BUILDING GENDER EQUALITY IN URBAN LIFE
WITH THE GRASSROOTS: EMPOWERING LOW-INCOME WOMEN THROUGH INFORMATION AND
COMMUNICATIONS MEDIA TECHNOLOGY
Theo Schilderman and
Poor women in
informal settlements are often more disadvantaged than men in terms of
representation and participation in decision making, income generation
opportunities, physical and tenure security, shelter, and legal and
human rights. Many of them appear marginalized, even hidden, from
ongoing events in their communities because of lack of skills, literacy,
status, mobility, and self-confidence.
The fact that women
are seldom involved in decision making or policy formulation processes
has impeded their socio-economic development and has led to most key
issues affecting them remaining untouched. However women know that the
acquisition of knowledge constitutes the first step towards the process
of change, be it social, economic, cultural, or political. Information
is the catalyst, the driving force, and the product of such an
evolutionary process of change. Good information flow is an integral
part of social and economic development.
Women belonging to a
community group in Redeemed Village, Nairobi, have learned script
writing and video production skills in order to communicate their living
conditions and livelihood issues
© ITDG, Zul
Mathare and Redeemed
Village are two of the numerous informal settlements in Nairobi. Mathare
started to develop in the 1960s when informal settlers moved onto the
parts of the area that some of the landowners had not yet been able to
develop. The owners then began forced evictions of the illegal settlers
using arson, skirmishes, and other methods.
Redeemed Village was
originally a playing field belonging to a school. In 1978, people from
a neighboring informal settlement were displaced and allowed to settle
temporarily on the land set aside for a school. They built temporary
shelter made out of waste paper and packaging and hence the place got
the nickname of ‘city carton’. In 1986, when a fire reduced the whole
village to ashes, a priest from the Redeemed Church contributed iron
sheets, building poles, doors, windows, and other building materials for
the inhabitants. The settlement was thus renamed Redeemed Village. The
inhabitants of the village came together and formed ‘Muungano wa
Redeemed Village’ (Unity of Redeemed Village) and have been
actively involved in a daily savings scheme geared towards purchasing
land to settle on.
From 1995 agitation
started against forced evictions in informal settlements as it became
clear that ownership and acquisition of many of these land areas had not
been straightforward. Kenyan human rights activists and organizations
started a sensitization campaign on land rights. These NGOs included –
among others – Mazingira Institute, Action Aid, Shelter Forum, Kenya
Human Rights Commission, and Kituo Cha Sheria. By 1996 their advocacy
campaigns had resulted in the formation of Muungano wa Wanavijiji (unity
of people living in informal settlements). The activists visited and
actively promoted a doctrine of active resistance to illegal evictions
in other informal settlements in Nairobi.
Quite a number of
the inhabitants of Mathare and the Redeemed villages are members of
Muungano wa Wanavijiji and Muungano wa Vikundi and hence involved in the
land rights activities. Both organizations are coalitions of interested
individuals and groups involved in fighting for the rights of the poor,
particularly those in informal settlements in Nairobi.
The poverty and lack
of security of tenure of many of the residents has contributed to the
difficult living conditions in the two settlements. The problems
complete lack of permanent roads and drainage resulting in flooding
inadequate water supply, with most residents buying water in
containers from vendors at several times the official rate.
with some people using pit latrines that are managed by the
community for which users pay a charge; though ‘flying toilets’ –
feces put in plastic bags then thrown a considerable distance – are
of health service provision.
ranges of economic opportunities – most people who work are vendors
on roadside stalls; some people are engaged in brewing illicit
liquor and prostitution.
Visits to the two
settlements by the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG)
identified that women’s groups, largely very informally organized, did
undertake neighborhood improvement activities and waste management, and
functioned as self-help and action groups. The impact of the women’s
actions was constrained by their lack of status in their own
communities, remoteness from decision making processes, limited contacts
outside their own group, and
inadequate access to information.
information is becoming increasingly important to people’s everyday
lives throughout the world. The development of new information and
communications technologies (ICTs) such as the internet, email, and
CD-ROM has been a significant factor in this accelerating trend. Much
of the information disseminated through new ICTs, however, is in written
format and often in English or another European language. The women’s
groups in the informal settlements in Nairobi had gained little from the
development of new ICTs. Many of the women had limited or no literacy
and did not use English.
Video was therefore
chosen as a new ICT medium that could be made more accessible to the
women’s groups as literacy is not a primary requirement to make videos.
