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Community Video in tea gardens of Assam

March 16, 2011

JAWA Community Video Unit – a grassroots media house in the tea gardens of Assam, India

The tea workers of Assam

Since before the Independence of India, large and small tea companies in Assam state have owned tea plantations where tea is cultivated, processed in factories, and prepared for wholesale trade. The communities that constitute the majority of the labor pool employed for tea cultivation and processing originated through migration from other parts of the country and resettled in the tea gardens during the British rule.

To date, these so-called ‘tea tribes’ still remain among the most marginalized and neglected ethnic groups in the region. Set in a background of political tensions, risk of insurgency and poor infrastructure, the life of local communities is frayed with high incidence of malaria and tuberculosis, alcoholism and domestic violence, child labor and challenges in education.

JAWA Community Video Unit

In charting its strategy for financial inclusion, ICICI Prudential looked at the past experience of service providers in the region and realized that tackling social issues is key to success in the delivery of financial services, while overlooking them is likely to result in failure. A multi pronged approach that addresses social issues in order to remove the obstacles to sound financial habits can facilitate the positive change required to achieve the goals of financial inclusion.

In this context, a Community Video Unit (CVU) stood out as an appealing tool. Through the mediums of videos and street theatre, the CVU can help can help the communities identify and give their own solutions to local issues. The communicators, the researchers, the video makers are all from the tea gardens, making the process entirely community-owned.

The video producers at JAWA CVU have spent the last year receiving training in professional video production from international NGO Video Volunteers, which is founded upon the vision of a world where communities have their own locally relevant and locally produced media, through which they can articulate and share their perspectives on the issues that matter to them. For this, they strive to provide people with the technical and creative media and critical thinking skills to produce their own films and information services. To date, Video Volunteers have developed a network of 15 Community Video Units across India, in which 150 video producers have already reached to over 200,000 people through their screenings.