Video Volunteers

Video Volunteers is a social media network that leverages the power of media to expand and accelerate positive social change, empower communities, overcome illiteracy and provide a real platform for voice among marginalized people in the developing world. By developing innovative and sustainable media platforms for production and distribution, focused on the needs and requirements of the poor and voiceless, we empower communities to create and share their own solutions to rights violations.
May 21, 2012

VV launches campaign against Untouchability

Most people in India think that untouchability no longer exists - but it does, and it affects millions. Since nearly one-quarter of VV's community correspondents are Dalits, this is an issue close to our heart. The Community Correspondents (CC's) decided they wanted to gather the visual evidence to prove, once and for all, that this age old practice still plagues society.

 During February and March, the CC's documented untouchability across the country. They documented villages in Rajasthan where women have to take their sandals off when walking through the upper-caste area. Where barbers won't give a shave to non-dalits. And where far worse things happen, like a man who got his hands nearly chopped off for drinking water from an upper caste's waterpot and where hundreds of people die a year cleaning municipal gutters, in the caste-dictated profession of 'manual scavenging.'

We launched the campaign on April 14, 2012, and the day we did so, the videos ran in the daily news bulletins of two major television channel in India, showing that community video can get the media to look at issues it usually ignores. It's been covered in the press, including a great article in the Agence France Presse, and in numerous other publications.

We are aiming to accomplish one clear goal with these videos: we want the Indian government to begin prosecuting the so-called 'every day' forms of untouchability. And so we've partnered with change.org, the petition site, and leading Dalit groups in the country to put pressure on the government. 

Here's the problem in a nutshell: The government will prosecute violent instances of untouchability when they happen, such as Dalits' houses being burnt down or Dalits dying in gutters (both of which we've documented.) But the non-violent ones are never prosecuted. People view these untouchability practices as custom, even though they are a form of apartheid for millions. Nonetheless, these 'every day' forms of untouchability - for instance, Dalits not being allowed to wear sunglasses, or to go in the temple - are equally as illegal under the Indian constitution. 

 So that's why we're urging the Indian government to give justice to the millions who experience these kinds of discrimination, and to prosecute the 'every day' forms of untouchability. I hope you will watch some of the videos below, and sign the petition.

Thank you as ever for your support!

In the words of Neeru, our 24 year old Community Correspondent in Gujarat, this is why we're doing this: “As a child, I had experienced untouchability at school where I was forced to sit and eat separately from the children of 'upper caste' families. We wanted to give viewers the responsibility, as witnesses, to end this age old oppression once and for all.”

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Feb 8, 2011

VV community videos on TV

a screening in a slum
a screening in a slum

2010 was a great year for Video Volunteers. We launched IndiaUnheard in March, with the idea of creating a kind community news service, a kind of grassroots Reuters. In March we trained the first thirty "community correspondents", one from each state in India. These were all community activists from very poor backgrounds, who came from districts in their states that are misrepresented in the media or are sites of conflict, like India's north east. They produce two videos a month on different themes and we broadcast them on our site. If you've not already, please check out IndiaUnheard.videovolunteers.org. Every day we publish a new video and you can interact with the community producers there, or on facebook and twitter.

One of the goals of IndiaUnheard is to generate revenue from the mainstream media. We believe that the poor can be winners in all the shakeups in the mainstream media today. The specific gap we are trying to fill is that there are not enough 'stringers' in the developing world. There is a huge dearth of reporters in the poorest parts of the world. And, well, our people are ready to take up the slack!

We are thrilled to say that the first TV station responded! About four weeks ago, we launched a weekly half hour news program with an Indian network called NewsX. It is the first time a news station has bought content directly from the poorest of the poor, and we are very proud! We believe this is a milestone in the history of efforts to democratize the mainstream media. You can watch the videos at the link below. The first episodes featured videos made by people like Rohini, a rural farming housewife from Maharashtra who has just taken out a loan from her microcredit group to purchase a computer. She is going to start a videography business to supplement her income from VV, and says this will make her VV work easier as the nearest computer is two hours away from her village. We feel we are helping to invent a new industry for the very poor -- and one that is based on their creativity and that brings knowledge and information to their villages.

One of the best ways you can take action is simply to watch a video, and post a comment either on our site or on facebook. Listening to these voices is the best way to say, "I believe in the rights of poor communities to speak out for themselves and be heard." We'll be sure to get you a reply from that community producer, who will be very touched to know people on the other side of the world are watching.

Links:

Oct 7, 2010

VV Launches in Brazil, focused on video and livelihood

We are thrilled to be working in Brazil, one of the most exciting countries for community media in the world. Our project is to help 10 young people set up their own video businesses. We believe that the "creative poor" can become participants in the global media, especially today when news stations are very receptive to citizen journalism.

In the program, which we've undertaken with the Brazil-based Casa das Caldeiras, ten young people from favelas were selected to spend one year learning to produce videos and to sell them in the market. They learn all manner of marketing, pitching, networking, doing market analysis, and of course, making good videos. We started the project after a field visit to Brazil in 2007, where we saw that thousands of disadvantaged young people in Brazil were learning video in NGO programs, but very, very few of them continued doing it after they finished these short-term NGO projects. Put simply, the NGOs were not focused on helping kids earn money through their skills. VV has experience in this area. Many CVUs in India focus on livelihood, and we have a research project with the best business school in India on ways to make community media sustainable. So we thought, video and livelihood is what we should focus on in Brazil!

The project has been a success. Many videos made by the project have been sold, and the participants are setting up a media cooperative that will enable them to keep doing video for years to come. We're packaging our training model now and plan to get it out to lots of Brazilian NGOs soon.

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