The Covid-19 induced lockdown has brought India’s tourism industry to a grinding halt. Rural communities have lost their livelihoods, supply chains have been disrupted and alternate income streams have thinned. Experts anticipate that the effect will be felt for at least a year, possibly longer. Thus, Voices of Rural India is an effort to turn this unprecedented crisis into an opportunity to create alternate livelihoods by upgrading digital skills in rural India, while also preserving grassroots knowledge that is slowly disappearing. It is a not-for-profit digital initiative co-founded by Shivya Nath, Osama Manzar and Malika Virdi that hopes to revolutionise storytelling, by hosting curated stories by rural storytellers – in written, photo or video format. Unlike most existing online platforms, the stories of rural India are told directly by rural storytellers.
Voices of Rural India is currently working with rural communities in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Maharashtra and Gujarat, through on-ground community-based tourism organisations like Global Himalayan Expedition, Himalayan Ecotourism and Grassroutes Journeys. The initiative is supported by the Digital Empowerment Foundation.