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Prospects Of Traditional Media For Rural Development

In any developing country like India where rural population outnumbers the urban population, any kind of development cannot be done without rural development. Considering this fact, now every step is being taken to communicate with the rural masses and assuring their involvement in the development process. “People’s participation is becoming the central issue of our time,” says UNDP (Human Development Report 1993), to which we add, “and participation requires communication”. Communication can be an instrument of power—a revolutionary weapon, a commercial product or a means of education; it can serve the ends of either liberation or oppression, of either the growth of the individual personality or of drilling human beings into uniformity. (MacBride Commission Recommendation, 1982).

After almost 69 years of independence, many of the rural dwellers do not own a television or radio and because of illiteracy, print media is not accessible to them. Electricity problem makes viewing television a luxury and is therefore non-existent. So these rural masses aren’t getting involved with mainstream media (radio, television or print media) and the new media is inaccessible to them. So the most effective way to keep them abreast with communication is possible through traditional media. ‘Traditional Folk Media’ is a term used to denote ‘people’s performance’. It describes folk dance, rural drama, street play (nukkad natak) and musical variety of the village people. Behavioural changes are most easily brought about by personal interaction and traditional folk media are the personal forms of communication.

The first significant international recognition of the traditional media in the communication and development strategies of the developing countries came in the year 1972. The UNESCO picked the thread and made new efforts to find the most viable means of communication for rural millions in developing countries of Asia and Africa. It sponsored an international seminar in London in 1972, and a follow-up workshop in Delhi in 1974. The document prepared by the experts, practitioners and critics in London was proven the most significant in laying guidelines for utilizing the traditional folk media for communication. It declared that “no communication strategy would be complete unless it included people’s traditional media.” The Delhi Declaration confirmed the positive qualities of folk media and declared that they were indeed the most viable tools of communication in rural countries.

One of the major issues in rural areas of India is that of dealing with people’s attitude and responses to issues of development. Traditional folk media are playing meaningful role in the affairs of developing countries in Asia and Africa. As a much loved body of interpreters of indigenous culture, they have proven to be highly influential with the rural masses. As the reality has not changed in rural areas of India much now so the traditional media is still making a difference in rural lives. This media is matchless as it’s a persuasive means of communication.

As against the urban-based mass media, the rural-based folk media are found to enjoy greater credibility with rural audience. When handled with care and consideration, the sensitive folk media have proved themselves to be meaningful and effective tools of communication for development.

Indians comprehended the communication potential of their rural performances as early as the 1820s. The Amarnath Vidyalankar Committee, which was appointed to assess the communication potential of different information media in 60s, recorded that: “from the point of its great appeal to the masses and its quality of touching the deepest emotion of the illiterate millions, the medium of song and drama is matchless.” (Origin and Development of Mass Media in India, IGNOU, 2001). In this global village age, rural masses are still connecting deeply with the traditional folk media and involving themselves in the process of development and becoming a part of it.

Findings of many researchers have established the importance of folk media in development communication. Zwaal (2000) said that folk media is a communication vehicle for promoting and improving dialogue which the common people or rural farmers employ to deliver their messages. In a country like India, where illiteracy rate is still high, traditional media is a perfect tool for communication.

According to Chiovoloni et al. (2004), for sustainable development of agriculture, there is
a need for a close collaboration between development agents and traditional as well as new rural communicators to revive or strengthen the traditional communication system for making optimal use of its interactive power to stimulate people’s participation.

Nwabueze (2004) showed that with regard to diffusion of innovation, interpersonal
channels of communication (such as the traditional media), are of greater importance than the modern mass media channels.
The traditional media are communication channels which reflect people’s culture. These media were not introduced to the people like the modern mass media but are part of the people’s culture and contributed greatly in shaping their existence. As Nwabueze (1995) rightly observed, these media have been described as a continuous process of information dissemination, entertainment and education used in societies which have not been seriously dislocated by western culture or any other external influences. The people still depend on these media in parts of Africa because of their effective interpersonal nature.

In a country like India, untouchable communities, issue of poverty , gender ,
human rights, disaster risk reduction, child rights, health and livelihood issues can be dealt with the help of traditional folk media. Elimination of child marriage is possible through awareness among rural dwellers. With the cooperation of highly professional staff, the non-governmental organisatios, various govermnetal departments, social workers and volunteers, the traditional media can also inspire to ensure better conditions for the people at large and disadvantaged and vulnerable sections of the society in particular.

This media can also be used to capacitate and empower women in particular and poor people in general to fight for their rights and also to get them organized to bring better living opportunities and basic amenities for the general mass.

Various areas for intervention through traditional folk media:

Disaster Risk Reduction:

Disasters and natural calamities, which is a reality in our country, that takes place every now and then, building resilience and safety project can be done with focus on children by empowering them as decision makers under child centric Community based disaster risk reduction response programme and making it a local reality.

