(Original post by Venito Coelho has been re-blogged from Women Aloud Videoblogging)
One of the first things that a girl is taught is that she shouldn't make too much noise. "It's not ladylike... girls shouldn't be so loud... stop shouting! Then you grow up and discover that there are many things that you want to raise your voice about. There are iinequalities and injustices woven into the system that make you want to shout out loud. Women get such a bad deal in life that very often you are so mad that you want to scream.
I spent last week involved in an initiative that helps women raise their voices. WAVE - Women Aloud Video Empowerment is the hard work of Sapana Sahani and Angana Jhaveir and their NGO - Point of View. They managed to raise the funds and get together thirty women from across India to teach them how to represent women's issues in media. The project aimed to train women to become citizen journalists to tell stories of positive change in their communities to an international audience. And so I found myself facing a room full of young enthusiastic woman. They came from as far away as Jammu and Kashmir and Andaman and Nicobar islands. I was there to train them but the truth is that I learnt more from them than they did from me.
My first lesson was about the reality of other lives in India. One of the participants said that she wanted to make a film about half widows. I had no clue about what she meant. Half widows are women whose husbands have been picked up by the police or the army she explained. They are not officially widows and neither do they have a man to run the house. They live in a twilight world. She was from Jammu and Kashmir.
Another participant wanted to make a film that taught the inhabitants of slums how to cope with climate change. That left me bewildered until she explained the women in slums have no real access to water. They have no official connections and they fight every day to get their share from the tankers that come to the slums. When climate change hits, the rich will still buy water - what will these poor women do?
Another participant from Bihar wanted to teach women how to cope with both water shortage and with floods. She came from a land that was racked by extremes.
My second lesson came in sensitivity. Many of the participants already ran NGOs of their own, even though the average age was less than 25. One amazing young woman ran an NGO that helped tackle child abuse - and a tattoo parlour. As I began to use examples from different issues that came to mind, hands went up in the audience. Young women began to share the reality of what for me, until then, had mainly been issues. I had to slow down and think about the top-of-the-mind examples I was handing out.
My last lesson came in motivation. There were several girls who did not speak English. A translator did the best she could and I switched into Hindi occasionally. Still - we were tackling complicated concepts and I was sure that taking the Hindi speakers were being left behind. When I paused to take questions - their hands shot up and their questions proved that they had been fiercely following what I had been saying. These women were not about to let language get in the way of representing the issues that they cared about.
I looked at all those determined young faces in the audience. I thought of the huge change that is needed to come about to make the lives of women in India even close to equal to those of men. In choosing to be part of this initiative these women had already become
a major part of that change. They were far too young to understand the tremendous thing that they were setting out to do. I truly wish them all the luck in the world. I hope they go out there and shout as loud as they possibly can. Loud enough to be really heard.
This article was re-blogged, originally appearing as "A wonderful article by Venita Coelho in the Oheraldo newspaper in Goa" at Women Aloud Videoblogging.