HYDERABAD, India, 27 October 2009 - Should children only be the consumers of information? Should they not also have a voice to be able to tell stories from their own perspectives?
These were some of the questions that encouraged a partnership between UNICEF and the Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad to launch what is known as CAMP, or Children as Media Producers, a participatory video initiative.
Launched in June 2009, CAMP sees decentralised information and communication structures as an important way of empowering children who have been traditionally marginalised. For effective child participation to take place, facilitation of dialogue among members of the community is important. Also, according to the Convention on the rights of the Child (articles 12 and 13) every child has the right to express itself.
The idea behind the CAMP initiative is to allow the children themselves to become full participants in decision making about development that is suitable for them. Here, the ’Electronic grassrooting' of democracy is even seen a way of helping to construct a new kind of civil society.
Currently, CAMP provides 24 children from rural Medak district, access to means of communication, training on how to use the technology and helping them to gain an understanding of the how the media works as well as develop their communication skills.
Children want to be heard
Akram is one of the brightest students in Zilla Parishad High School in the small village of Doulatabad in Medak District of Andhra Pradesh. Having scored 76 per cent in his eighth standard exams, his teachers put his name forward to become a child reporter in 2008.
Akram had been already writing about the concerns facing his village in the wall newspaper. Once offered the opportunity to become a young TV reporter, he was extremely happy. He enjoys being at CAMP, “I feel honoured that I’ll be able to do something for my village by raising children’s issues through video,”
The children at CAMP went through a training process including visual grammar, basics of camera, the significance of various shot sizes and their use in producing a film. While the young producers have learnt basic editing techniques, some of them have even gone ahead and learnt to work with professional non-linear editing software.
Another young producer, Nagraj, earlier thought that people shot stories as they were shown on television. “But now I know that there’s a lot of selection that happens in telling a story.”
“I want to do stories that will bring children’s issues to the attention of the Sarpanch (village head) so he can solve problems,” says Pushpalatha, who’s also been trained as a wall newspaper
For Navaneeta, the initiative is “a tool to show and tell our own stories… since the mainstream TV channels don’t show stories from our village, I’ll send them our stories,” she says.
During this 12-month period, the focus will be on basic issues that concern these children. These include child protection, health, nutrition, education, life skills, and water and sanitation.
After the capacity sharing process is complete, the Behaviour Change & Communication Cell, Medak District Collectorate, will house a set of six video camera units which will be accessible to the participating children.
“Besides providing access to media technologies for children to express themselves through video, we are working with the local TV channels to telecast some of the films during the week of the 20th Anniversary of the CRC, beginning 14 November 2009,” says Vikas Verma, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Hyderabad Office.