This is India’s first community-run Instagram account. Here’s how it is helping rural Kumaoni women seek alternative livelihood

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Adjusting her binocular for a better view of the snow capped peaks around, Pushpa kept walking in traditional salwar kameez and sports shoes. What makes her different from other women in the little Kumoani village is her keenness to hike and make an alternative livelihood. Just like her, there are a lot of women, who don’t mind cooking food and doing household chores but has an urge to do something else. While some love clicking photographs, some women are hiking guides.

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And this exploration to find an alternative livelihood for the rural women of the Himalayas has been powered by Voices Of Munsiari, India’s first community-run Instagram account. The epicentre of this spirit is Sarmoli, a picturesque mountain village in the Munsiyari district of Uttarakhand.

Shivya Nath, the renowned travel blogger in India, who runs the-shooting-star.com, has teamed up with Malika Virdi, an avid mountaineer who has set up Sarmoli village homestays.

What do they do?
Sarmoli organizes their annual summer ritual in April every spring. The week-long Himal Kalasutra festival where the locals of Sarmoli come together to run a marathon with an altitude gain of 8000 feet over 20km and watch birds. Last year, a week of meditative yoga and an introductory digital workshop by Wikipedia was also organized.

With the help of Shivya and Malika, the villagers have started an Instagram profile to share with the world their stories. Initially, it was thought that the interest in sharing their stories may die down soon. On the contrary, their interest kept surging and some villagers became too tech savvy within short period of time.

What now?
Shivya and Malika are now aiming to crowdsource smartphones with good quality cameras, so more locals can get on board the channel.


“Following a photography workshop in the village this April, we hope to do a photo/Instagram exhibition, showcasing the work of budding local photographers to potentially create an alternate income stream to fund a new outdoor education programme,” Shivya told Business Insider.

“If you, or anyone you know is a smartphone photographer who’d like to spend a week in this gorgeous part of the mountains, sharing their art and skills with some budding local photographers, let me know too,” added Shivya.
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