Also, as the medium is largely visual, and it is the images that leave
an impression on the viewer, the commentary can be added in the language
of the intended audience. The Women’s Information and Communications
Technology (WICT) project was a small pilot project, implemented between
September 2000 and May 2001 looking at how ICTs can effectively be used
by poor marginalized women to strengthen their largely oral skills to
communicate their need for improved livelihoods.
Participants, Planning, Preparation,
stakeholders in this activity were two women’s groups from the informal
settlements of Mathare 3B and Redeemed Village, who produced the videos.
The latter group was also part of a CBO, Muungano wa Redeemed Village,
whose main role was daily savings towards buying land for housing.
This highlighted the differentiation between the two groups. The
Redeemed Group was a well-established group of mature women, mostly in
their 60s, that already had a permanent meeting place and their own
song. The women were mostly single grandmothers, often responsible for
bringing up orphaned grandchildren. As well as daily savings they were
involved in a range of self-help welfare and mutual support activities
among the members. As the women had known each other for a long time
and engaged in daily savings they had developed a lot of trust in each
The Mathare group
membership was mostly young women, aged between 20 and 35, better
educated but generally unemployed. They had only been established for a
relatively short time and group cohesion was less evident than with the
Redeemed Group. The members’ support to each other was predominantly
geared towards finding work and it was this group that identified the
potential for using video making skills for income generation. Some of
the women in fact left the group when they were successful in obtaining
employment despite the video production experience.
ITDG was the other
key participant in the project. It obtained the funding and also
facilitated the selection of the women’s groups together with Shelter
Forum, an advocacy group focusing on shelter, and the Pamoja Trust, and
identified the video trainer. ITDG-EA has maintained contact with the
two women’s groups and continues to provide encouragement.
The project was
initiated through a project inception workshop in November 2000, which
brought together key players including Shelter Forum, ITDG East Africa,
the Pamoja Trust, and a video technician. This workshop identified the
two project locations on the outskirts of Nairobi. Discussions were
held on local project methodologies, activities,
and a time frame for the activities. At the end of the workshop, key
activities to be undertaken during the project implementation were
identified and agreed.
ITDG staff made
several visits to the settlements of Mathare 3B and Redeemed Village and
talked with leaders of the women’s groups. The women were very
receptive to the idea of making a video, which they saw as a very good
opportunity to air their grievances. The women from Mathare 3B and
Redeemed Village selected who from among their group would be trained in
video production. Funds for the video camera and films and for paying
the trainers had been secured from the Knowledge and Research fund of
the Department for International Development of the British Government.
A four-day video
training workshop was organized with the selected 19 women from Mathare
and Redeemed. The main aim of the workshop was to train the women in
the necessary skills for video production. During the workshop, the
women were briefed on the WICT project, taught how to operate a video
camera, how to write a simple script, and how to direct a production.
Two crews, one from each settlement, consisting of producers,
cameramen, and floor/site managers, were established to guide the video
production process. The end of this workshop laid the foundation of the
production of the interactive video called 'Telling our stories'.
comprised the following activities:
This consisted of camera practice and script writing sessions. The
first few days were spent on camera exercises to master the operations
of the camera before embarking on the video production. The camera
practice sessions involved shooting in the morning and viewing of the
shot material in the afternoon for discussion purposes. During the
camera practice sessions, the two teams also found time to finalize
Shooting of the
– This was carried out simultaneously in both settlements and
basically involved shooting sessions in the morning and viewing of
the shot material late in the afternoon.
– After shooting, a day was fixed in each village to review all the
shot material against the script. Additional material was shot if
there was a demand for this during the review.
Editing of the
– After the two teams were satisfied that they had captured
everything that they had set out to, the editing of the raw footage
was the next phase. Each team chose representatives for this
exercise. They viewed all the shot materials and developed cue
sheets for adding the narrative.
– All the footage was assembled into the rough cut. This involved
arranging the flow of the shot material as guided by the script but
without music, narration, or even strictly timing the production.
feedback video show
– The rough cut was shared with the community members to get their
opinions and feelings. The community gave their consent to the
finalization of the production.
– This involved developing and incorporating the narration into the
production, music, credits, and incorporating the title of the
production. Each production had an English and Kiswahili
narrative. Kiswahili is the local language widely spoken in Eastern
The video production
of the two groups was entirely participatory and they had complete
control over what scenes they wanted to show and how they wanted to
sequence and present them. ITDG and the video technician did not
intervene, apart from providing some technical advice if required, but
made visits to document the process. Both video-making teams actively
fed back what they were doing to the remaining members of their groups
and sought their views. The subject areas to be covered were
agreed among all the women in the groups and they also viewed and
commented on the initial shot material about what they wanted to include
in the final output.
