Saturday, October 3, 2009

Article in DNA Bombay September

Picture this. A small-town woman stands with a video camera outside a health clinic, interviewing an excited mum who is there to get her baby vaccinated. This is the vision that got Mumbai based documentary filmmakers Sapna Shahani and Angana Jhaveri $107,000 in award money, to implement their one-of-a-kind idea for empowerment of women from small-towns. The duo bagged the grant, awarded by the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Competition, for their project called Women Aloud, that aims to create a network of women videobloggers telling stories of change in their communities. Their idea was selected from a pool of 700 applicants from the US and four other countries, in the first year that proposals were invited from India. “It is about introducing technology to someone who hasn’t held a camera, has low income and lacks opportunities for growth and empowerment”, says Shahani, 31, who moved back to Mumbai after studying in the US to start a community based media project. “Nothing is more exciting for me than sharing the joy of creating,” adds Jhaveri, whose company Illumine Films has been making videos about social issues for years. “I am looking forward to interacting with the women, hearing their stories and helping them create videos.” Over the next year, the award funds will be used to select and train one woman from each state in the country to become community journalists, uploading five-minute videos every month from their villages on development issues. “We will encourage them to upload positive stories as I believe that will have a higher impact than negative stories,” says Shahani. The women will be initially trained for two weeks after which they can head back to their towns and start creating the videoblogs. Each woman will receive a video camera, while tie-ups with local NGOs will ensure that they can use their Internet services to upload their work. Are there any criteria for qualifying? “They should know English, be around 18-25 years, have a fair knowledge of computers and be committed to the course,” says Shahani. While that may restrict the number of eligible candidates, the duo feels it is preferable to trying to translate from 28 languages. So do they plan to upload the videoblogs on Facebook? Not really, says Shahani. “The videos will be viewed online on a first-of-its-kind national women’s video blog at launching in January.”

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