Shabanam joined the VV-PACS Community Correspondent Network in July 2013. A firebrand, Shabanam has been working with the Sehbhagi Seva Sanstha for some time now. Having faced her own set tribulations in carving out her identity as an intelligent and independent woman with a role beyond the domestic sphere, Shabanam plunged head first into her new avatar of a video activist. She created a lasting impact through her very first video on lack of access to water in Jadishpur village of Varanasi District, in the North Indian State of Uttar Pradesh. This is Shabnam’s story of change and the first video of the VV-PACS Community Correspondent:
“I actually visited Jagdishpur in July, after my training, because my sister wanted to visit a palmist there! I wasn’t so keen, so I began to stroll around the village and talk to the residents. I asked them if they faced any difficulties in the village and they mentioned that lack of water and electricity were making their lives hell (my second video showcases the lack of electricity). During the rains, they could manage with the water in the nearby well but as summer drew close all the water dried up. Of the 150 people in the village, many of them would walk 1.5 Kilometers to Durganagar village to fetch water for their daily needs.
I learnt that there has not been any facility for drinking water here for more than 20 years. This is when I decided I must do something about this issue. I met Pappu, a differently-abled Dalit man, whose daily struggle for water really upset me. I chose him to be the main character in the video.
In the process of research and filming, I went to meet the village head to understand what could be done to solve this problem. He informed me that numerous village heads had come to power and gone but none had addressed this need. He said that though he was new, he wanted to make this change.
The Pradhan told me that according to guidelines there must be one hand pump for every 70-150 people in the village and that the minimum distance between two hand pumps should be 70 meters. He said that there was a dire need for a hand pump in this village and this work could be facilitated by the Member of Legislative Assembly, Mr. T. Ram. So, the Head introduced me on the phone to Mr. T. Ram saying:
‘There’s this girl called Shabanam who is a journalist and she is very persistent. So if we don’t solve this issue, she will publicize this widely.’
I requested Mr. T Ram to take action. The MLA said he would look into it immediately. After a lot of encouragement, the Village Head and the members of the village council even went to Varanasi and personally met the MLA who asked for 2-week’s time to get the work done. From August to October 2013, I kept in touch with the Village Head and the MLA on this matter.
In October, while at the Video Volunteers quarterly meet in Allahabad, I received a call that the hand pump was being installed. As soon as the meet was over I rushed to the village with Richa, a Program Coordinator at VV. We found that the hand pump was really there and the people were elated. We screened my video and even recorded the statement of the Village Head.
When I first started making the video, I was very nervous. With the villagers I portrayed great confidence but I wasn’t sure I could face the Head. Everything went off well and he was very polite and proactive. I encouraged him to take action and follow up with the MLA as it would help the entire village. He too was a little nervous to approach the MLA.
Now the villagers say “Didi, you came as a godsend. Now we are happy we have water.”
I can’t tell you how happy I am. I was so scared that I wouldn’t be able to bring about change. But the villagers supported me so much by constantly following up on the matter.
One lady told me that she thought I was like all the other “madams”(social workers) who visit the villages and that I was all talk. But she now believes that if there was one person like me in each village, everybody would be happy.
My parents and colleagues at Sehbhagi Seva Sanstha are so proud of me and say that they can’t believe that the young girl who went to college in pigtails not so long ago is doing such groundbreaking work!
Though we have contributed to improving the lives of people in Jagdishpur, I feel they need one more hand pump. The Village Head and I are still in touch with the MLA who has promised that once all villages under his charge have at least one hand pump; Jagdishpur will be the first to get the second hand pump installed. I’m looking forward to this.
I have my work cut out for me. There are so many villages in this region that are facing very dire circumstances. One such village is Mohiaya village. I visited them on 24th November 2013 and found that for 500 people, mostly Muslim, there isn’t a single hand pump. This is the issue I will work on next because water is life.”
About the Partnership: The Poorest Areas Civil Society (PACS) Programme and Video Volunteers have come together to create the Community Correspondents Network. The videos generated by the network will be able to highlight voices from the margins, providing skills to social communicators to provide advocacy tools to community based organisations.