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A radio jockey speaking for the environment

ISP Bhopal Bureau 

Varsha Raikwar of Niwari village in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh is setting a benchmark for everyone. She is using radio waves to create awareness and organise people in support of actions to protect the environment. 25-year-old Varsha is an RJ who now has global fame. She is on the UN list of ambassadors to protect the environment and combat climate change. Varsha runs Radio Bundelkhand. 

Varsha, who was recently listed as Nat Geo’s ‘One for Change’ campaign changemaker, took up environment protection as a motto after observing the continuous decrease in crop yield in her village due to climate change. She decided to raise questions about the trend and found that she had to create awareness about the situation and radio was the best possible tool to do that. 

Decreasing crop yield, increased water cycle of irrigation and deteriorating forest cover in Bundelkhand were some of the evident changes occurring in the region and everyone was suffering the consequences of it. Varsh, through her 90.4 FM Radio Bundelkhand started producing modules in the local language to raise awareness about the situation. 

Daughter of a farmer, Varsha was born in a remote place in Niwari with 9 siblings. She completed her graduation from the local college under Jhansi University and turned to the Radio profession after her studies. She was acclaimed for her clarity of voice during her school days and her introduction to radio technology made her decide it was her future. She was introduced to radio by one of her classmates. The vacancy in Radio Bundelkhand, the first community radio station of the state of Madhya Pradesh launched in 2008, an initiative of a social enterprise called Development Alternatives, gave her the opportunity to showcase her skills. 

Beginning a career as an RJ was not easy for Varsha. Societal inertia for a girl to work as a radio person was immense. She was discouraged by her family and immediate relatives. But she persisted. Once her job started, things became more difficult with male bias and regular cases of eve-teasing she confronted on her way to her job every day. She did not give up and became a role model for others eventually. 

As time passed, Varsha’s family became her biggest strength. They started supporting her in all ways. Varsha also feels grateful for her colleagues in Radio Bundelkhand who helped her technically understand her job profile. 

Radio Bundelkhand became famous in the region with the programme  ‘Kaun Banega Shubhkal Leader’, a 2-year campaign and India’s first rural reality show played on the radio. The World Bank-funded show was run in 100 villages and 140 people were selected. This show involved over ten thousand people in the discussion around climate and helped create immense awareness for protecting the environment. The radio show had Varsha regularly speaking to climate experts and sharing the stories on positive changes surrounding the environment. The show made Varsha a hero of the region. 

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