With monsoon receding and the sun eking its way out, the Third IndiaUnheard Training Camp is all set to roll out in Goa on the 26th of September, 2011. A housewife from rural Rajasthan, a college student from the slums of Mumbai, a dalit teenager from remote Jharkhand, a grassroots human rights activist from Trichy, a pharma factory worker from interior Maharashtra are among the eclectic batch of 30 individuals who are preparing themselves to attend the intensive weeklong workshop. Over the past year, these individuals have become the eyes and voices of their communities, the lower castes, the poor, the underprivileged, and the tribals, some of the most marginalized people in India. They are speaking out against corruption, caste barriers, gender discrimination, livelihood and labour issues. With their cameras, they are reporting from areas ignored by the rest of the country and the mainstream media. They are documenting culture, ways of life, festivals, ceremonies, rituals, livelihoods which otherwise pass unseen and unheard. They are the IndiaUnheard team of Community Correspondents (CC).
The camera and the IndiaUnheard (IU) program have changed many lives,” says Sameer Malik, Program Co-ordinator,” Sunita Kasera from Karauli, Rajasthan has become the first women to be accredited as a press person in her community. Rohini Powar from Maharashtra successfully campaigned and secured equal pay for women in her farming community, Mukesh Rajak helped stop rampant corruption in the schools of rural Jharkhand. The one year since the program’s inception has seen its share of success stories but the focus of the new camp is to effectively translate the concerns at the centre of the correspondent’s videos into broader, solid and sustainable impacts at the ground.”
Margaret Joeji, a dalit woman human activist from Tamil Nadu and a proud IndiaUnheard CC is excited at the prospect of the upcoming camp. She is looking forward to be in Goa but she has other expectations that she hopes the camp will meet. “I want to learn more about the issues we deal with, about caste, about identity and how I can explore them with my camera? I want to able to tell the best possible story, technically and narratively and learn how to generate impacts.”
Devidas Gaonkar is the IndiaUnheard correspondent from Goa and one of the camp’s highlights involves a special field visit to his tribal village where his videos on illegal mining and land acquisition in Goa will be screened for the CCs and the community. He says,” Trainings are important for me. This is the time when I get to meet different people from across the country with whom I’m working with. This is the time to exchange ideas and extend support. It is a tremendous learning experience. I’m glad that this time around, I have the opportunity to host my friends and fellow correspondents at my village.”
Mukesh Rajak from Jharkand is 19 years old which makes him the youngest community correspondent in the IU network. He claims that when he is at one of the camps even family is far away from his mind. “It is very exhilarating. When you are working as a correspondent on the field, you are alone and aloof, as if on an island but it is at the camps that you realize you are part of something bigger and there are all these people with you. Every camp has been an eye opening experience. I always go back charged and changed.”
Meanwhile, at the Video Volunteers office, eager anticipation and the rush against the deadline is taking care of the energy supply. Everyone is gearing up and looking forward to the important, eventful week ahead- drawing up the schedules, designing and developing training modules, ensuring the logistics are taken care of. Grace Anderson, our intern from the University of East Anglia is right in the middle of the fervour that has gripped everyone. “I cannot wait to meet with the team of correspondents,” she says,” I am eager to listen to them, see how they view this organization that they are a part of and listen to what plans they have for their future. This is an exciting moment to be in. There is just so much going on.”
Every passing hour takes us one closer to the camp but it’s one of those times where it can seem like it will never come too soon.