A picture paints a thousand words? So do comics!

Local jokes, dialogues and narratives from issues of community quarrels over water tanks to rainwater harvesting came alive in a Grassroots Comics workshop in Sikkim to mark World Water Day.

As a run up to World Water Day 2014, India Water Portal conducted a Grassroots Comics workshop with Field Facilitators, Barefoot Engineers and other field workers of the Dhara Vikas Programme. The Programme is an initiative of the Government of Sikkim through its Rural Management and Development Department to conserve and develop the state’s water resources, especially focusing on the revival of springs.

Grassroots Comics is a creative tool used by common people (not artists) to tell their stories. They are made by the locals in a particular simple format and distributed to their communities. This medium has been widely used by various social organizations for communication, awareness and sensitization programmes. The medium, introduced by World Comics India, is now popular all over the globe. The idea behind it is that it combines the knowledge and experience from the field and translates it into visuals to appeal to a common person’s understanding. 

It needs a minimal amount of resources- a pen, paper and photocopying to get your message across. It is a simple tool that is within the budget of the rural folk who have concerns to raise but often lack the reach to mainstream media. Also, the medium does not require any special drawing skills, just a powerful story!

 Comics created during the workshop 

With the power of this medium, around 20 participants from across different districts of Sikkim came together at the State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD), Jorethang. In just three days, the voices of the field came alive on paper through local jokes, dialogues and narratives. Most of the participants who complained of never having drawn an apple in school created extraordinary visual stories. The comics ranged from issues of community quarrels over water tanks, to open defecation by tourists, to rainwater harvesting to how to earn money out of waste!

When the comics were ready, the participants took the photocopies of the comics to the nearby market at Jorethang for field testing. This gave them the feedback that they wanted from the ground- whether their stories were understandable to the common person and what they thought about the issue. It's not so much about the comic as it is to create a debate on the issue being discussed.

The participants got positive feedback from many of the people in the market, where they started discussing about the relevance of the problem in their areas as well. A tailor also requested to keep the comics with him and stick it in his shop when one of the participants took it to him for feedback.

We hope that the Field Facilitators, who belong to different Gram Panchayats in the State, will take the learnings from this workshop and share it in their areas. Many of the participants were excited to conduct such workshops themselves and use the medium in their own work areas.

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