Connect to share and comment

India: Community journalism in the slums

Reporting local problems from a very local perspective.

“What we are trying to achieve is an empowered community,” said director of Video Volunteers Stalin K.

The organizations start by training individual producers like Zulekha in leadership skills.

“If Zulekha becomes an educated, independent thinker in her community, she can influence those around her,” he said.

After the producers report and edit their stories, they hold screenings in the communities. The local organization YUVA has made 12 video magazines on basic rights like sanitation and clean water since it began in July 2006 and has reached almost 80,000 people via its screenings, said media coordinator Anil Ingale.

During a recent evening in Ghatkopar, Zulekha and her colleagues lug a projector and screen through a maze of narrow alleyways. Passing women standing outside combing their long black hair and men getting freshly shaven in two-chair barbershops, the producers stop in a busy walkway maybe 8 feet wide. As they set up their equipment, a woman drops off a bag of clothes at the nearby iron-wallah shop, and men stop at a kiosk to buy panipuri, a traditional Indian snack consisting of a hollow, fried crisp cut open and filled with a spicy concoction of water, potatoes, onions and chickpeas.

As darkness falls, a group gathers around the screen. Children squat on the ground, the older ones careful to sit on their heels rather than the dirty walkway. Men sit in apartment doorways. Others gather in the back.

Zulekha and her team show videos on the need to fight for one’s rights, sustainable development and waste collection. When the videos finish, Zulekha takes the microphone, stands behind the projector and tells her community how they can recycle and reuse extra building materials.

The group sits quietly, looking up at Zulekha. She may not have all the answers, but she sees the possibilities.