Community Correspondents

Soriya Banu

Soriya Banu, a Community Correspondent with Video Volunteers, is the only earning member of her family of four and is employed at a local NGO where she conducts First Aid Training and works on health care literacy and access. Soriya uses her tools as a Community Correspondent to bring impact to issues ranging from road conditions and water contamination, from gender violence to trafficking. Despite coming from an impoverished family, Soriya pursued her higher education and made social work her profession. While Soriya’s parents made an unprecedented choice in their support of their girl child’s education, they were not very supportive of her becoming a Community Correspondent with Video Volunteers when she first took on the job. Over time however, they, along with the community, came to rely on her to tackle issues in their community. One such issue was the student-teacher ratio at a local primary school, which had only one full time teacher for 193 students. Soriya is proud of the difference that she was able to make in her community through this early work at VV. Another issue which Soriya has covered as a Community Correspondent is that of arsenic-contaminated water in Sariapukur village in the Malda district of West Bengal. In her video, she asks one resident, “What is the biggest problem in your village?” As revealed in Soriya’s video, over 100 people in the village are suffering from sores, which in fact are a reaction to arsenic found to be in the water. With the goal of resolving the issue, Soria has been sent “running in circles” from one officer to the next, as no one wants to take responsibility. One woman featured in her video has since died, and thus, Soriya remains as determined as ever to bring an impact to this community. In West Bengal, 19,000 women and children went missing in 2011. In Soria’s district, it is estimated that one child goes missing per month due to human trafficking. Soriya has documented some of their stories. Stricken with grief and the conviction that the police is not only uncaring but also working with their children’s kidnappers; the mothers of these children tell Soria their stories. Since then, Soriya has followed up with NGOs, the District Magistrate and the Inspector General of the North Bengal Zone. Rescuing these girls is a long procedure. Soria had to approach the police and pressurise them into beginning investigations, years after the complaints had been taken. One of the young girls was found to be in Delhi and subsequently rescued. Till date, this young girl is terrified of being caught and taken back again. She does not venture anywhere without her mother. There are still other girls missing who have not been found. Asked how VV has changed her, Soriya responds, " I am a better, stronger person today. I am not afraid to speak - be it in a community or to an authority. I know the laws and I am assertive about them.” She feels that it is her job to stand up for the people – the poor, the marginalised, who not so long ago used to chase her away with a broom or threaten to lock her up when they saw her wielding her camera. Her sister too wants to “be like Soriya,” and has started to learn the basics of the camera. And when her mother is confronted by neighbours about Soriya’s choices, she responds by saying “Why can’t girls go out for work?” We know that Soriya will continue to influence the aspirations of young women and shape the lived realities of her people.

Videos from Soriya

Water Logged Roads

/ February 4, 2016

‘We want roads. We need roads. Our children can’t go to the school. We can’t go to the Masjid for Namaz.’Unmetalled roads are an old problem in Hasnabad village of West bengal. The problem worsens during the monsoons when these roads get water logged, like what has been happening for...

1998 floods took their entire village still no respite

/ January 4, 2016

An entire village in Malda district of West Bengal was submerged in the 1998 floods. 17 years later, the people have not been given proper homes to stay. – There was no water here, there were houses. – Where are the houses?– No houses are left. They were all submerged....

Villagers in Malda forced to drink arsenic contaminated water

/ December 31, 2015

Sariapukur village is in Uttar Dariyapur, and comes under Kaliachak police station of Malda district, West Bengal. Villagers drank water from the pipeline, and about 100 people are covered in sores because of arsenic contamination. These people have been suffering for 6-7 months now, because of the negligence of their...