The Mathare 3B group
chose to focus their video on single mothers who were experiencing
particular problems and are unable to provide satisfactorily for their
children. The children find themselves on the streets and not at school
and drift into a life of petty crime and alcohol. It is not easy for
them to find an adequate job. The women also wanted to highlight the
difficult living conditions in the settlement showing illicit brewing
and drinking dens, waste dumped in the streets, fires, and congestion.
The women from
Redeemed Village decided to focus on their group activities, and
challenges they face in endeavoring to improve their lives. This showed
the women’s daily savings activities, the roadside vegetable stalls run
by some of the women, how some of the women were getting an income from
maintaining community latrines, and meetings of the ‘Muungano wa
Redeemed Village’ (Unity of Redeemed Village) group.
The media in Kenya
and globally was instrumental in disseminating the background, process,
and outcomes of the women video makers in Kenya. The main media
African Standard and the Daily Nation, two leading Kenyan
A talk show on
Kenya Television Network (KTN) featured representatives from the
project office and the women video makers.
The group from
Redeemed Village also had an opportunity to speak on a live talk
show on Kameme FM, a regional radio station that broadcasts in the
feature was made by Reuters Television.
ZDF, a major
broadcast channel in Germany ran a TV feature on the project.
video work was featured on BBC World News and on ABC World News,
films were shown to the World Bank.
An article about
two settlements, the women’s groups, and their video project was
featured in the New Scientist, the leading British journal on
topical scientific and technical issues.
The video production
process has been a key factor in enabling the two women’s groups develop
and strengthen their links to supportive networks and alliances such as
the Nairobi Informal Settlements Coordinating Committee (NISCC),
Muungano wa Wanavijiji, and the Pamoja Trust. Through these links and
directly the groups have also started the process of negotiation with
local leaders and politicians, local authority representatives, and
financial organizations about their needs. These institutions have also
been made much more aware of the challenges the women face in their
settlements as a result of seeing or hearing about their videos.
As the training and
learning aspects of the process of video production by the two women’s
groups have already been covered in the previous section, here it is
intended to consider how the video-making activities of the women have
raised their abilities and capacities within a wider development
context. These include the women’s potential to find possible solutions
to address their needs and problems and persuade other organizations to
become involved in and plan and act jointly in developing these
solutions. Another issue the research aimed to assess was whether the
women could start to address their low standing with institutions and,
for some of the women, in their communities through making and
presenting their videos.
The outcomes on
capacity building of both the women’s groups through the participatory
video experience have been very positive indeed. The profile and status
of the two women’s groups and of individual women in these groups has
increased noticeably. People in the two settlements noticed the woman
video makers and were impressed generally by what they were doing. The
discussions the women had about the production of the video helped them
to improve their level of articulation of needs. It helped them to
understand the power of dialogue and information; they came to
appreciate reliable information and to recognize their right to this,
and also to recognize the destructive power of misinformation. The
women also gained confidence in their own abilities as they neared
completion of their videos and were satisfied with what they had done.
During the whole
process, the women worked together as a team and gathered valuable
organizational and team building skills. Each woman had a role to play
– producer, scriptwriter, and camera operator. This drew the members of
the groups closer together.
The women appeared
proficient, confident, and well-organized when they gathered to present
their videos at the British Council Auditorium in Nairobi for an invited
audience. The women took the leading role in the organization of this
event. Over 120 participants attended the launch including some from
central and local government. These guests included the Minister for
Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Director of Housing
for Nairobi, representatives from the project partners – ITDG, Shelter
Forum, and Pamoja Trust – and a host of guests from the international
donor community, NGOs, women’s groups, and local people. The women’s
video making experience enabled the women to establish rapport with the
minister and senior officials. Everyone present that day was moved
by the women’s skill, eloquence, and humanity.
