JOHANNESBURG: A lecture exploring links between Mahatma Gandhi's ideals of self-reliance as well as autonomy and media has been held in Durban, the place where he was thrown out of a train over racial discrimination.
The 8th annual Mahatma Gandhi Media Lecture at the Durban University of Technology focussed on "Gandhi's Charkha: Self Reliance and Modern Media" and noted that Gandhian ideals of self-reliance and autonomy are being implemented all over the globe by individuals and organisations through various media projects.
Elaborating on separate and diverse case studies of modern participatory community media in Canada, India, and South Africa, speaker Professor Aashish Kumar from the L Herbert School of Communication at New York's Hofstra University said this trend towards media autonomy was in line with Gandhi's call for self-reliance as a means to seek independence and social justice.
He articulated many of these ideas quite effectively through print media, Kumar said, referring to the 'Indian Opinion' newspaper started by Gandhi during his tenure in South Africa at the turn of the last century.
Kumar added: "Journalism for Gandhi was a way for the Indian community to represent its grievances to the South African government, to share the lived experiences of the Indian diaspora, but also to turn inward and speak about the ills prevalent within the Indian community."
He cited two examples of organisations becoming self- reliant despite oppression in India.
The first was training by American media and communication consultant Martha Stuart in Gujarat in video production workshop for the members of the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA).
"Over the span of the next two decades, SEWA would grow from a core group of 20 women who received the initial training to becoming Video SEWA, a provider of simple appropriate and modern technology available to its membership," Kumar said.
The second example he mentioned was of 10 women from a rural Dalit background who formed a community media trust, going from village-to-village recording interviews, live events, and instructions on how to sustain bio-diversity.
Other examples of suburban renewal projects in Toronto and the plight of migrant sex workers in Johannesburg further highlighted how the modern-day media technologies, especially social media, have further evolved the Gandhian ideas of self-reliance, he said.
However, indirectly lamenting at the misuse of such media as well, Kumar concluded by saying had Gandhi been using social media today, he would probably have closed his account.