WAVE (Women Aloud Video blogging for Empowerment): Voices of young semi-urban women

For the urban educated middle class, digital media has become the ultimate mode of expression & liberation, connecting millions across the globe. But the rural and semi-urban populace of the country is not able to understand and use digital media in an efficient manner. At least this was the case until WAVE came into being.

WAVE aka Women Aloud Video Blogging for Empowerment is a unique digital platform for young semi-urban women to voice their perspectives on issues that matter through video blogs.

From Lebul Nisa in Srinagar to Chinju Prakash in Trivandrum, women empowered with the WAVE training blog about issues like gender prejudice, health, after-effects of counter-insurgency operations in the North East, etc., etc.

Sapna Shahani, Director of Wave India, moved to India 4 years back and conceptualized WAVE. Here’s an interview with her :

How and When did the idea of WAVE come about ?

I had a background in community media while working in the US at a TV station of this kind for 6 years. I wanted to come back to India and work towards the end of training people in media skills so they could communicate about social change. A friend and colleague Angana Jhaveri, an NGO called Mam Movies and I collaborated in proposing the idea of a nationwide online women’s video portal featuring social issues videos created by grassroots practitioners. Our proposal won a US-based ‘Digital Media and Learning competition’ sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation and we received funds to set up our vision in 2009.

Who was the first blogger that joined the initiative ? How difficult or easy is it to convince women to video blog about issues concerning their society ?

There wasn’t really a first blogger. We put out the call for applications at the same time and selected 30 out of 150 applicants at the same time so our whole group joined simultaneously. It can be easy or very difficult to convince women to blog about community issues, depending on the person and their level of commitment. The challenge is to find people who are passionate enough, but it is certainly possible, especially when you offer the incentives of training and stipends.

What has been the biggest impact of the initiative according to you ?

This is difficult to answer because there have been a few areas so you can be the judge.

  1. Almost all 30 women who completed the 9 month mentorship program have reported huge increases in their confidence levels and knowledge. Many are pursuing related careers and earning an income from video production.
  2. We successfully established a first-of-its-kind online model of community media which will hopefully inspire other projects like this and will forever remain a large online archive of 175 videos from Indian women’s points of view.
  3. All the women in the program are very friendly with each other, collaborate and look to each other for help in their work too. It’s also likely that our project has advanced the ongoing women’s movement in India in some way.

Tell us a bit more about the social entrepreneurship side of WAVE.

Well, it’s being developed at the moment as we are in the market research phase but the general idea is to offer video services to market research companies (particularly those who need to interview potential customers on video from the rural markets), NGOs and small businesses needing profile videos, government and NGO funders needing audit information, organisations needing training videos, etc.

Future Plans for WAVE INDIA ?

Our plans are to open up our portal to allow anyone to upload gender-sensitive social cause videos to our website at www.waveindia.org, gain investment for our social business and provide employment for our mentees, continue our parallel NGO activities of providing trainings and equipment to marginalised communities who need to voice their issues online.

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