Women in remote hamlets in Tamil Nadu are being empowered with training in the handling of a video camera and are now producing films to show the reality of their lives and to fight for their rights.
Muthu is from Kadambur Village in Sathy, Tamil Nadu. As a girl child, she suffered neglect right from birth. She did not have a voice to protest against this unfair practice. Until Now. Today, she is one of the several women volunteers trained in video production in a unique movie making workshop conducted by ‘Signs’ and ‘Aide et Action International’. She has produced a film EnnakkumKalvi, through which she wanted to give viewers the responsibility, as witnesses, to end this age-old oppression once and for all.
This is part of the silent revolution going on in the quiet little villages of Tamil Nadu, where women are being trained in the art of movie making. These women producers are the new lot of movie makers who are producing films to tell the viewers several untold real stories, of the ongoing practices against women and children. The rare and unusual stories have been able to capture intimate images, which are hardly witnessed by outsiders. The stories are about child labour, women’s rights, rights for people with disability, and equality across gender, caste, and class.
During the workshop, participants understood the importance of promoting media, not only as a tool for advocacy and lobbing of rights and entitlements for women and children, but also to document the lost culture and dying art forms
commented Mr. Joe Prakash, Media Journalist, SIGNS, a resource person for the workshop.
Through this training, the community uses the videos to strengthen democracy and encourage local people to participate in governance. “The women are empowered and receive training to the medium and enable themselves to take action towards social change,” adds Lakshmi, a participant of the workshop who is also a member of a Women’s Self-Help Group (WSHG).
Further elaborating on the films, EnnKuralor ‘My voice’ (video embedded below) was based on the rights of people with disability and it certainly brought awareness. It also gave a better understanding of the problems that the communities faced. (If you cannot see the video below, click here to watch it on YouTube).
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Various films have been shot on different empowering topics. Meena, who produced a short film on eradication of child labour said, “We got trained right in handling the camera and video equipment and we were able to shoot three short films titled, “ThulainthaSiripu” or Lost smile, “EnnakkumKalvi” or Education for me too, “EnnKural” or My voice. We got many children belonging to different communities to play together for the first time during the shoot on equal rights. We also motivated them to produce a film on how to remove the fear of textbooks, enlightened children about rights, and gathered general knowledge about the tribal culture,”
She further added,
We also got to know about journalism, its driving force, and existing acts and rules in regulating information and broadcasting through this workshop. Upon screening of our film, it has given the poor a voice to advocate for democracy and has put an end to child labour, encouraging governments and authorities to take action. Once people are informed, or issues are brought to the surface from within, possible solutions can be discussed and they can start to organise support.
We spoke to the Aide-et-Action India Regional Manager for the area, K Sivagami, to better understand the impact of the initiative in Sathyamangalam and other villages in Tamil Nadu.
TBI: What is done with the films shot by the women trained by your organization?
These short films will be used as a tool for advocacy and lobbying with government (district authorities) and other related bodies in Tamil Nadu. We are planning to screen the videos in the villages, to spread awareness on rights and entitlements of people. It is also an attempt to raise debate on local issues that do not get covered easily in media.
TBI: How are the women volunteers (or trainees) equipped with cameras and other equipment necessary for shooting documentaries or short films?
In the pilot phase, women volunteers used rented cameras and equipment. We have a proposal to develop a media resource center in the village. This resource centre will provide trainings to villagers and also supply equipment required for film making. The project staff of Aide et Action India in Sathyamangalam are currently mobilising resources to build this milestone.
TBI: Can you tell us a little more about your organization and its areas of work?
Aide et Action was founded in 1981 in Paris, France by Pierre Bernard Le Bas. He was inspired through his engagement in India, as a volunteer and realised that education is the “critical lever” towards positive change in the lives of the poor and marginalised sections of the society. Aide et Action India works in 19 states in India and run over 45 projects with the support of NGO partners. Our main programs are focused towards ensuring education for all, especially the disadvantaged, by addressing the inadequacies in the education system, but we also run several other programs for the empowerment of women and children.