Empowering communities to represent themselves but who’s watching?

Video Volunteers started off as a small experiment in community reporting, encouraging members from marginalized communities in India to tell their own stories and report on issues under-covered by mainstream press. IndiaUnheard, is the program that resulted out of the project that provided journalistic training and basic video skills and necessary tools, low-cost HD camcorders in this case, to chosen community correspondents.

There is something raw and moving about hearing stories directly from the people on issues that affect them, on stories they feel needs urgent attention. Be it farmers in Kashmir talking of how climate change is affecting their crops and farming practises with people using more dangerous pesticides and fertilizers or the subject of the widows of victims killed in fake encounters in Manipur, IndiaUnheard has succeeded in bringing out stories that need telling.

But where do these stories fit in mainstream media and reaching an actual audience that can make a difference? In the case of video volunteers, media partnerships with established names including CNN-IBN, Al Gore’s Current TV and MSN India, has helped spread the word. But what, without these strategic and necessary partnerships? Citizen journalism can empower communities to tell their stories, but at the end of the day, sympathetic mainstream mediums will still play a role in taking these stories further.


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