“As a TV reporter I will show people everything. They will understand everything. I will report on news for my village. I will ask people about their problems and their hopes.” So announced 14-year-old Mohammed Akram, a boy from the Doulatabad village in Andhra Pradesh to a press gathering organized by UNICEF in New Delhi yesterday.
Mohammed Akram produced a short film entitled “This is how we study”
Akram is one amongst 21 child reporters who have been trained by Dr Vasuki Belavadi, an associate professor of video production at the University of Hyderabad, as part of a UNICEF initiative called Children as Media Producers (CAMP), which trains children to report on local issues through the medium of broadcast.
The underlying aim is to inspire social change by laying the groundwork for a dialogue with the local administration. “They ask inconvenient questions,” said Belavadi when describing how the children he trains approach village leaders. He explains that the initiative empowers them to approach the village heads: “They now ask the sarpanch why there are no dustbins in the village.”
Now, UNICEF has struck up a partnership with the Mumbai based Children’s Film Society of India, which is chaired by actor/director Nandita Das. The partnership comes at an opportune time, as this year marks 20 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Children’s Film Society is sponsoring “The Golden Elephant”, its 16th international children’s film festival, which will run from 14 to 20 November in Hyderabad. Co-sponsored by the government of Andhra Pradesh, the festival aims to highlight 70 children’s films from around the world, including twelve from Asia, and will have panel discussions discussing issues like why children’s films are virtually invisible in India, whether they should be incorporated into schools’ curriculum, what the definition of a children’s film actually is, and whether the right to entertainment should be a fundamental right for children. Sixty delegates from across the world will attend, including Bollywood biggies like Vishal Bharadwaj and Gulzar, who have publicly expressed an interest in children’s film.
Click here to watch Akram’s film “This is how we study”
Additionally, the festival will showcase films created as part of UNICEF’s CAMP initiative, many of which highlight local problems pertaining to health and education, such as the lack of classrooms, toilets or water in schools village. It will also offer training workshops for children who want to learn how to be children’s reporters.
While the CSFI largely focuses on fiction films for children, Das states that the organization is also conscious of social issues affecting children: “Particularly now, with our partnership with UNICEF, we are open to considering issues like child labour, sexual abuse and others.”