Change in their hands: Video training for grass-roots activists

(this blog first appeared on the PACS website here) Change in their hands - A twinkle in their eye and a determination in their voice. How a small camera can make all the difference By Namita Srivastav end video trainingMy first impressions, when I met the participants of Community Correspondents Network training (CCN) was a sense of awe that they had been finally reached their destination – their video training center. Inspite of the long journey, missed trains, low battery on mobile phones and some first time travelers from all across Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, I saw active, enthusiastic and determined people who wanted to change the situation of their community. All the eleven participants attending the two week training on creating videos to talk about bringing a change in their community, are change agents in their own right. They are sensitive and aware of issues of their community like gender and caste based discrimination, poverty, lack of transparency when they want to access education, health or nutrition. Because all of them at some point or the other have themselves faced discriminations in their lives, they have a determination and a passion to change the situation and raise their voices. As one of the participants Shabnam from Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh shared “In our community gender inequality is very common, women there face discrimination at every stage in their lives and their attitude is that it as part of their lives. I always believe that women and men are equal and therefore women should never tolerate any kind of discrimination. I want to raise this issue in our community and make them aware of their rights, so that women can raise their voices. I want to do something to change their situation in society”. 

The Training

The training was conducted by three resource persons from Video Volunteers and four mentors. The mentors are community correspondents who have been with video volunteers for more that three years and have created regular videos. These mentors would be handholding the participants for a year to ensure they are able to develop videos of change. During the training, PACS and Video Volunteer saw to it that all participants understood the dimensions of the discriminations faced by their community. Resource persons were invited to enrich their understanding on the issues like gender, health, nutrition and forest rights. These discussions not only gave them an insight into these issues with a social exclusion perspective, but also gave them ideas of how their stories and videos could be framed and issues adequately highlighted. I could see them asking about how and what they can do to bring a change in the status quo. Although it was a difficult task for them to work on a computer and understand the working of a mouse, internet and copying to DVD as also language barried, as most of them had never worked on a computer before, I could see they were trying their best to learn despite all this. Most of the participants at the training had never handled any kind of camera before, let alone a video camera. So initially when they were asked to take shots, the images were out of focus, the lens cap was still on, while they clicked away, someone’s hand was inside the frame. However, gradually with the help of the resource persons and their mentors, they started picking up the basic of framing and shooting. Slowly they were introduced to other technical aspects through screenings, discussions and late night video screenings.

On the Field

group learningAfter the technical inputs, participants were taken to a nearby village to actually develop a video. When they got the chance to prepare a video clip, all of them did an excellent job. Their frames were good, research proper and the storyline good, even though shaky at some places. The field visit experience was also a major opportunity for the trainees as they got the chance to practice all that they had learnt over the last 12 days. This increased their confidence in their newly acquired skill set. Satendra from Mau district shared that “this training has made me more confident and capable, and now I am sure that I will make a remarkable change in my community through my videos, I will share the problems of my community with the district and block officials through my videos.” The CCN training was a good opportunity for participants from different districts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh to make friends, find solidarity, discuss issues and explore new dimensions of the society that they live in. After the training they were better equipped to raise issues that they had so far never taken up. “The purpose of your life should be special, and you should have confidence in your ability to do things differently. Through this training I think I will finally be able to do things differently and bring about positive change in my community” – Premlata, a CCN participant from Sehore, Madhya Pradesh. At the end of the training each of the participants were provided with a small flip camera and a certificate. On the last day, with the farewells and smiles, were glimmers of hope and confidence that they too will be making a difference for their people.

About the PACS – Video Volunteer Community Correspondent Network

PACS is looking to use videos and visual content for developing a change narrative and tapping into emerging media, including social media, which is increasingly recognized as a potent strategy for a range of engagements related to impact and mobilization. This will be done in collaboration with Video Volunteers by creating a network of 50 community correspondents from excluded socially excluded groups from PACS intervention districts in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Video Volunteers is one of the leading community media organizations in the world. The community correspondent’s network will generate content and videos from their constituencies to leverage impact and work towards ending discrimination in everyday life and access to entitlements. A deeper engagement in the form of these community correspondents will emerged as a means for bringing to fore voices from the margins and providing skills to social communicators to provide advocacy tools to community based organisations. These correspondents are being envisioned as chroniclers of change and struggle, supporting campaigns and advocacy efforts at state, regional and national levels.
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