At Nunmatti village in Kawardha district of Chhattisgarh, people were drinking spring water as the only hand pump in the village was broken. Deena Ganwer contacted the designated authority and showed him the video which documented the issue. The hand pump was fixed in next two days.
Community Correspondent Deena Ganwer reports from Chhattisgarh for IndiaUnheard
This video was made by a Video Volunteers Community Correspondent. See more such videos at www.videovolunteers.org. Take action for a more just global media by sharing their videos and joining in their call for change.
Deena Ganvir is an Adivasi rights activist and Community Correspondent form Kawardha, Chhattisgarh.
Ganvir was apprehensive of failure when she started out at Video Volunteers, she felt that it was impossible for her to hold a phone, let alone a camera. She was certain that her low level of education would create barriers in the work. She felt that working through the medium of videos was just not meant for her. But over time, her apprehensions left her and she developed the interest and the acumen for video journalism. She credits her motivation to the support of her mentors who encouraged and pushed her to achieve all that she has achieved.
Money is certainly not enough motivation to work, and few could be in a better person than Deena to bear testimony to that. Belonging to a poor family, Ganvir worked tirelessly for three years for the Baiga community, with no desire for remuneration. She led them, motivating them to not give up their traditional and legal rights to the Forest Department, and supporting them at every step.
“The tattoo art that Adivasi women sport is quite fascinating, they are trying really hard to conserve their culture, the nomadic communities have lived in the forests for generations. The forest is their habitat and source of livelihood. However, such communities have completely been ignored by the state which has failed to acknowledge their rights, and is instead leaving no stone unturned to take away their forest land, leaving them with no means of survival. In some villages, there is no anganwadi (child care centre), no school, no water! It is simply ruthlessness!”
Deena was not allowed in her own house and was asked to leave since when she refused to get married, but that was when her grandmother stepped in and encouraged her to work with the community. Her perseverance was rewarded with the small plot of land her community gifted to her as a token of appreciation, one where she could build herself a safe haven to live in.
“My work has given me a lot. I remember being so frightened assuming I was a failure already, without actually trying. I was rather embarrassed when I was asked to do something during a VV workshop I attended in the beginning. But what I earn today has saved both me and my mother. Both her kidneys failed, and I didn’t have to knock on someone’s door to borrow money, my income was sufficient to support her in all possible ways. I am so glad that my mentors pushed me in every possible way,” says Deena.
Demanding land rights for her community, she has stuck around ensuring that the community keeps fighting for land and other rights. In the absence of basic amenities, the community relies on a canal for water and walk miles to fetch it. There are no basic provisions for the children in the anganwadi either, so instead of learning and playing, they spend their time fetching water. Deena reported on the issue and showed the video to the concerned authorities; within months, the handpump was repaired. Although a small change in the larger scheme of things, for the community, it meant a better and safer future for their children.
“After all these years, talking to the community comes easily to me and they have no qualms about sharing things with me either. But back when I had just started working with the camera, they were not very comfortable, it took a little time to bring them out of their comfort zones, and for me to step out of mine! But now my camera is my tool of power and it is equally so for them. Earlier, Adivasi movements would go unnoticed by the administration, but now these videos have not just empowered the community but have also become a tool to pressurise the concerned authorities with.”
Deena believes that the fight against the Forest Department is going to be a long-drawn on, but she is prepared for it with her community. She wishes to continue working for the people, irrespective of whether or not she gets enough remuneration for survival; her community will always be there to support her.
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