What would news look like if the very people who live a story produced it? What if each marginalised community had someone to document their stories and the issues they face from within the community? What if this news didn’t stop at reporting a story but also brought change to a community?
Five years ago we started a journey called IndiaUnheard to answer these very questions. Our network of trained rural journalists, or Community Correspondents as many of you have come to know them, has grown from a handful to over 174 today. They report on the the voices, stories and perspectives of communities that have been historically silenced and unheard in India. They add narratives that are missing from mainstream discourses of media, policy, governance and development. They also fill the void of the traditional media ‘watch dog’ that is absent in rural areas where it is most needed. The network covers 127 out of India's 625 districts, making it one of the largest and most diverse network of salaried community producers in the world.
Unlike conventional journalism, our Correspondents go beyond just reporting on stories from their areas; they also help solve them. Every video a Community Correspondent makes has the potential to solve the issue it uncovers by monitoring implementation of government schemes (like the delivery of pensions, water, employment and health schemes); holding officials publicly accountable and by facilitating a dialogue between the community and officials to resolve issues. Our videos have record of helping around 1.5 million people so far.
IndiaUnheard is slowly coming closer to overcoming what at times feels like an intractable challenge-- to bring the voices of the most marginalised people in India to the centre stage. The main reason for this is work of our community correspondents who have fired us up with impactful work, producing video reports that have made real change.
These change-makers have turned the experiment into the viable project it is today. But most importantly they are taking us into a future where every community, no matter their location, size or economy, has the chance to be heard on its own terms.
If you ask Video Volunteers’ Community Correspondent Bideshini Patel to rate her childhood on a scale of 1-10, she would probably give it a negative marking due to the neglect and abuse she faced. But if you ask her to evaluate her professional life as an impactful journalist, resolving basic...