Suraj Ramnath

"On YouTube only 20 per cent users are women": Jessica Mayberry

At vdonxt asia 2018, Mayberry spoke about her NGO - Video Volunteers - and how they are helping people from media-dark districts in India through videos.

Jessica Mayberry, founding director, Video Volunteers (VV), came to India to pursue her dream of becoming a video journalist. She had done a three-day workshop and learnt how to edit and shoot videos 15 years ago, in 2002. She has worked with FoxNews, CNN and many others. Mayberry shared her experience in India and spoke about her NGO at vdonxt asia 2018.

On her life after coming to India, Mayberry said, "I came to India and started working with an NGO making videos and telling my own stories which had so much to say and I quickly realised that the last thing that the world needed was another American, another white person running around with a camera in her hand and telling other people's stories. Instead, what we needed to do was to enable people to tell their own stories. So, I found news with India's civil society, I found them with the villagers, women, and the stories they had to tell. It started with the NGO VV in 2006 and I have been running it since then and been in India almost full time since."

"On YouTube only 20 per cent users are women": Jessica Mayberry

Jessica Mayberry

She adds, "Throughout this journey, one question has motivated me the whole time - how can we empower the most marginalised of people with a voice? And to put it into the window, how can we empower anybody and everybody, irrespective of caste, community, gender, and poverty; how can we enable everybody to be a creator of user-generated content."

Mayberry then showed a video called 'IndiaUnheard' made by her NGO VV which addresses the issues of most media-dark districts in India. The video shows the people from these districts talking about the issues they face in their day to day lives and how the work by VV has helped their life for the better.

A look at the video here:

After the video, Mayberry continued, "That's the kind of content that doesn't go viral and that's the problem isn't it. And these are the urgent questions our country has to address right now. On any given day, in this country, only 2 per cent of the coverage relates to the issues of the places where 70 per cent of the problem is. This is a disastrous level or marginalisation and it is also a crisis of democracy because we believe in the whole idea of the fault of state. So the call to action for the people who are related to news related content is to think of whose voices are being amplified and how can we amplify different voices. Are they all upper caste? Are they all urban? Are they all male? It is quite likely that that is often the case. On YouTube, only 20 per cent of the users are women. But it is possible to create diversity if people can do it."

VV has investigated the social justice issues in 200 forest districts of the country. Mayberry says, "Most of these people have never touched a computer or experienced the internet before working with us. They all live below the poverty line. After making these videos, we show it to government officials on WhatsApp or in private screenings and overall, we have been able to solve 33 per cent of the problem. Thus, we are also like a government's accountability NGO and that's how we assume an NGO space in this country. It is a bridge between the citizen and the government shining a light on corruption when that's what is going on or else, helping officials figure out where they should focus their attention. Each one of those 1000 impacts has a government official who wanted to do the right thing."

Talking about how her NGO's model works, Mayberry said, "We recruit correspondents through NGOs and each one of them decides to video 10-20 villages that they are going to represent. We give them the equipment; it is a Rs 10,000 per person package and we teach them how to shoot the videos and also collect surveys and they are all paid despite having our main video volunteers. After they shoot these stories, they either edit them on their phones or they get sent to one of our offices in central India where the editors will edit them and then we do the distribution at the national-level. On our website, we only put the best content and it is often co-produced with the journalists who work in our organisation to provide national-level context and that makes it more understandable for the audience. So, we get around two to three million views on YouTube per month, which is not bad in the NGO case. In mainline media, we have a contract with NDTV; we sell stories to The Quint and other digital media companies."

A look at the Video Volunteers' presentation by Jessica Mayberry:

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