The recent Delhi rape case makes one thing very clear: India still has a long way to go in terms of gender equality. Not to mention the caste system, child abuse, child marriage, illiteracy, corruption. The list goes on. How might you help? A radical and amazing NGO, Video Volunteers, is teaching the disadvantaged and underserved to use video to document injustice and create change. And, if accepted, you could volunteer with them.
They have had remarkable success. Some of their recent achievements include getting proper treatment for pregnant women in Rajasthan villages, and getting five cancer-causing factories closed down. The lower caste, when they realized that they were not receiving their due worth, demanded that the upper caste pay them the minimum wage. Once the high levels of fluorine content in the water were exposed, the government reopened a water treatment plant that brought clean water to 3,000 people. All of this change came from videos aired in the villages themselves and shown to key government officials. To get a better idea, just watch some of their videos...
Here they report on abuse against women. On 21/10/2012, four men threw acid on Chanchal Paswan, 19 and her sister, 15 while they were asleep on their terrace. The attack was a direct result of Chanchal’s opposition to continuous sexual harassment by the men. The below video report by Video Volunteers Community Correspondent and women’s rights activist, Varsha Jawalgekar shows Chanchal and her family talking about the incident. The case has been picked up by mainstream media thanks to their work, including a 30 minute crime TV show.
Here is their trailer to promote awareness of the campaign promoting awareness of Article 17 promoting awareness that untouchability is a criminal offense. More videos to be released April 14th.
The power of media and the power of youth to change things! Watch!
Video Volunteers trains disadvantaged citizens to make videos that can cause positive change. This allows such communities to raise their own voices and report on the problems that they have witnessed first-hand. Video Volunteers equips the men and women with the skills they need for effective reporting, and shows them how to make a difference, on both a local and global scale.
“Video Volunteers enriches the lives of poor people by giving them the gift of self-expression,” explains Albert Maysles, an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker and former Video Volunteers associate. “By telling their own stories they can bring their hardships to the attention of people in power.”
What does it take to get such a massive undertaking underway, that has guided more than 1000 villages, in almost every state in India, in video production? A woman with a mission. At age 25, Jessica Mayberry, from New York, spent a year in rural India training women in filmmaking. Realizing there was more to do she decided to recruit India’s rural poor to produce mainstream news content and claim a voice in the global decisions that affect their lives. “Jessica opened our minds to issues we needed to pay attention to, and to which we ourselves were blind,” says Fr. K.A. Thomas, the Director of the Institution for Cultural and Rural Development. Starting from this one woman—who is now married to an Indian filmmaker, Stalin K., that is also her business partner—Video Volunteers has grown exponentially.
Video Volunteers is different to most volunteer programs because there is no formal structure that they follow—it’s mostly up to you. You come up with your own project to work on, and they help you make it happen. After filling out the volunteer application, you have an email discussion about possible projects. Some examples of previous projects have included creating videos about Video Volunteers, conducting research and surveys, and drafting training manual chapters.
“My time at Video Volunteers has been a blast,” said Rajyashri Goody, a past volunteer. “It has left me amazed at how media can be a such a powerful yet practical tool for the cause of empowerment. Can’t wait to immerse myself in this sphere. PS: Living in Goa is awesome!”
More than just having a good time, interns and volunteers get a real sense of the impact they have made. “Video Volunteers... is a leading organization building a global network of community media as a trustworthy source of information directly from the persons concerned,” says Julia Lechner, a volunteer from Germany. “The community-produced contents are successfully implemented on a wide choice of media applications on a regional, national, and international level.”
The specific projects you design as a volunteer is a time-bound project that you actually run. That being said, the length of the program depends both on you and on the length of the project. Most volunteers typically stay three months, which includes training and actually running the project. Video Volunteers is not for everyone because they look for people with certain skills. These include, but are not limited to: Program management, Filmmaking, Graphic design, Writing, Research and Web Design. By volunteering with Video Volunteers, you learn how to set up and run a community media program, and also about running a growing non-profit. But more than that, you help other people learn how they can get their own voices heard and make their own impact. Video Volunteers literally changes the lives and rights of thousands of people, and you can help.
Video Volunteers started as an organization dedicated to sending volunteer filmmakers to make films for NGOs. The focus has shifted to training community members to make their own videos, but volunteers remain at the heart of the work—and not just in the organization's name. Says Jessica, 'we have gotten tremendous value over the years from our volunteers, who have come from established programs like ones run by the American India Foundation and Wharton Business School to motivated individuals. Some of our past volunteers have started their own 'media for development' projects and organizations that have reached large numbers of people. Though the Hindi-English language barrier can sometimes make it hard for volunteers to directly or independently work with the community correspondents, we still feel that video is a language that transcends the barriers of traditional language, and we love it when we see interesting collaborations happen between volunteers and our community correspondents, through filming.'
For more information about their programs, go here
To fill out an application go here
VOLUNTEER INFO: Time commitment is typically three months, although there are exceptions. Skills they are looking for include: filmmaking, writing, research, web design, graphic design, and/or program management. There is no program cost, but you need to pay your own way, including airfare. If you want, you can stay at the guest house in their office for $45/month. Video Volunteers will pay internal work-related expenses. ALSO NOTE that you must bring your own laptop, and if you are making a film you will need to bring your own equipment.
Chantal Stein can never reply to the question “where are you from?” because there are too many answers. She has traveled extensively and now lives in New York City. Her favorite place (so far!) is Easter Island, and her dream is to one day visit Antarctica.