ByÂ Kayonaaz Kalyanwala:
We did it! We met our goal of making sure that 50% of our Community Correspondents, grassroots video journalists, are women. Over the last year some fantastic, stereotype defying, crazy, passionate, dramatic women have joined our network of 200+ Community Correspondents. One left her abusive husband; another takes her husband to film videos and yet another wants to do everything in her power to make the world safer for her young daughter.
Gender has been at the heart of Video Volunteer’s work since the beginning. One of our earliest projects was to train 11 rural women who had all been married as children to make a film on child marriage.
The video was screened in their villages on wide screen projectors. ‘Nearly all of us women were married as children. Yet none of us have ever spoken about it before tonight,’ said one Community Producer as she spoke to the 800 people in her village who had come to see the film.
This video and project were the beginning of Video Volunteers’ Community Video Unit Program. Within about 10 months, six more had been launched across India. It was the beginning of a spectacular journey for all involved, one that we’re still on. Women’s issues are hardly talked about in public forums in villages. Community media can change this.
Community media has a special power, because those who make the content have almost always personally experienced what they document. This empathy adds an authenticity, urgency and a personal perspective, which makes it very different from traditional journalism. Female correspondents find that women in their communities feel comfortable talking to them as they feel that the correspondents can relate to them.
This year, India’s collective outrage on violence against women found its way even to our CC’s videos. But there was a difference, instead of reporting on sad stories of bashed up women, they changed the lens to report these as stories of women’s empowerment, as a refusal to be silenced. The effort culminated in a video called ‘I am Nirbhaya’.
This video is now being screened across villages and cities in India. Our hope is to start discussions around women’s rights; we want communities, especially women, to question ages of patriarchal oppression.
After showing the video to her husband, who has often disliked her work as a CC, Rohini Pawar texted everyone all at the VV office to say this:
“I want to tell you all that when I showed the video to my husband, he saw it 10 times over. He told me that I am free to go out and do the work I want; he will not stop me. He thought the script was very powerful.”
Over the years we have found that on an average our women CCs make more videos per month than the male correspondents. One reason for this is probably the fact that being given the opportunity to speak out is that much more important for women and that much more transformative, given how long they have been silenced.
Regardless of who makes the video, with each story they report, our Community Correspondents change stereotypical ideas about what women in India are like. They bring alive the fact that women across India want to be heard; want to govern their own lives. Â The future, despite what it feels like, is only going to be better.