Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sapna Shahani speaks at World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in Pune

Content of her speech at the closing ceremony of a multi-centred girl guides conference:
The reason I think blogging is important is because it's a way to express something which will not be censored and can influence someone's point of view in your community, in your country or somewhere else in the world. It's a way of getting your voice heard and adding your voice to those of others and collectively making a CHANGE. What's more is that as women, our voices are hardly heard in the mainstream media or on the internet. In fact, only 24% of the people interviewed, heard, seen or read about in mainstream broadcast and print news are female. So it's important to add our perspectives online as women who are privileged in a way to be educated, have access to technology and have participated in international trainings like these.

now I'm going to tell you a bit more of my story and why I set up an organisation related to videoblogging. My name Sapna means dream in Hindi and I'm happy to say that I set up my dream project two years ago called WAVE - Women Aloud Videoblogging for Empowerment - which is the only country-wide network for young women videobloggers in the world. We did this because we wanted to hear what young women thought about education, health, democracy, the environment, and we wanted to encourage young women to participate more in solving local problems. We selected one young woman from each of India's 28 states, trained them in video and gave them cameras so they could participate in a 9-month long mentorship program.

Altogether, we helped this group of 30 girls make 175 videos so far which you can see on our website - We have had over 14,000 different people visit our website and our videos have been seen over 70,000 times on YouTube and other video sites. We have won national and international awards like the Stockholm Challenge this year which is for innovation in the field of information and communication technology or ICT. Some of the videos have won international film festival awards and earned money for the girls who made the videos. For example, just yesterday, I heard that our youngest participant who is 19 years old from a state called Rajasthan made a video about a female rickshaw driver, won an award at the New York based Women's Voices Now film festival and won $3000! Besides the girls benefiting from this program, many people in India and abroad have become aware of issues on the ground in remote areas of India, successful models of NGOs, inspiring women etc.

So earlier I asked how many of you had heard about community media and not many put your hands up so I'll explain what it is. The idea is that ordinary citizens should have access to public airwaves also so that it's not just controlled by few elite types or by the government. So at Berkeley Community Media where I worked, residents of the city could get a membership for not too much money, take some workshops, borrow a video camera from us, shoot a TV show, and we would air it on one of our two channels without censoring it. So people could make a stand-up comedy show or a cooking show, it was up to them! We also recorded and aired all the government meetings so that citizens knew what rules were being made and could have a say in democratic processes! In India, community radio had been introduced and many NGOs and colleges have radio stations. But we don't have community video or TV yet.

So to sum up, I hope my example shows you that one person can start something that makes a difference. I hope you will all find what you are passionate about, and then plan a way to implement it because it will make you very happy and be a great contribution to the world. I hope you will also contribute your ideas on the internet - blog, edit wiki pages, add your comments on videos or news stories, whatever way you prefer to have a voice! There are a lot of problems in the world and each of us can make small or big changes. It just depends on us.

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