  • Monthly and regular meetings of children groups and child protection committees can work for child right, child protection, quality education, prevention of child labour, strengthening of health and hygiene practices and problems of dropout students etc. Can be discussed. Group communication on village level is very effective tool to motivate everyone for the participation.
  • With the help of street play people can be motivated to form SHGs to earn a livelihood in a significant way. Grain banks can be established with an objective of helping vulnerable families during disaster at the community level that can be exclusively managed by women, women SHGs and community.
  • Mock drill on first-aid in local language can be organized. Strong sense of responsibility among the community members can be developed about their roles as a member of the task forces and how to respond during search and rescue, first-aid and relief operations.
  • Wall writing on WASH issues like safe drinking water, purification of water, various concerns during the disaster can be depicted in villages.
  • Awareness through various campaigns like puppet show, street play, celebration of Global Hand Washing Day, Prabhat Pheri, etc.can be done with school children and communities.

Health, Nutrition, Water Hygiene and Sanitation:

Community Health Services awarenes campaign can be organised through traditional media. It can improve the utilization of primary health care services among communities. The interventions can result in substantial improvement of child health after training Village Women activists as well as conducting community awareness programmes through drama, street play and camps. The women can be made empowered around their health needs.

Puppet shows and street plays can be organized to make the community aware of Tuberculosis and HIV.
With the help of traditional folk media (nukkad natak, puppet shows) efforts can be taken to create awareness among mothers for safe delivery, pregnancy care and infant feeding practices and treatment of diarrhoea. After motivating the community through various traditional media training, they can also be imparted knowledge on different components of maternal and child health. Community can receive valuable information about institutional delivery, importance of breast feeding, immunisation, nutrition, child’s mental and physical health, breastfeeding, sanitation and hygiene etc. They can also become aware about the different government schemes for the pregnant woman and the new born child and immunisation etc.

Not only women and girls but male community can also discuss the following issues broadly with the help of various traditional media:

  • Why are girls discriminated against?
  • Why are women subordinated to men in the house/society?
  • What are the reasons for discrimination against women?
  • How to reduce the vulnerability of gender discrimination in the society?
  • What is HIV? And what is the mode of their transmission and what are the preventive measures for such diseases?

Child Protection:

Awareness amon communities about child protection issues like child right, child abuse, girl child abortion, child marriage, child labour and child trafficking issues can be done easily through various traditional media. not only community people but Panchayat representatives can also be made aware about the chid rights.


The government has implemented different schemes for the rural people but they are unable to access the benefits of government schemes because of lack of information. With the purpose of providing qualitative education among children, children siksha jankari mela can be conducted to sensitize community members on various government schemes in which the information related to educational schemes can be given to the community members. Nukkad nataks can be played in villages with the objective of generating awareness on Right to Education and learning without fear in community. This also included girl education in the community. Through the street plays, different government schemes for girl education can be demonstrated. This effort can touch the community and result will be very positive.

Women Empowerment:

Efforts through traditional media can be made at community levels to provide women arwareness about debit and credit facilities for them through various banks and free them from any exploitation by the local money lender. On the other hand women can also become empowered in decision making process at family level. It can also enhanced the leadership skills among women.

Traditional media, like street play can aware women community about violence against women. Protection of women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 and its provisions can be highlighted through this the folk media. The objective of the communication can create and raise awareness among key persons within the society as well as community on violence against women. This effort will make women vocal—they will be able to put their voices before panchayat representatives, government officials and social leaders for accessing the benefits of government schemes.

It’s a fight to change the attitude and bring community people on a platform where their involvement can be encouraged for the development. Here, traditional media can work miracle for them. Many works have been done by NGOs, govermental organisations and through various international organisations and positive results are sufficient to motivate to work more through this old media. It can make considerable diference in lives of rural people. And if it is used sensibly with other mediums, it is going to bring much change in the lives of the people who are residing in the rural areas of developing country like India.


Chiovoloni M (2004), The interactive power of local and traditional communication systems. Ileia Magazine, April 28.
Mcbride, Sean (1982), Many voices one world, UNESCO.
Martinez, Alberto Molina, A Solution To Energy Crisis And Global Warming, The AntiMatter Electrical Generator, http://www.themolinainstitute.orginstitute.org/pdf
Nwabueze, C. (1995). The Role of Traditional Media in Rural Development: A Case Study of Ideato North L.G.A. of Imo State. Unpublished Project, Department of Mass Communication, U.N.N. Nsukka.

Nwabueze, C.D. and Nwabueze, C. (2007). ICTs, Traditional Media and Sustainable Rural Development: A Synergistic Approach. In Mojaye, E.M. et al, Ebenezer Soola Conference on Communication held in Ibadan.

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Perspectives, Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan, Language: English, ISBN-10: 1137329408 ISBN-13: 978-1137329400
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Sarvaes,Jan (2013), Sustainable Development and Green Communication: African and Asian
Worthington, Tom Green Technology Strategies using computer and telecommunication to reduce carbon emissions (2010), Tomw Communications Pty Ltd; 2edition.ASIN: B0035LC61M
Zwaal PN (2000), Story Telling as a Vehicle for Improving Inter-cultural Dialogue. Thesis on environmental conservation in Cameroon. (Retrieved May 30, 2005).

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