This event was a
greatly empowering experience for the women, and the groups have built
on their links with the local authority and NGOs to negotiate with them
to contribute to their development efforts. This has also raised the
prominence of the two women’s groups within their communities and local
people are increasingly getting behind the women’s development
Experience with Scaling-up
The WICT project was
primarily envisaged as a small research study to test the feasibility of
participatory video as a process for empowering poor marginalized women
in urban informal settlements; so scaling-up was not a principal concern
of the project. However, as the project in Kenya proved to be a very
successful demonstration, fortuitous scaling-up could be expected. This
scaling-up took the following forms.
through use of participatory video by other NGOs and community
groups: This is already happening, but not much directly as a
result of the project. One small scale example of direct scaling-up
has been the training by the women from Mathare 3B of a rural
women’s group in Magadi to produce their own video. The chairwoman
of the Redeemed Group has visited South Africa and India to exchange
experiences with counterpart grassroots poor urban women in those
countries. However, it is not known if this has led to wider take
up of participatory video by the organizations involved in the
exchanges. ITDG subsequently was involved with some participatory
video activities with the University of Hyderabad and women living
in a low income settlement in Hyderabad in India. However, the
women showed little interest to be involved in the filming. This
was possibly because the women in Hyderabad had no apparent
organization or leadership and because of conflicts and violence in
the settlement that made the women anxious about venturing outside
their immediate neighborhood with a video camera. This shows that
participatory video is not always a successful experience.
the two women’s groups continuing to make films and the films
reaching a wider audience: The British Council event proved to be a
landmark in the coverage the project received. The project
attracted the attention of Kenyan and world press, and ITDG received
many enquiries about the project. However, the women took this all
in their stride and continued with their lives. The Mathare 3B
group has continued to make films, commissioned by one of the Kenyan
television stations, about significant events that take place in the
settlement. The women also recorded videos on local celebrations
such as the International Women’s Day, World AIDS Day, and some ITDG–EA
impact on addressing the women’s development needs: This has become
much more evident since the two women’s groups made and presented
their videos. Some examples of this include:
waiving of bank charges by Barclays Bank and compensation for past
charges for the Mathare 3B women’s group’s savings scheme.
Redeemed Village group has negotiated with the local authority to buy
land, using their own savings and money they received from winning an
international prize for the project. They have become members of NACHU,
the National Cooperative Housing Union which provides housing loans to
the poor, with the aim of accumulating enough savings to acquire loans
for building. In the long term they also aspire towards building a
nursery school on an adjoining plot of land that would generate income.
integrating institutional processes with the women’s development
needs and raising the standing of the women’s groups in their own
communities. Some of the achievements have included:
linked the women to the stakeholder committee of the Nairobi Informal
Settlements Coordinating Committee (NISCC). The NISCC was formed in1996
by stakeholders concerned with informal settlements and poverty in
Nairobi who felt that there was a need for a coordinating body to
maximize the impact of their poverty reduction efforts in Nairobi’s
informal settlements. The organizational structure of the NISCC
includes sub-committees at the community level whose role is to identify
and prioritize issues of particular concern to the community and to
communicate these to sector specific working groups at the city level.
linking up with NISCC has helped the women to identify more easily and
approach more confidently the correct local authority official on
specific issues; something that would have been difficult for them to do
in the past. The women were able to easily access official information,
for example, on boundaries of informal settlements.
Through dialogue and discussions with the local authority and
landowners, demolition of homes in both Mathare and Redeemed Village has
Administrative chiefs in the two settlements have increased consultation
with neighborhood committees about any construction or repair activities
everybody in Mathare 3B and Redeemed Village knows about the videos the
women’s groups have produced. The residents were pleased that the
women’s videos had highlighted the problems and needs for their
communities and that this had led to achieving real improvements in
practice. The standing of and respect for the women has risen
It is very unlikely
that most of the above scaling-up achievements of the two women’s groups
would have been possible without their video production experience.
Dissemination and Communications Issues
Before the women in
Redeemed Village and Mathare 3B produced their videos their information
and development needs were being scarcely met. Because many of the
women had limited or no literacy and remained mostly in their own
settlements their main sources of information were other women or, in
some cases, male relatives. They also had very few opportunities to
raise their concerns with policy makers and other organizations that
have an impact on their communities and settlements. The main way they
could try to do this was through barazas, or large organized public
gatherings; but even at these it was difficult for the women to get
representation or for their views not to be distorted or misrepresented.
The two women’s
groups had complete control over the selection of who from their group
would be involved in the planning and production of the video.
During the production process the video makers had continuous
discussions among themselves and with the rest of the women in their
group. As well as helping the women learn about the video production
process the discussions also assisted the women pinpoint the most
important needs and issues in their settlement and discuss how they
could be addressed. This also greatly strengthened group cohesion.
Curious local people
often followed the video camera crew as they shot the video footage.
This sometimes caused a crowd control and security issue.
However, it was also an opportunity for people in the wider community to
find out about what the video makers were doing and what they were
trying to achieve.
The ITDG–EA office
as well as other NGOs and community-based networks had an instrumental
role in facilitating the launch of the women’s videos at the British
Council Auditorium. They had the contacts with local and national
government and other institutions such as banks that the women’s groups
individually did not have, and they were able to persuade these
organizations to attend the launch. It is very significant that policy
makers at the highest level – including the Minister for Foreign Affairs
and International Cooperation and the Director of Housing for Nairobi –
were willing to take time to participate in the event. Such involvement
of people at a high level in their institutions would be an important
contribution to achieving real, long-term and lasting change to
unfavorable policies to poor people’s development.
messages the women’s videos conveyed about their struggles to improve
their lives in very difficult circumstances motivated the audience of
the need to facilitate the women’s efforts. These, together with the
backing from ITDG, contributed to the interest of the world media in the
women’s videos. They demonstrated the women’s strengths and
capabilities to bring about change in their lives and the lives of
people in their communities, not as helpless victims, marginalized and
condemned to endless poverty. Some of the Western media were also
receptive to positive news stories, such as the Kenyan women’s video
experience, from sub-Saharan Africa to counter largely negative output
centered on wars, famine, natural disaster, disease, and despair.
Another factor that
was significant in the successful implementation of the project in Kenya
was that ITDG took the opportunity to learn about what had already been
achieved through previous experiences in participatory video. Contact
was made, in particular, with the Deccan Development Society (DDS) based
in Hyderabad in India. This organization is at the forefront of
participatory video and other participatory communications media
development, working with poor rural women. A group of women video
makers and radio producers have formed their own organization – the
Community Media Trust. The video outputs of the trust have been highly
praised by professional film makers and have been used by news channels,
and the trust also undertakes training of women’s video making groups
from India and other development countries.
Although the Kenyan
women’s groups had no direct contact with DDS or the Community Media
Trust, ITDG, through the WICT project manager, did contact DDS several
times and received valuable advice.
There is still much
to learn about the use of participatory video as an empowerment tool of
marginalized and powerless people, but the experience from Kenya
indicates that this project got most of the necessary requirements
right. Based on this experience the main aspects of achieving a
successful outcome of participatory video are considered to be:
well-established groups whose members have quite a lot in common, eg
all members of the group are poor women of similar age, they are all
contributing to a common and savings fund, they have or are looking
for similar or related occupations, they have a group meeting place
and set of rules, they are all from the same local neighborhood,
The members of
the group always have the final say on decisions on how the video
would be produced. External input should largely focus on technical
training and support to the process of video production; even if the
grassroots video makers might be novices it is important not to
consider them as ignorant. They might lack the technical skills of
a professional film crew in the short term, but the messages they
might want to put across can be very powerful and deeply felt.
supporting the video makers needs to carry out a publicity drive
alongside the production of the video to create awareness among
appropriate policy and decision makers. This would need to be
targeted at institutional stakeholders in the same field as the
video coverage, eg if the video is about land and tenure issues then
appropriate landowners, local authority representatives, and senior
officials of the government department that deal with land
regulation would need to be targeted.
institutional stakeholders would need to be invited to a showing of
the video, and this event would need to be publicized skillfully so
that decision and policy makers at an appropriate level are
persuaded to attend.
It is important
that the community video makers set the agenda for the video
presentation event. Skillful and tactful facilitation might be
required if any of the institutional representatives try to direct
the proceedings. In reality this rarely happens as it seems that
the video presentation can bring the institutional representatives
to appreciate the community’s situation and position. Their esteem
of the community would also be raised as people with skills and
capabilities. Generally they are likely to be polite and
respectful. Additionally the production of the video would have
given the video makers and others from the community greater
self-confidence and they would usually be able to answer challenges
from the institutional representatives themselves. This would
always be better than for someone else to intercede on the
The video launch
event has to be regarded as just a starting point for a process of
change that leads to an improvement in the lives of the video makers
and the people in their communities. Having a follow-up plan is
therefore important. This would need to be focused on anticipated
bottlenecks to achieving better collaborative partnerships between
communities, NGOs, and institutions and better access to resources
by communities. Some follow-up activities which could be relevant
of additional videos if there are additional issues community
members want to see addressed or if there are other audiences
that need to be influenced.
to other community groups and organizations, for example through
exchange visits. These can be other video making groups, but
this need not be a particular requirement. These linkages can
be further strengthened, based on community demand, to build
community networks, coalitions, and movements for change.
development of additional community information resources, eg a
radio station, a meeting place which also contains information
about the community’s assets and resources, and a school or
skills training centre.
opportunities to get the community members to present their
video at organized events, especially those of institutions. In
India, for example, DDS managed to get an opening for women
farmers from the Community Media Trust to make a presentation at
a conference on agricultural research. They were able to
highlight the biodiversity of their traditional crops and
counter the arguments of some scientists promoting monoculture
and genetically modified crops.
available to provide advice and information when required by the
communities for their development efforts or to engage better
with institutional stakeholders.
