The last 13 months
The last 13 months have been the most eventful, challenging and satisfying period for me in a long time. Many of you, given that you hear so many different things from the grapevine, have asked me what I am up to these days. Some of you have persistently probed while some have patiently waited. And so I thought of writing this letter to give you an update.
I moved to Goa in October 2008 and set up Video Volunteers India – new place, new insights, new and same team, same vigor and commitment. As you know, six years back I helped set up Video Volunteers, a media-human rights organization with a fantastic vision of a creating a Global Social Media Network. Video Volunteers, in partnership with many reputed NGOs in India (including Drishti, which I co-founded and led from 1991 to 2008), set up Community Video Units (CVUs) where members of local communities create videos on issues of immediate relevance and screen them back to village and slum audiences. I, along with Jessica Mayberry the founding Director of VV, created a workable model of these CVUs of which there are 15 units now.
As part of VV, me and my very experienced team of 16 passionate colleagues, continue our spirited journey of setting up Community Media Units – both video and radio – across India and Brazil. VV believes that it is not enough to talk about communities’ receiving relevant content, rather communities must create their own content. VV believes that our community producers can be empowered to become future leaders of their communities bringing in actionable solutions to problems. VV mission is to train thousands of community producers around the world who will be networked together to deliver powerful and relevant media content thereby democratizing the media. If the media does not represent us, we represent ourselves!
In the last thirteen months, we have registered Video Volunteers-India, set up two new community video units, 8 new community television units, created two fascinating ‘girls media project’ in Hyderabad and Kolkatta, conducted more than 20 training modules, created a partnership with Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad to research earned income in community media, and organized CV Camp – the largest ever gathering of community video practitioners and enthusiasts in India. The CV Camp brought together about 150 people – producers, researchers, academics, journalists and activists – all championing community media. This year, we also initiated a community video project with under-privileged communities in Brazil.
I continue, as the Convener of the Community Radio Forum, to be engaged in promoting community radio to grassroots organizations as well as lobbying with the government officials for a more enabling process and environment to nurture this very important movement.
My film, ‘India Untouched’ has been screening in communities, schools and colleges across the country and outside. Thanks to some of you liberally pirating and distributing it in hundreds, the film has become a people’s film. It makes me truly happy. In the last 13 months it was shown in four more international festivals and picked up its fifth award.
Video Volunteers-India is based in Baga (North Goa) where we are setting up a Digital Media Centre and a Community Video Unit in partnership with a collective of activist organizations. In the last 13 months we had 8 interns/volunteers from India, USA, UK, Canada and Australia who add huge value.
2010 promises to be another big year – VV has decided to take the community video work to its next level and cover the entire country through a Community Journalism program. I will not burden you with its details now but would be happy to share it with those interested.
You have been such wonderful supporter of my work and I would like to express my deep gratitude to you. Do let me know if you are passing through Goa, it would be a pleasure to catch up, hear updates of your work and explore ways we might be able to work together.