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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"!!!

This story was written for World Pulse’s Women Weave the Web Digital Action Campaign. Learn more »

Comments

kellyannaustin's picture

language

I love that you address the difficulties of having English as often the de facto language on the internet. It is important to think about how our mother tongue can offer us ways of expression that may not be as ready at hand in a second or third language. Such a process of learning! It is inspiring how you persevered despite the initial difficulties.

Thank you!

Kelly

gunu_k's picture

No Value for the Vernacular

Dear Kelly,
it is nice to know that you appreciate my post. Even though these days it is possible to write on the internet in the vernacular but it has not much value. To reach a global audience there is no alternative to writing in English or some other global lingua franca. That is why I have had to spend so much effort to learn English.
regards
Subhadra

Subhadra Khaperde
India

sallysmithr's picture

Thank you

Thank you so much for sharing. It's great that you have used this tool to truly voice your opinion and shed light on important issues. I am hopeful more women are able to follow in your footsteps! I wish you all the best!!

Sally

gunu_k's picture

Thank You

Dear Sally,
thank you for the appreciation. Such support inspires me to continue with my struggles.
regards
Subhadra

Subhadra Khaperde
India

Tam's picture

Global Solidarity

Dear Gunu,

Some years ago I had the opportunity to visit India. My greatest wish was to be able to find strong women like you. I remember sitting under a tree while I waited for a bus in the south having a connection with a beautiful, very old woman. We did not have each others' languages so spoke with our eyes and hands, and our hearts. A man came up to us, and angrily tried to convince me that I should not be sitting talking with this woman. I knew that his reasons were the reasons that you fight to overcome these days. I ignored him, and have always held the memory of this meeting.
Today, reading your beautiful and powerful words, I feel the limitations of our connections as women who are working to undo patriarchy, dissolving. By knowing that you are there, my desire to connect with that woman can evolve into such hope for all that you are achieving, and for all that this alternative press through World Pulse, is giving us.
Your eloquence reaffirms and strengthens what we are all doing. Your words create hope and optimism.

The details you have given us on the battles to regain access to affirmative action are critically important, in great part because we can think of ways, as others have, to support and strengthen your call for change there, and also because you inspire similar action everywhere that injustice continues.Your description of international writers picking up your stories and the good results that have come from these actions, is a down to earth example of the effectiveness of carrying each others' stories as far as possible. In this one article, you provide critical information, news of both progress and need in your immediate area, ideas for what can be done to strengthen your work there, and encouragement to look for similar problems and solutions everywhere.
Your description of how your interactions with others on the net, and your continuing to write, have strengthened your thinking about your own work and writing, immediately had the effect on me to be ever more courageous myself. Your description of not allowing the trials of working in a language different from your maternal tongue to stop you, and your obvious fine achievement of full and creative fluency, inspires me to continue to work to achieve the same in my second language.

I love the concepts "empowerment means to have the power to change the negative aspects of this world", "...broken the culture of silence that shrouds women's rights at home and at work". Your own decisions about safety in this closed group network is an important reminder for us all to remain both vigilant and safe.

With years of aggressive attacks on those of us who dare to say that we are indeed working to overthrow this patriarchal system, you boldly finish your beautiful piece encouraging us all to recognize what we are working toward, without being afraid to call it what it is. Thanks to World Pulse, and to your courage, we are, indeed, finding each other. I am stronger for knowing that you are there.

With Love and in Sisterhood,

Tam

gunu_k's picture

Strength in Numbers

Dear Tam,
your long response is very inspiring. The strength of the women's movement is in building numbers and Pulsewire does indeed provide a very effective platform for committed women to connect. I am sure we will be able to take the battle forward together.
regards
Subhadra

Subhadra Khaperde
India

HeidiSB's picture

Thank you

I am so appreciative of your post here. I am newer to the World Pulse community, and it is so good to learn specific ways in which World Pulse has made a difference in women's lives. You are fighting for such important issues, and I thank you for educating me about them. I am happy to hear that you find the internet to be accessible and affordable, and that you have found safe places to share your message.

I am wondering if you can educate me more on what kind of safety issues one might confront on common social networking sites. I can imagine what they might be, but would like to hear specifically what your concerns and experiences have been.

All my best
Heidi

gunu_k's picture

The Big Bad World of the Internet

Dear Heidi,
thank you for the appreciation. Women the world over face gender based violence in subtle or gross forms and the internet is no exception. I know of many cases of women who have been stalked on the internet and then subjected to the worst kind of violence. That is why from the beginning I have participated in only closed groups where members are allowed in only after proper identity checks and also there is moderation to see that objectionable content is not published.
regards
Subhadra

Subhadra Khaperde
India

Mary S's picture

What a great story you have!

What a great story you have! You are a wonderful example of someone who is using the internet to get their voice heard around the world, and I admire your determination to learn English to make it easier for you to communicate online. Hopefully as online translation tools get better, this will become less of an issue and everyone who wishes to will be able to use the internet in their native languages.

I wish you success with your campaigns!

Mary

gunu_k's picture

A long way to go yet

Dear Mary,
Thank you for the appreciation. It is true that there are translation tools but since they are computerised algorithms they often make very foolish translations especially from my language Hindi to English!!! Therefore there is still a long way to go before writing in the vernacular can be as effective as writing in English.
regards
Subhadra

Subhadra Khaperde
India

milliej7's picture

Well done

Thank you for sharing your story Subhadra. You are right to encourage women to find a safe place to share their voices online - it has clearly empowered you ( you mention a feeling of worth ) and you are clearly empowering other women across India (and beyond).
I am glad you talk about the challenge of expressing yourself in English online. I wonder if you could also include your texts in Hindi as well as a way of reaching a wider population? You express yourself extremely well in English by the way! I just wonder if by including bi-lingual texts you might include women who don't speak English in the same place as those who don't speak Hindi. Being bi-lingual is a real gift when it comes to bringing voices which ordinarily be heard together.
Keep up the good work and thanks again for sharing your story of empowerment.
Jo

MariaAle's picture

Thank you for sharing your

Thank you for sharing your story and your purpose to help woman in difficulties in your region in India. Your passion and dream to find a way to help woman and how you have improve your language it is very inspiring. I feel that for you limitation that you have find in your path, have been tools to make you stronger and work harder and now you can see positive results. Your english language is fantastic! Your voice have been heard and you are transforming lives.
God bless you.
Best,
MariaAle

Maria Alejandra Alcaraz

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