Video Volunteers aims to empower the world’s poorest citizens to participate in the community media movement and make their voices heard. On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, Video Volunteers launched IndiaUnheard, an initiative involving a network of Community Correspondents around India who will produce video stories about life in their community, and the issues ignored by mainstream media.
The Community Correspondents represent some of India's most marginalised communities, such as Dalits, tribal people, and members of religious, linguistic and sexual minorities, and they will report on issues that are important to these communities but are not reported by the mainstream media. Brian Conley, Programme Director of IndiaUnheard, explained in an interview with Global Voices:
IndiaUnheard is a program to enable local people to spread the issues of their community to the wider world. Fundamentally we hope that by increasing the reach of local voices in some of the most rural and marginalized areas of India, we can increase the visibility of local problems to the Indian government and the international community. The hope is that by leveraging social media and a variety of new technology, we can build an audience for the type of journalism that has never before existed in India. We also hope to create a space where the audience may interact directly with our correspondents, creating conduits from outside India into some of the least accessible areas.
We have chosen 30 Community Correspondents from all over India; our goal was to select individuals from some of the most marginalized areas of the country, and by and large we have been successful with that. Many of these Community Correspondents have had no formal media training previously to this program and a few had never even held a camera.
This video introduces IndiaUnheard:
Before the project was officially launched the Community Correspondents met in Ahmedabad, Gujarat for two weeks of training in video production and journalism. You can see some photos of the training here. The videos they are now making are available on the IndiaUnheard website, where they are categorised according to topic and region.
Community Correspondent Pratibha Rolta tells the story of children missing out on an education:
Mahima Kaul of IndiaUnheard writes on her blog about what she believes the initiative can achieve:
Along with the basic needs of food, water, infrastructure that communities need, there is a crucial need for creation of a media outlet which can both educate and offer a platform for carrying voices. All too often small communities are fed information from bigger cities, and to that end, this information often has no local resonance. To train local community members to become journalists helps them identity their problems and address them in constructive ways. There is a feeling in the community that ‘someone is listening to us’ which further leads to the confidence that they are too included in the democratic process (beyond election time). For individual members of community media, who are often from the most neglected parts of society – so-called lower castes, women, religious and sexual minorities – it is both a voice and also a paradigm shift in terms of professions available to them. The tag of ‘journalist’ allows their social status to rise and in turn they can help raise the profile of their community.
In another video, Devidas Gaonkar talks about environmental problems in the popular tourist destination of Goa: