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 Friday, June 17, 2011

Hundreds of citizens from disadvantaged communities are now using video cameras to report on issues that affect them and their neighbors. With training from the Video Volunteers, local video producers are changing the dominant model of media in the country to make it more democratic and diverse.

Mukesh Rajak, from the eastern state of Jharkand makes an unlikely activist in India. Born poor and Dalit, Rajak faced a life of discrimination with little access to education and developmental resources. Yet despite not being born into the “right caste”, Rajak has improved the schools in his village with the aid of a video camera.

I had done a video on this school reporting that the teachers employed were taking bribes from students for teaching and conducting examinations,” explained Rajak proudly. “I showed it to the Block Education Officer. She saw this video and came to visit the village school. She demoted the headmaster of the school and now no teacher asks for bribes. Students are happy that they can now study for free”.

Rajak produced the video as a community correspondent for “India Unheard” a relatively new community news service. Launched in February 2010, India Unheard has community correspondents in every state in India reporting on issues ranging from poverty and human rights to local culture.

IndiaUnheard” is one of several citizen journalism projects in the country established by Video Volunteers, a U.S.-based international organization that trains people from disadvantaged communities to create their own locally relevant and locally produced media. In India, Video Volunteers operates an intensive training in all aspects of video production for aspiring correspondents for “IndiaUnheard” and others interested in video journalism.

Journalists from all walks of life

Through its training efforts in India, Video Volunteers has created “the largest, most diverse network” of community video producers anywhere in the world, according to Video Volunteers Communication Manager Siddarth Pillai.

Nearly 200 villagers and slum dwellers—former diamond polishers, rickshaw drivers and day laborers – are currently working as community producers”, Pillai said in an email interview.  Pillai explained that more than 50 percent of these producers are women, and also come from communities “most affected by human and civil rights violations”, namely Dalits, Muslims and Tribal people.

After training, some of the producers work for Video Volunteers’ Community Video Units. These locally owned and managed units are set up in areas that rarely receive coverage from the mainstream media. They produce community-specific news and documentaries.

(Source: AudienceScapes)

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