Empowering Community Voices in Assam

Community Video brings growth and happiness to lives in the tea garden. In an initiative by ICICI Prudential and the International Labour Organization, Jawa Community Video Unit is the first of its kind to be established in the North East of India. Started in March 2010, Jawa is involved in training tea garden workers in community media and video production. These comprise members of tribal communities that have long suffered the fate of being disadvantaged minorities. Jawa stands for ‘sprout’, and indeed, the young community producers of Jawa CVU have sprouted very fast over the past year. Even before the CVU was set up, they were extremely active in their community. With new skills of video production and participant media, however, they were able to benefit many more than they initially hoped for. Jawa CVU covers issues of education, literacy, alcoholism, and absenteeism. Every one of these issues looms large on tea estate workers and poses a great threat to their well being and development. Through street plays and video screenings, awareness about these problems has increased. In education, for instance, Anjela Kujur has played a key role in getting children of Attatrikhat Tea Estate admission into schools. Manjula Sabar has started a night school for adults in Dimakusi Tea Estate. Khedan Lal Munda is involved in a night school and also imparts free tuition classes to children in his community. Deepali Gore of Bamunjuli Tea Estate has worked towards encouragement of children to attend school. Julie Tanty, a former school teacher, now volunteers at a night school. Street plays have been very effective in spreading awareness about problems in tea estates. In these remote areas, people had never seen a street play before, and responded positively to the efforts of Jawa. Simon Nag of Nonaipara Tea Estate has been instrumental in staging powerful street plays themed on alcoholism, health, sanitation and education. The members of Jawa CVU have helped accelerate the process of empowering their respective communities. In a short span of just over a year, tea estate workers have cut down on alcoholism and absenteeism, while the rate of literacy and education is on a steady increase. As Paneeri ACMS secretary Anil Nag puts it, “We have films shown for entertaining our tea workers.For the first time, I have seen people responding to what they have seen and still being entertained. I never knew this was possible through showing films.”

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