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See also MediaMakers

In the state of Karnataka, the problem of girls accessing education is not unique nationally. Although India's Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009 guarantees all children between the age of 6 to 14 an education regardless of the family's ability to pay, drop out rates for girls after primary school is, sadly, very high. According to a national 2017 Annual Survey of Education Report, net enrollment ratio for girls dips from 88.7% at primary to 51.93% at secondary. Enrollment numbers decrease even more for girls to a dismal 32.6% at higher secondary levels, compared to 28% for boys.

At the same time, girls are facing gender discrimination in their community and home. For many, a traditionally school-educated girl has minimum value to a rural family whose economic security isn't dependent on the ability to read or write, which is why less than one-third of the population of girls in India finish their education age-appropriately. Adolescent girls are vulnerable to child labor in order to contribute to the family financial stability, or even married at a young age to lessen the burden of another mouth to feed. Creating alternative educational pathways for poor and rural girls is critical to preserving their value in the family, which is why our Rotary club, with assistance from the team of Janastu, has developed the Rural Media Makers program.

The Rural Media Makers program seeks to use accessible technology to assist girls and women in rural Tumkur, Karnataka in building their economic value in the family, which in turn, builds their confidence. We hope that this program could even prevent their parents from eventually pulling them out of their schooling. The program starts with a basic goal: to further advance the value of rural girls and women by teaching them to develop technology that is useful and accessible to their families and contributes to the economic stability of their families.

Women and girls in rural and semi-urban areas have failed to get the best out of the school system, finding literacy to be irrelevant in their everyday needs. The Rural Media Makers program teaches girls and women to create, build and broadcast collections of recordings to be accessible via a wifi system. The program helps build a collection of stories and necessary practical rural knowledge to oral expression that is recorded and stored in a “library” of electronic files for other children and their parents to access. Building relationships with local schools, we have already secured six locations of these computer network-based “oral e-libraries”, or Media Maker Labs, throughout the Nagavalli and Devarayanadurga regions where over 1000 girls and women are expected to participate.

Although not an explicit goal of the Rural Media Makers, the program locally assists in a greater issue in India - the growing digital divide. Since many rural workers and farmers are illiterate, there is also a lack of understanding technology and accessing information in a growing technological world. India has a population of 1.21 billion people, according to the 2010 Indian Census. More than 800 million Indians live in rural areas and just under 400 million live in urban areas, however, only 3% of rural Indians are connected to the Internet. As generations past, this divide grows ever larger, which is why the Rural Media Makers program will emphasize media technology, content creation and community sharing via alternative tech pathways.

With this program, girls and women will be learning several key skills that can contribute to their technical knowledge and rural skills: 1) Strengthen research tools/methods to create content relevant to rural life (example: cooking lessons, clean water access, healthy sanitary habits, crop/agriculture development, household finance/budgeting, animal husbandry, irrigation methods, etc.) with teachers within place-based learning; 2) Express creativity by developing storytelling and narration skills, further strengthening communication skills; 3) Develop oral recording structure and methods; 4) Learn how to use editing platform, Raspberry Pi, for voice recording; 5) Establish simple archival methods for the curation of the Media Makers Lab, hosted at each participating school; 6) Community outreach techniques developed to promote information access via the Media Makers Lab to the community at large; and 7) Develop and cultivate peer-to-peer learning through learning modules developed by staff or community members.

A curriculum is indicative of the learning materials where women and girls find a voice in discussion of local issues and also lead discussions of lessons with fellow students is suggested. These projects need to be supported by regional people, local government or other grants in coming years. Areas and platforms of consideration for the first year are:

Nagavalli, Durgadahalli and 4 other public schools in the region will get Media Maker Labs. Students and women from villages in these areas will be invited for media making workshops and “summer schools”. Events that bring the media activity of students to the larger community will be organized during the year. A week long open conference of the participating schools and others girls and women will bring in state officials from the education and policy making sectors to help bring national level notice to the need for these rural Media Making Lab activities.