Community Correspondents

Zulekha

Zulekha

Zulekha Sayyed is a film editor, CC trainer, and one of the longest standing members of Video Volunteers from the slums of Mumbai.

We recognise Zulekha before we can see her by her high pitched and gratuitous laugh. But back in 2006, when she first joined Video Volunteers at the age of 15, she wasn’t the boisterous person she is today. “I could be found sitting in the corner,” she recalls, “Now people need to tell me to keep quiet!” As part of the Community Video Unit with Yuva, an NGO, Zulekha focussed on raising and solving the issues of her own neighbourhood - Parksite in Vikhroli, a suburb of Mumbai.  “Water and sewage are the biggest problems of my neighbourhood,” says Zulekha.  

Her community resides in the slums, right in the centre of an upcoming suburb in the ever-expanding Mumbai and therefore are seen as a ‘problem’. The re-developers, along with officials of the city, are trying to make Parksite ‘slum-free’ in lieu of assimilating communities through better public facilities such as water, sanitation and waste management and community assimilation.

A decade of reporting the injustice meted out to her community and resolving many issues, Zulekha’s reputation as the marginalised people’s journalist has spread wide. Today many communities from slums across Mumbai plagued with problems of water, sanitation and eviction call her for help. “It is because of my camera. People who didn’t want to talk, today talk in front of my camera, ” she says.

Zulekha feels that the mainstream media are biased toward builders in their reporting. The issues of the slum residents are barely covered, and if covered, barely have follow-ups. ““When they do report on us, it is without a follow-up. What’s the use of identifying an issue without a solution?” she asks. This is one of the reasons she is drawn to VV’s community media model. “It focuses on creating an impact,” Zulekha says.

Zulekha centres her videos on issues slum dwellers’ face such as home demolitions, contaminated water, open sewers and acts of resistance such as space for kids to create art amongst the bustle of Dharavi slums. A 2015 video that’s most important to her, shows Rahul Nagar residents consuming water contaminated with spit and dog urine. She sent the video to the official responsible and demanded action on behalf of the residents. The official investigated the issue after seeing the video and promptly installed water pipes. Rahul Nagar residents now have access to clean water.

In 2016, Zulekha’s friend repeatedly reached out to her pleading her to cover something that yet again was neglected by the media: 900 families were rendered homeless after their colony, an illegal construction, in Napa Sopara, was demolished. The builders, who duped people into buying houses went scot-free, while the residents were left without a home. “I felt bad about interviewing people just after their homes were destroyed. But it is important to document these truths. If I don’t cover it, people would not know what happens to marginalised people of Mumbai.” The video has 7,000 views as of June 2017. The reality of the displacement is not lost on her. “This could me and my community too.”  

Zulekha has been on the front lines, reporting injustice meted out by officials and powerful builders, which she agrees is dangerous. While shooting footage for a video about slum clearance in 2017, she was physically pushed and threatened by her subjects. “They told me to delete the footage and tried to snatch my camera,” she says. She immediately ran from the place. “I was scared, but did not show it.” When asked why she continues to do such work, she plainly echoes a previous remark, “What do you mean? I live here.”

In communities where aspirations are limited, Zulekha’s achievements have made her role-model. She’s the only woman to have completed a Bachelors and Masters degree, is often the career counsellor to the youth in her community. “I hope I don’t give them the wrong advice.” she humbly says.

Over the years, Zulekha has moved from being just a filmmaker to an able manager, taking on more responsibilities at Video Volunteers. She planned and facilitated training for 25-30 newly recruited Gender Community Correspondents in Mumbai.

Zulekha aims to be a feature film editor and currently works at Camp Studios in Mumbai and manages her home along with her mother and nani (maternal grandmother).  

Videos from Zulekha

Dharavi Art Room provides a Safe Haven for Children in Asia’s Largest Slum

 
/ April 10, 2017

Living in one of the most densely populated spaces on earth takes its toll on children. Dharavi Art Room is a sanctuary where children paint, play instruments and learn about themselves, outside standard curricula.

Clean water supply made possible in a Mumbai slum | IMPACT

 
/ November 13, 2015

‘People spit and dogs urinate in these water lines, and we have no option but to fill water from these lines. This water is not even suitable for animals and yet we are forced to drink this water’.For nearly 15 years, this was the condition of residents of the Rahul...

IMPACT: Making Mumbai Sewage Free

 
/ June 10, 2015

Slum: “a squalid and overcrowded urban area inhabited by very poor people.”                                                                            ...

900 families Homeless After Mumbai Demolition Drive

 
/ September 27, 2016

” I have been sleeping on this,” Radhika Gupta tells the camera, pointing at the debris of her house in Nala Sopara, Mumbai. At 65, she, along with 300 other families, has been rendered homeless as the Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation (VVMC) razed down their homes, because their buildings were illegal structures on government...

Good Samartians collect 1500 million litres of Water for Drought-stricken District

 
/ September 9, 2016

This summer, water woes of a far-flung rural district in the Indian state of Maharashtra found an unlikely supporter in the megacity Mumbai. A group of 20 citizens from Mumbai, aka the financial capital of India, reached out to the drought-stricken district of Marathwada. While Marathwada was rationing its water, Mumbai...

Good Samartians collect 1500 million litres of Water for Drought-stricken District

 
/ September 9, 2016

This summer, water woes of a far-flung rural district in the Indian state of Maharashtra found an unlikely supporter in the megacity Mumbai. A group of 20 citizens from Mumbai, aka the financial capital of India, reached out to the drought-stricken district of Marathwada. While Marathwada was rationing its water, Mumbai...

Open Sewers of Ghatkopar

 
/ February 18, 2016

People keep falling in the open sewers and end up getting wounded at Nalanda Nagar, Ghatkopar. The residing community is afraid for their children who are most susceptible to this hazard and demand the drains to be covered as soon as possible. Through this video, Community Correspondent Zulekha puts forth...

SUCCESS: Clean water supply made possible in a Mumbai slum

 
/ September 10, 2014

Access to safe water is a daily challenge for a majority of Indians. The worst affected communities are often those from lower socio-economic strata. For instance, in places like Mumbai, the worst effects of water crisis are seen in urban slums. Only those who can afford to pay private contractors...