The first lesson many young Indian girls learn at school is their place: Last Place.
During lunchtime girls and boys are frequently separately according to their caste. This division will last for the rest of their lives.
Imagine your daughter’s or sister’s first day of school and their excitement and nervousness at the thought of making new friends and starting an education. By the end of day one she has learned that she, like the family she loves, is worth less than her classmates and, worse, she’s less clean too. She’s the worst of India.
She’s learned and internalized what it means to be an “Untouchable”.
In India, what is taught in the schoolyard permeates throughout Indian society. Lives stunted by discrimination and abuse justified by nothing more than an accident of birth; the caste children happen to be born into. The so-called “Untouchables” -- who call them themselves Dalits – are among India’s most socially marginalized communities. Dalits must withstand being demeaned, stigmatized and mistreated according to the whims and pleasures of their betters.
Video Volunteers has an important campaign to expose the truth about India’s real “untouchables” – the abusers and exploiters who act with near immunity. The corrupt who believe they’re free to mistreat India’s most vulnerable, the Dalits.
YOU’RE INVITED to stand in solidarity with our work with brave individuals from the most discriminated against community in India. You can bear witness – literally – to the abuses these brave Community Correspondents are catching on video.
The Community Correspondents have captured some amazing visuals: A maid working in an upper caste home was paid for her services by standing at a distance and having the family fling food at her like charity into the folds of her sari. When a thirsty youth drank water from a pot meant for other castes, he was abused, assaulted and his hands were nearly chopped off.
Choose not to look the other way. Watch the Untouhability videos.
Untouchability has been illegal since independence, for 67 years, but the government largely fails to enforce this law and this stigma continues to exist in the hearts and minds of people. Cases of abuse and physical assault on Dalits continue with a terrifyingly high frequency in Indian society.
But real change is happening –and the Dalit are leading this change. Video Volunteers’ campaign to enforce the criminalization of this stigma is breaking through – and you can help.
Armed with video cameras, a sense of self-respect and an eye for the opportune moment, many Dalit are fighting back- simply by catching their abusers on tape!
Video Volunteers’ Dalit Community Correspondents are as radical as they are inspirational: Brave, dignified, agents for a more just, accountable and transparent society. They’re taking the risks, gathering the evidence and exposing abuse.
Don’t let their courage and their efforts go to waste. Watch the videos. And if inspired, please support financially Video Volunteers’ innovative and stunningly effective campaign. Help these brave women and men reform society.
Thank you for standing with India’s Dalit Community Correspondents.
India's recent presidential elections made news around the world, and the Video Volunteers Community Correspondents were covering them too. Sunita Kasera is our Correspondent from Rajasthan, and she is pictured below on election day, filming a story about a woman's repeatedly failed efforts to get a voter registration card.
A forty year old mother of two from a very feudal part of Rajasthan, her education was cut short years ago after her husband made her stay at home immediately after marriage. But years later, she's found a new purpose in life through Video Volunteers. Asked by a Belgian reporter how she felt about the fact that so many rural women like her have trouble exercising their franchise, Sunita paused. Eventually, she replied that she herself one day hoped to stand for election. Certainly, the dozens of videos she has made have made her an excellent choice - she is a wealth of information not only on the problems of the area, but also the solutions to them. We've had a great year at Video Volunteers, and we hope you'll check out our new annual report.
There is one highlight we want to share in particular -- we tripled our impact! in 111 instances, the Community Correspondents managed to solve the problem the video addresses. In all of these of these cases, the lives of truly marginalized community members concretely improved because their local government started functioning better and they received the services they truly deserved.
And with all of the hundreds of videos we made, communities were informed and mobilized, and went through an experience VV has come to know as transformative - they began to see that solutions are possible; and must be created from within their communities.
Please do skim our annual report to read more of what we are particularly proud of - our campaigns on issues like land rights, education and untouchability; our most successful videos; our new network of all Tribal Community Correspondents.
We would love to hear from you to talk more about our work, so please be in touch!
At VV, we think about hyper-local change, and also long term systemic change, when the most marginalized are enable to be part of the debate.
Here's an example of the kind of local change we champion: Community Correspondent Chunnu Hansada reported a story on two teachers of a government school who have not been paid for four years despite continuing to fulfill their duties as teachers. His video created a stir and prompted more than 4000 to sign the change.org online petition. Thanks to overwhelming outcry, the teachers finally received four years' worth of back pay. Watch the video that created the uproar.
And it's not just about the change, but the people creating that change, such as Amita Tuti, a 26 year old tribal activist from India's Adivasi (a.k.a. indigenous) population, who has fought tirelessly against the discrimination and threats facing her community, particularly land alienation. Through her video reports, Amita has empowered her community to articulate long-standing issues such as the wrongful imprisonment, substandard public schools, and widespread corruption and neglect in local government. Amita's unwavering commitment to exposing the truth is inspired by her father who was poisoned to death by so called "upper castes" during the adivasi land struggle. Last month, Amita spoke in front of 2000 people at THiNK India, alongside VV's Managing Trustee Stalin K. THiNK is hosted by Tehelka, India's premier news magazine, and now a distributor of VV content. You can now watch IndiaUnheard videos every day on Tehelka's website.
Thinking about systemic change, Video Volunteers recently teamed up with the Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change to document the adverse effects of climate change on local communities across India. For the web show, VV correspondents produced 18 video stories that demonstrate how climate change compromises the livelihoods of Indian farmers, fisherfolk and street vendors.
Video Volunteers produced the climate change web show to highlight how this escalating environmental problem is not only wreaking havoc through changing weather patterns, it is creating and exacerbating poverty. As we see in the video, farmers are harvesting fewer and less quality crops. Subsequently, food vendors like the juice sellers in Mumbai makes less money because their juice isn't as sweet. In India, the most affected by the cyclical pattern of climate change are the 80 percent of Indians who make their living off one acre of land. We launched it just in time for the Doha climate change talks currently underway. Watch the webshow.
If you're interested to hear more about VV's model of community media, you might like to watch this one minute video of VV at the Clinton Global Initiative 2012 Annual Meeting, where we announced a commitment.
Thank you to all of you for your support and involvement over the years and we hope you'll think of supporting VV again before the end of the year!
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.”
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.
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