My Online Experience
I first had an online voice through the yahoogroup CGNet - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/chhattisgarh-net/ . This is an online group of people interested in the development of the state of Chhattisgarh in India. For the first time I could get my views published in a public forum on a regular basis as otherwise I rarely get to write in the mainstream media. People responded to what I wrote and there were debates. So this gave me a feeling of worth that I had not had before. As an activist fighting for the rights of Dalit ( Formerly untouchable low caste People in India) Women I often felt frustrated that their pathetic situation could not get more publicity. Even mass actions by our organisation were rarely covered by the local media. However, once I began writing about this in CGNet then many national and international scholars and journalists picked up our struggle stories and we got a broader exposure. Thus, it was our struggle for rights which created the push to find newer fora for publicity and led me to access the online forum of CGNet. Later on I came across Pulsewire and became active on that forum also.
I had posted about the problem of the Mahar caste, to which I belong, being de-recognised as a scheduled caste eligible for affirmative action in the state of Chhattisgarh by the Government there and this led to further publicity to the issue. Presently the Mahars are fighting the case for reversal of the Chhattisgarh Government's action in the Supreme Court of India. Thus, online presence does lead to greater impact. My posts and interviews on Pulse wire too have reached a bigger audience and given publicity to the work I do for the rights of poor women in India. This interaction with others on the net especially through Pulsewire leads to me doing a lot of thinking about my work and this improves its quality. That is why I find internet activity useful.
Many people respond to my posts on CGNet and on Pulsewire and I have developed friendship with other women across India and the world. I developed a reproductive health intervention for slum women in Indore with one of my friends on Pulsewire and then later got it funded by an agency and it is now being implemented. The pulsewire organisers have taken my interview and also awarded me for my posts and some of my contributions have been forwarded to UN Women. I think just to put something on the internet is enough to be heard. Many people read my posts without responding. This is something I have come to know later. It is very important to be heard because I raise issues of women's rights which do not get much space in mainstream media. I have consistently broken the culture of silence that shrouds women's experiences whether within the home or outside through my work. The internet has provided me with the chance to publicise this work and my views resulting from my experiences on the net.
Empowerment means to have the power to change the negative aspects of this world. Specifically from a woman's point of view it is the power to reduce the negative impact of patriarchal oppression on women. My views as expressed in the Pulsewire blog are appreciated by many readers and also the Pulsewire staff. Consequently I was chosen for an interview that was published in the magazine - http://worldpulse.com/about/blog/meet-subhadra-khaperde. Many people have read and quoted this interview and this has given me a sense of self worth in addition to that gained from my field work. Following this and the response to my posts in my pulsewire journal I have written in other fora also and so my power of expression has improved. Today I am much better known in India and across the world than I was earlier.
The main challenge in finding a voice online was initially to write in English because there were very few online fora in Hindi when I started out. My English was not so good and so I had to get my posts edited before putting them online and that took time. Given that I am mostly in the field and only rarely online except in patches this posed a problem and it was frustrating at times. Once I overcame this problem things have become smooth. I diligently avoid common social networking sites and undertake online activity only through secure closed groups like Pulsewire and so I do not face any online security or privacy threats. My advice to all women is to seek out such secure women’s networking sites or closed groups and then begin posting their experiences online and interacting with like minded people. These days commercial internet access providing cafes give this service very cheaply. In India it costs only about 0.5 US$ per hour and that is sufficient to check emails and post in one's online journals after having first prepared the blogposts offline. It is an immensely educative and empowering experience and more women do this the more will be the power of the battle to overthrow patriarchy. "Down with Patriarchy"!!!