Thursday, June 24, 2010

Article about WAVE on, a development communications website

Young Indian Women Ride WAVE to Free Expression

By Paromita Pain

17 May 2010

Mumbai-based activists Angana Jhaveri and Sapna Shahani wanted to use media to help empower young Indian women. Brainstorming with Madhusudan Agarwal, director of social change media house Mam Movies, the pair drew inspiration from the "She Creates" project. Mam had trained 25 Mumbai girls in filmmaking techniques and had them make short films on the theme, "What it feels to be a girl."

The result was Women Aloud: Video blogging for Empowerment (WAVE), a nationwide project that last year became the first winner in India of the Digital Media and Learning competition run by the MacArthur Foundation and HASTAC. Armed with a $107,000 grant, Jhaveri and Shahani have convened women from every corner of the country to learn about video blogging techniques and create content on social and personal subjects.

Digital Expression

The WAVE founders describe their project as a “digital platform for young Indian women to voice their perspectives on issues that matter through video blogs”. They aim to share compelling videos that start conversations and build bridges to enable the exchange of novel solutions. Video blogging is a means to talk without censorship, where the camera is allowed to show a reality most corporate news channels miss.

A first batch of 25 project participants launched their video blogs at the end of January 2010. Nearly 50 women so far have gone through WAVE's 11-day training sessions on ideating, scripting, camerawork, editing, animation and other details of the process. The participants' strongest motivation was to create a greater and more sensitive understanding of the issues they and their communities have to deal with, very often on a daily basis.

“We introduced the trainees to the fields of development and gender, women and media, community media and the online forum of video blogging, then the filmmaking areas of production related activities," said Angana. "We also dwelt on the art of storytelling and the different genres like animation, and finally brought the training to a close with a discussion on sustainability in the future." Some 30 women who make videos regularly get mentored by WAVE for a nine month term.

The young producers have shot a diverse mix of films, with subjects ranging from education to floods to sexual health, to more narrow topics such as the festivities and politics surrounding a typical wedding. Some are artistically oriented, such as one about the art of Kolams, or sand paintings, in Tamil Nadu.

Anandi, a community health supervisor, shares her experiences of working in the remote areas of Uttarakhand in northern India. She is hoping to make more women aware of their health rights. Usha Dewani, who lives in Guwahati in eastern India, discovered the joys of grassroots comic strips in a workshop, and she used video blogging to tell more people about how such strips can help articulate their needs. Lebul Nissa, who grew up in Srinagar in conflict-prone Jammu and Kashmir, told about her life there and how she learned the word "curfew" before she learned the word "picnic." Moushumi Basu, from heavily industrial Ranchi in the Northeast, weaves a story of tribal exploitation, uranium radiation and superstition.

Gauging Impact

While the impact is yet to be measured in quantifiable terms, participants are encouraged to show their work to selected audiences. “I think we're just beginning to see the impact in a small way because we're so new," said Angana. "The congratulatory comments on the movies are encouraging. The videos have been shown by some of the girls in their communities, and for their work. We've been asked to make DVDs for them to screen to larger audiences. Sulochana from Goa, who works on health awareness for an NGO, just made a great video about cultural perspectives to menstruation which she plans to use in her awareness programs,” Angana added.

“We hope this new video material from areas as far as Aizawl and Trivandrum will not only inspire action within the community, but also engage individuals and organizations working towards development. [as well as] academics, researchers, and social investors,” says Angana. That’s why the WAVE team were keen to work with college-graduate age woman who could also be mentored as citizen journalist video bloggers.

Some of the blogs deal with serious issues. “An eye opener moment was Moushumi Basu’s video about a village murdering a family accused of witchcraft. It struck me that her journalism instincts translated so well into video and that we would be seeing many more fascinating stories if journalists around India had video cameras, rather than the mostly [whitewashed] stories you see on television networks,” says Sapna.

Another favorite video on the site is Sakshi Saini's profile video where she narrates the gossip that went around during her marriage in Delhi. Dwelling on society and social issues needn’t always be serious!

Some of the women trained through WAVE have been offered jobs to produce videos. Not all of the women who come in for training are comfortable with the equipment. “Yes, some women do struggle with technology and gadgets like cameras, which I think is mostly because of a lack of accessible training. We've created a video production guide we call a 'toolkit' which is available to download free of charge on our website's 'learning' area”, explained Sapna.

Paromita Pain is a senior reporter and sub editor working on the Young World and Nxg youth supplements of the Sunday edition. She is currently residing in Austin, Texas.

