‘Don’t zoom out!’, the news shoot was paused. The group was trying to capture the predicament of the people in a certain town still to receive the luxury of electricity. ‘Let’s do it from the start,’ he said. His mind had already processed the effect of the technique on their production. The others with the camera listened to the call straight away. Sounds like an anecdote from the experiences of a bunch of cinematographers? You are definitely mistaken.
Rijied Nongdhar is not just another 17-year-old. He is one of the 15 children working with Children in Media Experiments (CHIME) as Community Children Reporters. Rijied has been working with CHIME since 2015, highlighting issues he considers relevant of which poverty, electricity connection, water scarcity, pollution, traffic congestion are a few.
Children for Change
The children attend morning school religiously; most of them are from Christ Church Morning School in Mawlai, Shillong. Unable to devote their time and money to regular day school hours, they attend morning school and work as maids, mechanics and construction labourers to support themselves and their families.
Rijied (age 17) works as a junior mechanic in his locality, Mawlai. Sincere as a mechanic and enthusiastic as a journalist, he is a boy of multiple talents. Sensitive to the problems of his marginalized community, he is quite an asset to the field of journalism. The video camera fits his hands better than his steel wrench. ‘CHIME has been a great opportunity. I have never considered journalism as my cup of tea but then you never know until you try. The project is not only advantageous to me and my fellow reporters but the fact that it aims to empower the communities in our area by highlighting their problems instantly appealed to me,’ says Rijied.
CHIME is the first ever participatory video initiative for children in the State of Meghalaya. The children equipped with communication tools like cameras and recorders become agents of change and development in their respective areas of residence enabling them to make informed decisions in the community and especially in issues that affect them. Who better to talk about issues that concern them, than the affected themselves?
CHIME strives to make the children in and around Mawlai not only community reporters but also professional media practitioners after their training is complete. Though the shot is long, it is however a good one as the results of the last two years has shown.
An Alternative Media Model that Works
Donkupar Khapran (age 18), another dynamic reporter, is as good with the camera as he is with his studies. His stories comprise of addressable issues in the neighbourhood like road and transport, poverty and positive human interest stories. A boy with high aspirations, Donkupar longs to be a full time filmmaker when he grows up.
‘We are not driven by technology per se, but we are trying our best to use technology as a tool for amplification of voices of the marginalized section of the society’ – says Alankar Kaushik, the programme coordinator of CHIME . He also added that CHIME is not only a project but a mission of the department of Journalism and Mass Communication, EFL University, Shillong Campus to fulfil the aim towards using media for social change. And what better can be an opportunity than facilitating and building media skills for the children to raise issues of their concern.
Project CHIME started its mission since 2012 with the promise of democratising the media platform by experimenting with various media tools and technologies and building capacity of the children from marginalized communities to use media as a tool to raise their concerns. The attempt proved effective when one after another the stories of Donkupar and Rijied and many more children reporters got highlighted at regular community screenings which was also was taken up by a local cable television to broadcast.
It is a well known fact that the stories and concerns of children hardly get highlighted in the mainstream media including newspapers and television. The participatory video model possibly can bridge the gap between the producers and consumers of news. The Northeastern region with a diverse culture and colour require an alternative viable model like CHIME to address issues of their concern by becoming producers of their own content. This simply provides confidence among varied communities of the region who need to understand each other.
Written by- Abir Suchiang