Video Volunteers has initiated and sustained a global community media movement, which has empowered people by giving them a voice, training them to use it, and enabled them to take action towards social change. Our training models and projects have created an impact in the following ways:
Give the poor a voice.
- Enable the poor to participate in decision-making.
- Create platforms for constructive dialogue and discussion around screenings of their films, where people focus on solutions not problems.
- Change the lens of looking—from outsiders looking in, to insiders voicing out. This has helped in dashing dominant ideology stereotypes and offered the poor a chance to be the creators of content.
- Strengthened this voice by creating networks of community producers and correspondents who know and work with each other.
- Integrated this voice with mainstream media, allowing for the representation of the poor as producers of information.
Promote community-led development, enable communities to take action on their issues, and provide critical information to people who don’t have it.
The first step in changing the way people behave is to change the way they think. Once people are informed, or issues are brought to the surface from within, possible solutions can be discussed and they can start to organize. It also brings awareness to people of their rights, a better understanding of the problems their communities face and different approaches to tackling issues. Examples of responses to videos produced by Community Producers and Correspondents include:
- The upper-caste employers in a village started paying the minimum wage after community members learned the exact pay they were entitled to from a community-produced film.
- The Bhagwati Hotel in Choraniya village was forced to reconstruct its sewage system so that it didn’t empty into the village’s drinking water pipes.
- Villagers organized clean-up rallies in three villages after watching a CVU film on cleanliness in Surendranagar district Gujarat.
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- Local villagers started demanding that the local moneylender charge them the proper rates.
- Children belonging to different communities played together for the first time after a video on equal rights.
- Villagers protested against the selling and consumption of alcohol; five villagers announced abstinence from alcohol and there were raids on illegal liquor shops in Jakhan village.
- 20 people working in the unorganized sector, filled forms to start a union in the two Bombay slums of Dharavi and Malad.
- Villagers demanded quicker processing of malaria samples and the doctors responded.
- In Doramamidi, villagers staged protests regarding their lack of electricity in front of the Electric Department, and as a result got electricity.
- A video for IndiaUnheard resulted in horse cart drivers being given an official parking spot in Allahabad.
- A CVU producer’s father gave up alcohol addiction.
- Numerous calls made to NGOs to organize youth sports teams after seeing a film on women’s access to public space that advocated girls sports teams.
- Children in a youth media workshop, organized by a CVU, took an inspirational video about playgrounds to local municipal authorities; it was then screened in schools in Ahmedebad.
- People urged doctors to conduct regular visits, and doctors started attending patients in 4 villages.
- Film on fuel and energy shown in 30 schools, raised awareness and concern amongst children.
- Film removed a fear of textbooks, enlightened children about rights, and gathered general knowledge about tribal culture, etc.
Advocate for democracy and an end to corruption, encourage governments and authorities to take action.
The camera can either be a weapon, exposing corruption, or it can be a bridge-building tool to local government officials who are disconnected from residents. Therefore, community video can strengthen democracy and encourage local people to participate in governance.
The Right to Information Act (RTI) is also an important part of the training for both CVU producers and India Unheard Community Correspondents—as a result the poor and marginalized are now using their constitutional rights and demanding information in order to take action. So far, more than 10 communities have successfully used RTI to get information and subsequently take action.
As well, people who know their rights are much more likely to exercise those rights. Armed with this knowledge, citizens have the courage to lobby government with authority on their own. The government, in turn, is much more likely to carry out its functions properly and improve the quality of its services because people are watching. Often times, the government has no choice but to respond to the mounting public pressure and fix the problem.
- The government re-opened a water treatment plant and brought clean water to 3,000 people after Community Producers exposed a high level of fluorine content resulting in florosis. Villagers agreed to invest in the treatment plant.
- Slum dwellers in Mumbai, after watching a film on Right To Information act (RTI) filed an RTI to find out the details of the budget spent on garbage clearance. The RTI resulted in quick clearance of the garbage and clogged drains.
- Attendance at local-governance Gram Sabha meetings increased from 7 to 40 in one village—these participative governance meetings are supposed to be composed of all villagers over the age of 18.
- In Ruupawati village, Dalit women expressed a desire to run for office in an election.
- Seven villages formed women’s panchayats (local councils).
Expand the scale and reach of social programs and campaigns.
The CVU, with its ability to spread messages to large groups of people, is an efficient parallel strategy for our NGO partners. Screenings draw large crowds—on an average night between 200 and 300 people, which is sometimes the majority of a village. If a village needs drinking water, one solution would be to build a well. However, a more sustainable strategy would be to encourage 1000 people to demand clean water and get ten wells built that way.
Additionally, community videos and reports from the CVUs and IndiaUnheard correspondents often provide basic legal information, advice on government schemes, and even simple tips like the location of a local government agency. Many organizations have invested in our programs because they also enable them to listen to the community more closely and increase participation in their programs.
- 750 villagers filed reports of land rights violations with NGO staff in response to a film made for an NGO’s land rights campaign, significantly increasing the likelihood that those villages will become part of the government’s land reallocation program.
- There was three times the amount of participation in a Mumbai water campaign against the privatization of water for slum dwellers which led to a massive turn out at a public hearing by the government. As a result, privatization efforts were halted in these slums and water supply increased in two slums.
- There was a 150% increase in applications for a job-training program for youth after watching a film whose call to action was to apply to an NGO for this course.
Transform the community members we work with into community leaders and in turn inspire others as role models.
VideoVolunteers’ journalism training in critical thinking, confronting authority, asking questions and researching any issue, has created a new batch of leaders, of whom more than 50% are women. In all the communities where we work, these people become the “go-to-points” for conflict resolution, information and assistance. They are taught to open their eyes to new information, break down issues to root causes, and work through problems their villages are facing.
Community Producers and Correspondents undergo a remarkable transformation that re-shapes their lives. They are not simply video journalists; they are grassroots activists using the power of a compact camera. They are shedding light on people’s harsh realities, organizing communities, and empowering locals to take action. They are well respected in their villages and slums; they are a source of motivation for their peers and inspire others within their communities to also become leaders and positive role models.
- Dalit community producers, after addressing and exposing sensitive issues like land rights, are now respected by the rest of the community as leaders and invited into upper-caste spaces.
- Dalit Correspondents (like Mukesh) have been participating in national consultation on creation of livelihood opportunities for Dalits.
- Producers approached a public health officer to reopen a closed hospital in slum.
- Orthodox Muslim families enquired whether their daughters can work for the Samvad Community Video Unit.
- Villagers got together and created a Self Help Group to protect the water in the lakes and ponds in their community and to distribute it economically.
- Hindus and Muslims came together in one area for the first time since the Gujarat riots, to watch a film on communal harmony, and wished each other peace and happiness, ending fear in the minds of community members.