DNA Bombay newspaper article on May 10

30 members from across the country have come together to video-blog on issues affecting their areas
Women make WAVEs in cyber space
Uttarika Kumaran
Mysore: In the small town of Odana di, incidents of human trafficking are frequent. But of late, a particularly vulnerable group is being targeted — mentally challenged girls.
Chandigarh: The municipal corpora- tion is shutting down dhobhi ghats across the city, replacing them with modern laundry marts to be run by the dhobis. They now sit idly behind their brand-new counters, listening to the silent whir of coin-operated washing machines.
Thane: Every day after school, a 12- year-old girl joins her family of dombaris or ropewalkers, negotiating 20-foot-high wires with ease. Besides con- tributing to the family income, she is also keeping alive a fast vanishing tradition.
These are disparate pieces of news. There is no connection between them whatsoever. But the only thread that connects these untold stories is the women who have chosen to tell them.
Women Aloud Videoblogging for Empowerment (WAVE) is a new video blogging website that has empowered 30 women from across the country to embrace the vast potential of the au- diovisual medium on their own terms. While organisations, such as Video Volunteers, have already laid the groundwork for community media in the country, the founders of WAVE, Sapna Sahani and Angana Jhaveri, hit upon a powerful formula — combine a highly personalised storytelling medium with the interactive potential of the Internet.
Last year, their proposed project was awarded a $1,07,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation to train one woman from every state in India to make their own videos. The self-suffi- cient model required participants to be educated, have Internet access and be able to quickly adapt to the video medi- um. “We decided to focus on semi-urban women whom we offered a stipend of Rs3,000 per video,” says Sapna.
The introductory videos on the web- site are a good indication of what’s in store — expressions of personal yearn- ing share an equal platform with press- ing community issues. Prutha Soman, 25, from Thane, who dances blithely under an open sky in her first video, hopes to make people aware of indige- nous art forms of Maharashtra, which are facing extinction.
Moonstar Doud, 26, from Chandi- garh, an enthusiastic advocate of sus- tainable living practices, is keen to ex- periment with the video medium through fictional narratives and the use of animation.
In her video about dhobis, she’s go- ing to adopt a silent film style ala Chap- lin. “These days, we’ve stopped re- sponding to images of suffering in the media. This visual overload needs to be countered by adopting a fresh, lighthearted way of looking at things,” she quips.
Still grappling with certain aspects of production, most bloggers choose to send their material to the WAVE office alongwiththeirAVscripts,wherefree- lance editors put them together. But practical experience has allowed some to fashion their own ways of telling a story visually.
The bloggers are also up-to-date ad- dressing current issues. For example, they will soon be putting up videos of their views about the Women’s Reser- vation Bill, a packaged presentation of which Sapna and Angana hope to send to Delhi. To see the videos or find out more about WAVE, go to

Apoorva Shaligram, WAVE videoblogger from Maharashtra featured on E-TV Marathi channel

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Times of India article about WAVE in today's Bombay paper


An NGO is getting young Indian women to videoblog about their concerns
Mansi Choksi | TNN

Their heads covered with scarves, their faces motionless and their eyes desperate, a group of women in Srinagar hold out yellowing photographs of their husbands, hoping to gather any information they can from passersby. These ‘half widows’ of Kashmir, whose husbands have gone missing (some forcibly made to disappear in
custody and some kidnapped by terrorist outfits) are the subject of a videoblog by 27-year Lebul Nisa, a human rights lawyer. Through six minutes in the life of 33-yearold Shameema, who last saw her husband ten years ago only a few days after her daughter was born, Nisa highlights the heart-wrenching plight of roughly 8,000 women like her who are left with no closure.
Like Nisa, 30 other women from each state in India upload videoblogs every month
with unique stories, some about issues that need to be addressed and some sunshine tales of empowerment. Behind this initiative is the Women Aloud Videoblogging for Empowerment (WAVE), a unique digital platform for and by semi-urban young women which attempts to promote a culture of citizen journalism. “The idea is to share compelling videos that start conversations and build bridges across global boundaries,’’ says WAVE director Sapna Shahani, who left her job at Berkeley Community Media, a public TV station near San Francisco, to set up WAVE with mentor and filmmaker Angana Jhaveri.
The bilingual videoblogs are not only democratic in representation—they come from all corners of the country—but also creative in content and treatment. While Usha Dewani, a 23-year-old student from Guwahati, tells a simple story about Padma, a Bodo woman working towards encouraging weaving in a society occupied with liquor-making, Ranchi-based freelance journalist Moushumi Basu reports a shocking incident about a village that ganged up to murder a family it believed to be involved in witchcraft. Apoorva Shaligram, a 19-yearold student from Thane, has a creative take on the Marathi delicacy, puran poli—which
she believes is symbolic of the marriageability of a Maharashtrian girl—by challenging two young boys from her community to whip up the dish. Twenty-three-year-old Nyapi Bomjen, who represents the picturesque Papumpare district in Arunachal Pradesh, showcases a playful wedding ceremony of the Galo tribe where the groom’s family is licensed to insult the bride’s side if her party exceeds more than 30 members.
“We hope this new video material from areas as far as Aizawl and Trivandrum will inspire action within the community and also engage individuals and organisations working for development,’’ says Shahani, who gives WAVE members a theme to work with every month, from environment to indigenous arts and crafts. “Members are free to do something outside the theme,’’ she says. “But the videos must be creative because otherwise people will tune out.’’
The foundation of the national network of videobloggers was laid in September 2009 when WAVE won the Digital Media and Learning Competition sponsored by the USbased MacArthur Foundation
and HASTAC and was granted a seed fund for one year. With the American grant and support from Bandra-based NGO Point of View, Shahani bought cameras, tripods and microphones, held an intensive training program for the
30 foot soldiers of WAVE and set up an editing headquarter in Goa. Finding semi-urban women with a genuine interest in empowerment through media was a task by itself. Shahani blasted out emails declaring her intentions to hundreds of institutes and NGOs across the country and finally selected 30 women for an innovative nine-month mentoring programme at a monthly stipend of Rs 3,000. “There were some prerequisites for selection, like having access to internet, being affiliated with an NGO or an educational institution, being college-educated and being English-speaking,’’ she says. “Although a couple of our members record in Hindi and it is
The website, which was started in March this year, boasts 679 unique visitors, including people from countries like Russia, UK and South Korea. In addition, the videoblogs are blasted out to more popular sites like YouTube and BlipTv to reach out to more people.
How will WAVE sustain itself after the one-year grant expires? Shahani plans to continue the annual mentorship programme with support from philanthropic foundations and by providing parttime employment to the graduates of her program by running a grass-roots production house on a social entrepreneurship model.
(Watch the videoblogs on

