Giving Women a Digital Voice
Lebul Nisa remembers that at the age of 13 she understood what ‘curfew’ and ‘crackdown’ meant better than she understood the word ‘picnic’. Her story of the horrors she saw growing up in Kashmir is just one of the voices collected by Wave, or Women Aloud Video blogging for Empowerment.
Wave is an initiative by Sapna Shahani and Angana Jhaveri that provides a digital platform to women to express their viewpoint about various contemporary problems and issues. The project began as a concept proposal sent to Digital Media and Learning Competition (DML) that was sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation and HASTAC in the US. When Shahani and Jhaveri won the grant in 2009, the project took off. Wave now has more than 30 women video-blogging from various corners of India. The project selects young women from various parts of the country who have basic knowledge of video and editing for a 9-month mentorship programme. They are provided with video equipment, intensive training and monthly stipends for participating. The women are then sent back to their hometowns to make a short video blog about an issue they wants to spread awareness about. The videos are put up on their website. “Living in cities, we don’t realise that a lot of good is happening at the grassroots level. Through Wave, these women bring out the small stories that inspire. They tell us what India stands for,” says Jhaveri. Though Wave is almost like a citizen journalism initiative, Shahani emphasises the distinction. “Video blogging is more individualistic than journalism. Here, they are free to show and express what they want to. It’s not just reporting the facts, but also about showing their perspective. That’s why we chose this medium,” says Shahani.
The recent screening of videos at the India Habitat Centre showcased diverse voices coming from different corners of the country, throwing light on topics ranging from women’s land rights to alternate ways to conserve nature.
“The project helps to empower women in two ways. First, when you start making a video, the whole process helps in self discovery. You ideate and go out and meet people. This helps in developing skills, and this is empowering in its own way. On a larger scale, Wave is like a social entrepreneurship pro- gramme. When someone pays you for the work you realise the power you have to bring on change,” says Roli Mahajan, who showed a video about Awadhi culture at the screening.
“The project helps in connecting and networking. When I saw this video about missing sons made by a woman in Manipur, I was able to connect, since my video was on the same theme. You become more aware about what is happening in your country. If these women’s stories reach the people who have the capacity to help them out of their suffering, then the purpose is served,” says Nisa.