two children. Post-marriage, she led a life of struggle and hardships. Her husband, Harishchandra Bhuiyan was a marginalised farmer and worked as a daily wage labourer during the off seasons. She along with her husband could hardly manage the bread and butter for her family. However, despite poverty and multiple hardships, Amita continued her studies and completed B.A. from Kolebira, Simdega.  Then,  she completed her B.Ed. and started working in the local school where she was paid Rs. 2,500. She managed to contribute this amount in her family income for few years through it.

Under a special drive to spread the reach of NRLM to the remote and under-developed blocks of the state, JSLPS initiated the process of community mobilisation and SHG drive in Raniya block in 2015. Amita Devi joined the very first Sakhi Mandal named Jeevan Jyoti Mahila Samiti on 10th September, 2015. Rania was completely an underprivileged block then and the literacy rate was very poor. Thus, people feared and resisted themselves from getting associated with any such structure. Moreover, because of several societal barriers, women were not allowed to move out of the house or interact with strangers freely. In this situation, Amita acted as a catalyst and mobilised hundreds of women and convinced them to join Sakhi Mandals.

Amita, being the only educated woman in her village, was appointed the Book Keeper (BK) of her Sakhi Mandal and subsequently was handed over the responsibility of BK of Gadhsidam Aajeevika Mahila Gram Sangathan and VOA of Rania CLF in May, 2016 and April, 2017 respectively at the time of their formation. She handled these three responsibilities along with her teaching profession for couple of months but left her teaching job to focus on her BK job. She also lined-up her husband as i-CRP to move in various locations and form SHGs. His husband is now capable of earning Rs 21,150 per drive.

JSLPS took a new initiative of Community Journalist (CJ) in March, 2018 and Amita was selected as the CJ for her block. She had been given several trainings for this and was initially handed a Karbon Smart phone for story coverage and communication purpose. As a CJ, she had to cover stories and events within her block that were published in the fortnightly “PANCHAYATNAMA”. Panchayatnama covers the stories and events of the rural Jharkhand which has dedicated pages for grass-root stories written by the CJs. Her keen interest in writing and rigorous mapping of different villages in the block on her bicycle improved her journalistic skills with time. CJs are presently termed as Samvaddata Sakhi (SS) with same working periphery and responsibilities.

As CJ & SS, Amita has contributed her stories in a record 27 editions of Panchayatnama. With time she has nurtured her name as “emerging reporter” & “Patrakaar Didi”. Amita, after sending few stories, purchased another smart phone with better features in it and repaid the Sakhi Mandal loan from the remuneration. Recollecting her experiences, Amita says, “I am very grateful to JSLPS for transforming an ordinary women like me into a Patrakaar Didi. This profession has not only given me a lot of exposure but a new identity as well. Further, I am able to better take care of my family with the earnings of BK and Samvaddata Sakhi.”

Recently, Amita participated as Patrakaar Didi in Saras Aajeevika Mela organized at India Gate lawn, New Delhi between 8th to 24th October, 2019. She along with other 5 CJs covered various activities of the Mela and also contributed stories in the 16-page compiled report titled ‘Saras Aajeevika Samvaad’ that was launched in the closing ceremony by the MoRD officials.  They all were well appreciated and also awarded by MoRD for the same.