Monday morning-A breath of different air
Before critics scream so what, it is a product of another well worked out publicity strategy, the story needs to be looked at in terms of what perhaps the print editions of our newspapers could potentially do.
B P SANJAY on the N Ram interview with Melinda Gates.
Monday, Mar 29 19:08:46, 2010
When the week begins you are in a mood to be positive. Perhaps unwinding over the weekend does the trick. With IPL matches being telecast live you give prime time news a break and when you surf for news channels during the IPL ad breaks you have experts and anchors analysing the IPL. Why the experts when you are seeing it ball by ball is something the news channels have to clarify. All of us get cliched when our domain knowledge is repeatedly probed. Sidhu, Srikant, Bhogle etc are no exceptions. The anchors try hard to respond amicably to the same projections and know it all wisdom. With no heavy news or weekend talk shows on your mind, Monday morning newspapers afford a welcome start for the week.
The Hindu (Chennai edition) provided a break with a neat front page story on the Gates Foundation with an elaborate full text interview of Melinda French Gates co-founder and co-chair of the Foundation. Before critics scream so what it is a product of another well worked out publicity strategy, the story needs to be looked at in terms of what perhaps the print editions of our newspapers could potentially do. Incidentally the readers' editor's column in the same newspaper talked about the potential of the Internet where sky is the limit and how the newspaper in due course would open up more space for opinion particularly in their Net editions.
The story is about one particular well endowed Foundation's approach towards providing life saving innovations that effect social and cultural change. Embedded in the broader aspects of interventions in health with reference to maternal and child care, the story and more so the interview talks about the situation and issues in states where such explicit interventions are justifiably being put into place.
Communication for behaviour and attitude change in agriculture and health is a highly critiqued, contested and debatable sub disciplinary focus. Participatory approaches, advocacy and revisiting traditional knowledge and wisdom are derivatives of such critiques. Alternate media, narrowcasting and now community media are manifestations that while interrogating mainstream media practices allow for spaces that are possible for better livelihood practices embedded in community based social and cultural interventions.
The story focuses more on strategies in the current context on the ground: 'A lot of times people think the Foundation are absolutely about innovations in science, in technology and biotechnology. We believe in that innovation but another piece of big innovation is social, cultural change. How do you talk to the women in a way to understand why they've been doing what they've been doing? They have good reasons for why they believe what they have been doing is the right thing. But how do you talk to them in a way that appreciates their culture but helps them understand what will keep their children alive? There are innovations to be done there.'
How do we spread information is another issue or strategy. The interviewer's reference to infrastructure--primary health centres and their good work (in Tamil Nadu) evoked an obvious strategy that the Foundation was focusing on areas where the deaths still occur:
'What is it about those States? What is it about the way the infrastructure is set up? What is it about the cultural practice?' My understanding, after talking to a lot of people, is that it's somewhat different for a woman living in the South versus the North. In terms of how she can negotiate: if she even knows that the right thing to do is to get to a clinic, can she convince her mother-in-law? Can she convince her husband to do that? They're the ones who are going to transport her there. You know, taking some of those practices from the South and trying to learn what's worked well there and get those to the North is important. But also I think this piece of cultural change is going to be really, really key.
The daughter in law-mother in law dynamics mentioned above could positively weave into our numerous soap operas that deal with the dynamics that many would argue is conflictual and enhances the gratification of the viewers through multiple punches in the dialogues that at best reinforces the status quo. Earlier attempts at what was tried in Doordarshan through pro development soap operas are now passe and perhaps weathered the instructional psychosis of television.
Social and cultural changes that the story talks about in very mundane life affecting problems are perhaps more deep rooted and based on attitudes of the supporting family network that shapes dietary practices, socio-cultural ambience, clinical help, gender bias and more so the health care staff of all kinds. The highly dispersed print media in the Indian languages spread of television and access to multiple channels now allows for interventions by many stake holders, civil society groups and well intentioned rural health missions.
For a national newspaper to devote more than 3700 words spread over two half pages is no doubt publicity for the Gates foundation. But the peg and substance around which the story and interview revolves reflects how the newspaper could also flag key issues with regard to vital aspects of the nation-maternal and child care. Modi and his SIT experience was no doubt on front page. But the Gates story was a visual break on this Monday morning.