Monday, June 14, 2010

Wave Mumbai event

Getting an opportunity to come to Mumbai to witness the Wave event will certainly go down as one of those memorable moments I will always look to for inspiration. The day had a two-fold joy for me. Firstly, I was getting an opportunity to see the buzy and busy Bombay for kind of the first time. But perhaps, most importantly, it was the realisation that dawned on me of how I was indeed so fortunate to be able to be associated with a national outreach community media program like Wave. Being in the media line myself, it simply meant so much to be involved in an alternative and much freer, uncensored form of expression.

The event in Mumbai was almost like a second phase of the Wave extension meet. Here I met many of the facilitators and resource persons of the training program we had had in December. Felt nice re-bonding with a fellow Wave participant too.

Amidst the fast life in Mumbai, wherein it is so difficult to know a Sunday from a weekday or keep track of routine worries, the run-up to the launch was a one full of lessons and fun, both at the same time.
The technical skills I had learnt earlier, I put into practice as I took position behind the camera to record the program. Looking at the diverse group of people who attended the function, I realised that Wave was indeed making waves in quite a few circles.
Watching from close range what it takes to organise events, manage contingencies like a change in venue at the eleventh hour and how one should act in such situations was an experience in itself.
And then having my video screened in front of a live audience was for me, the icing on the cake. I interacted with many media professionals in an informal setting. Met the video editors who edit our videos, and listened to some of the tips they offered. Acquaintances I met that day became friends.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Annie Zaidi's account of the WAVE showcase in Bombay on June 5

The evening began with eating! Sapna and other WAVE people were setting up the screen, while Angana and a friend of theirs laid out food and drink on a table. Those of us who'd shown up early began to tuck in.
Then Sapna introduced WAVE and ran us all through a presentation on what it was all about. Several short films were screened - I believe, there was one each to represent each of the girls had participated in the training program and become a video blogger in their own state.
After the screening, there was a discussion. There were several people present - at least thirty or forty, I think - and each one gave his/her own input. Most people just reacted to the films - some praised the effort and some named specific films that stood out in their view. Some people wondered why there wasn't more of the blogger (videographer?) and her persona in the films we saw.
I (Annie) raised the point of blogging itself - as a continuous process and not just uploading a short film now and then - and that the women could be trained to turn into bloggers, apart from just thinking of filming ideas and events.
There was a lot of discussion about the importance of documentation - of cultures and the way our society is changing. There were suggestions about the archival value of such footage and how it could be sold to universities, particularly the schools abroad since they do include video in their libraries. There was also some talk of how news wire services or TV channels could be approached to establish links between the women and a 'distributor' of sorts. However, it was pointed out that most of the women were not really professionals and had day jobs that kept them fairly busy. Nor are their primary concerns necessarily 'newsy'.
An artist suggested that the videos be turned into an art installation. Some of the films' editors were present and they also commented on how the process of editing had been for them. Mostly positive comments, but there was concern that the training seemed to have equipped the women only up to a point and creative skills were not much in evidence.
There was a lot of animated discussion about creativity and story-telling and how the participants needed additional workshopping to come up with fresh ideas and new ways of tackling their subjects, even within the non-fiction format.