How do you teach creativity and critical thinking to people from very disadvantaged communities, with little formal education? Doing this is a major goal of Video Volunteers’ work in training community producers. If organizations don’t develop these training tools, the world could find itself in a situation where technology allows the poor to produce content, but the vast expressive potential this could release is still left untapped.

VV gives writing exercises to community producers to help them develop their ability to think through an argument. I am sharing below two recent pieces of writing by community producers. These were written by a Community Video Unit in rural Gujarat. This is an all-Dalit (a.k.a. “Untouchable”) team. Neeru, who wrote the first story, is the youngest of 11 girls from a very poor family. Even though being Dalit, female and the last in your family is as unlucky a fate as you can have in India, the girl is a firecracker. The second story is written by Jitu, who used to work polishing diamonds in a small factory.

The two stories are on impacts of the community video unit – what changed in a village after a video was screened. Both Producers would be thrilled if someone on the “world wide web” posted them a question. If you want to start a small dialog with these rural journalists and changemakers, write it as a comment and I’ll get on the phone and ask their response, and post their response.

Impact story by Neeru Rathod, about a film on domestic violence, translated from Gujarati:

Hi friends. I am Neeru Rathod. I will tell you about the impacts, solutions offered, changes in people and the actions taken by communities that the film about violence against women has initiated.

We screened the film in 39 villages. This film was screened in Bhalgamda village on the 17th of October 2008 by Kanchan, community video producer and Girishbhai, distributor. Around 100 people attended the screening of the film in this village.

There were 17 women who attended the screening and out of these 17, one woman, Kashiben Kalubhai Makwana got up and spoke on the microphone and put her thoughts across to the community. No woman in Bhalgmada village was ready to speak about domestic violence on the mic until Kashiben, who is 60 year old, got up and spoke in public for the first time in her life. She said, ‘If there is any violence against women in our village then we must from now on take action against it, file a police case and help and support that woman. This (violence) is a question for all our sisters and daughters. Harrassment, mental torture, rape, all these acts will not be accepted.’ She left this message for all the community members.

After the screening, we collected opinions and reactions of the people and they said that for the first time in their village a woman has come up and spoken in public like this on a mic. She had taken a lead on this issue in her village.

This is just one story from a village, where the screening of this film led to empowerment. After watching this video, 3 women have filed a complaint against such violence and have sought legal help from Navsarjan, the NGO I work with, which gave them phone numbers to call on and promised to provide legal help.

This way all our films lead to some action taken by people and awareness on social issues and with the same hope we are making our next video on primary education to initiate more change.

Impact story by Jitu Makwana of a film on toilets and sanitation.

Our video stopped water pollution and improved people’s health!!

Friends, we have seen that we have a lot of issues around us. Dirty surroundings, polluted water, and badly built toilets are some of them. Our Community Video Unit made a film on the issue of toilets. We showed this film in many different villages including in Choraniya village on 29/08/08 in a night screening.

After watching this film, for the first time, the villagers in Choraniya village talked about the problems of their village. We had done a story in the film about Hotel Bhagyodaya, which is on the highway near the village. This hotel used to empty its toilet waste and dirty water directly into the village pond in Choraniya village, which was the only source of drinking water in the village. Obviously, many many people were falling sick after drinking the water from this filthy pond. But people were not able to protest against the owner of the Hotel because he was very influential and an “upper” caste and they were afraid he would attack them if they protested.

At the screening, the villagers asked us producers to help them in their struggle to make their drinking water safe again. We decided we would help, and so we worked with the villagers over the next month to establish a Women’s Council in the village. This Women’s Council would be able to take up this water issue, but also other issues in the future.

The Women’s Council and the CVU team took out a rally together protesting against the disposal of the dirty water in the village pond. They gave application letters to the Taluka Officer [local district official]. They also filed a case against the Hotel owner.

And we won the case! This way, unity and humanity had a big win! The community people were also able to get rid of their fear of the Hotel owner because of this. The Hotel owner dismantled the earlier toilet from which the dirty water used to enter the pond, and built a new flush toilet. The dirty water stopped flowing into the pond and this also solved the issue of health in the village.