Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Through a common man's eye

VV impact example 1-Zaffar is a Muslim afghan born in India. His family had to flee Afghanistan back in 1978 due to the Russian invasions. Zaffar stays at Kolkata currently and manages his sports based nonprofit. He plays rugby and through this he helps children bond across cultural and communal barriers. With parents of Afghan origin he has been brought up in India and learned to value the ethics and celebrate the festivals of his community. He is quite proud to be a member of the Kabuliwala community that swept into Kolkata in the late 19th and early 20th century. But the localites  hardly know of their culture which they are proud of. It was Zaffar who narrated the story of Kabuliwalas to the world through his video. Zaffar is a Video Volunteer correspondent.
VV impact example 2-There was a time when Choki village in Limdee Taluka of Gujarat, a Dalit habituated area, did not have proper water supply. The women of the village had to walk miles and miles every day to fetch water for survival. The area which is particularly dry has no water resource nearby. The villagers had to fight to get ample of water to survive. But back in 2010 came the welcome change with the long struggle of the village women. They decided to fight for themselves and appeal to the authorities to provide proper water supply to the village. They formed a small group under the leadership of Kanta Ben, a member of the same community and approached the district collector also filing a complaint to obtain water, in accordance with the law. Though initially they did not get the required response yet later the authorities were forced to listen to their water woes and install a water supply pipe to the village.  It all started after a screening of a video by a local CVU Apna Malak Maa (In our Land) that led to the enlightenment of the villagers.
With the utter commercialization of mainstream media all around, the focus has moved to yellow journalism. The society misses out the factual pegs that account for a greater part of the society. What the masses are basically concerned for is politics, power, corruption, economical problems, page 3 news etc. the mainstream media hardly gets to touch down to the real life issues other than incidents of murder, corruption, theft or molestation. Knowingly or unknowingly they have always tended not to touch the reality at the grass root level. The problem lies in us. We always tend to forget the very fact that there are certain sections of the society which form an integral part of the system. Yet they are looked down upon in either ways. And so has the media. Especially in a developing nation like India, one can never overlook the problem of caste system prevailing since ages or the gender discrimination faced by women in the country. We talk, we debate but how many of us actually get involved and imply actions to improve conditions?
Of late numerous NGOs have come forward in solving such issues yet much more coordination is needed. But the unique strategy that Video Volunteers has initiated implied and executed is one among many. An international community media organization that equips men and women from the underdeveloped areas with critical thinking, creative, activist and video journalism skills has actually helped many backward communities in exposing their underreported stories  as well as take appropriate action to fight against poverty,untouchability, injustices or caste system prevailing in the society. India happens to be the country where the largest network of salaried community video producers sustains under this organization. What started as a small community based program by US journalist Jessica Mayberry has today become a globally based program operating in various nations with the backwards communities.
Their main aim is to empower the people from their targeted group of backward communities. In a society where only 2% of the rural part is touched by the media and the rest 98% only moving to the urbane news, such an organization has worked wonders in terms of educating and empowering those looked down upon. It has also been successful in bringing issues to the core and bringing remarkable reforms to the lives of people. The videos act as the tool to create changes and empower men and women.
 The issues covered by them are versatile. It may be the problems faced by members of Dalit community in some remote village not being provided access to drinking water or it may even be women in an area facing gender discrimination.
As Siddharth Pillai, Communications Manager, Video Volunteers, India says, “Most members of the target groups are illiterate and uneducated. Most of them are school dropouts. Hence the concept of Video creation came into inception. Its easy on their part to learn the techniques. Its also easy for the trainers to train and teach them the know how within a short period of time.”
VV partners with citizen groups by sending professional filmmakers as volunteers or trainers to train community leaders, preferably women. Basically each community video unit has four reporter and producer who are trained to report, shoot and edit. Each unit has access to four cameras, a TV, a VCR, editing software and a wide screen projector for outdoor screening. Monthly video magazines containing news, documentaries, local culture and arts, tips and vox pop segments focusing on issues important to them and their communities. The projector travels from one village to the next, viewed by as many as 20,000 people per month.
How often is It that one gets to see women from India hosting documentaries or a once upon a time farmer from rural Gujarat hosting a video focusing on issues faced by his Dalit community? But such is the mission of VV and had been its soul mission since its inception-to empower the poor and forgotten people, to give them the opportunity to tell their stories to the world and above all, to themselves.
The importance of community media is supported by studies such as the World Bank’s 1999 “Voices of the Poor” which states that people worldwide identified “having a voice” as their No. 1 need above food and shelter.
As Bhan Sahu, a Video Volunteer correspondent from Chhattisgarh says, “I had been associated with social work such as women empowerment work since I was 15. But I did not the right weapon to fight against all odds. It was back in 2010 when I got to know of their training camp being held at Ahmadabad through a Lucknow based friend of mine who also happens to be a journalist that India Unheard would be holding such a camp. At the very mention of it I knew that I should attend this camp. After the rigorous 14 day training, I had nurtured more and I had the instinct to fight fearlessly. What Video Volunteers has given me is worth acknowledgeable. It has changed the way I approached my goals.”
Bhan Sahu has been associated with VV since 2010 and since then it has been a never ending association. She is widow with two grown up children. She has been associated with such NGOs much before her marriage. But after her husband expired things became difficult for her as she did not have much money to sustain and feed her children. It was VV that gave her the right weapon,as she calls. With the training that she acquired, she now very effortlessly makes videos of isssues related to her community, provides them to VV and in return gets paid also for her worthy work. Its benefits have acted manifold for her. She can both highlight her some social issues related to her community through mainstream media, many of which have been resolved as a result of her efforts and her NGO-,there is spread of awareness also among the people of backward classes regarding resolution of problems faced by them.
“VV has become my voice. My in laws were very apprehensive regarding me working as a social worker and they had snatched the only piece of land that my husband had left for me. But with earnings from VV,I fought the case and won my land back. Though it’s a very small piece of land, yet it acts a big piece of contentment for me. Today my NGO, the people of my village and many surrounding areas are quite aware of VV as there have been many changes in our area due to the videos that I have broadcast. Petty issues such as dowry problems, gender discrimination and caste system have been resolved to a great extent in my area. Today not a single woman over here is a victim of gender discrimination or dowry torture, repartees Bhan with that glint of pride in her eyes.

As is Mayberry’s dream, to produce a legion of “barefoot filmmakers” most of whom cannot read or write yet would be able to tell their stories round the world.

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