Highlights and Achievements
The video production
experience has been a great learning experience for the two women’s
groups involved. It has enabled them to create links with organizations
that can facilitate development with them. It has helped to reduce the
institutional and policy barriers that hindered the groups’ achieving
sustainable improvements and also strengthened the groups’ participation
in community and NGO organized networks for putting into practice
improvements in informal urban settlements in Kenya.
The production of
the video has given the women greater self-confidence and has led them
to value more their own experience and knowledge. It has also raised
their aspirations and self-belief in what they would be able to achieve.
The women have been able to demonstrate their capabilities to
institutional stakeholders and have given these institutions confidence
that the women would be well able to manage development in their
succeeded in 2001 in winning the Association for Progressive
Communications Betinho Communications Prize. Some of the money from the
prize, together with the funds the women have saved, has enabled the
Redeemed Village group to acquire land for building their own homes.
They have negotiated with the local authorities for the provision of
infrastructure and services and have joined NACHU. They have also been
busy saving to start building their new homes.
Some of the women
from the Mathare 3B group have found employment. The video production
experience might have helped them to find out about their skills and
capabilities and utilize these in their search for work. Unfortunately
this has resulted in some of the women leaving the group.
The project has
demonstrated that the medium of video, as a new ICT development, is
appropriate to strengthen the skills and capacities of poor women’s
groups and other poor and marginalized groups. The most important issue
to include is for the community video makers to be given complete
decision making control over the video production process.
Participatory video is an addition to a whole range of participatory
techniques and processes, such as an identification of community
resources and assets, for stakeholders to have an influence on their
lives and needs and problems. The important issue of participatory
processes is that they are truly participatory and that the resources
developed through the processes are wholly owned by the community.
On this basis,
participatory video can be a catalyst for change for poor communities
that facilitate their access to decision makers and give them a greater
insight into the skills, capacities, and assets that they have to make
changes in their lives. Participatory video can meet the challenge of
reaching poor and vulnerable people, provided that they have some form
of long-term organization as groups or cooperatives. It is particularly
appropriate for women whose needs and problems often remain hidden as
more powerful and better connected male community leaders claim to speak
on the community’s behalf. It can assist women to overcome the barrier
to their access to information caused by a truncated education during
childhood and limited or no literacy.
their own, would generally not acquire their own video equipment, at
least not unless they already have some experience with it. Therefore
NGOs or other organizations working with the communities would need to
buy the video equipment for communities or lend it to them, and arrange
or provide training. The project in Kenya has demonstrated that for a
capital outlay of a few thousand US dollars on video equipment and
training significant improvement can be achieved in the lives of groups
producing the videos. The groups might need additional support, for
example in making institutional links, but the cost of this need not be
high. The making of the video can lead community groups to gain the
capacities for themselves to negotiate with institutions, and to
mobilize their own and institutional resources.
can also become a powerful advocacy tool in the hands of community based
networks and coalitions to bring about policy changes that are more
favorable towards pro-poor development. However, this requires a
long-term commitment from NGOs, researchers, and other organizations to
support the development of the networks and coalitions. In Kenya a
process of policy making decentralization and local government reform is
taking place. Increasing civil society participation in decision
making is one of the objectives of this decentralization process; but
some local authorities are still not effective at informing and
involving citizens on local development issues. The consequences of
this are that consultations with the public are badly publicized, local
authority representatives frequently fail to attend important community
meetings and, if they do, no record is made of them so there is no
independent archive of what was discussed and what was decided.
consultations organized by local authorities with local people in
developing countries have rarely been successful at reaching the poorer
residents. The main problem is that it is often the most powerful
and well-connected people, such as formal sector business leaders and
wealthy residents, who dominate the proceedings at these consultations
to ensure that their demands feature high on the municipal development
agenda. The voices of the poor rarely get heard. Participatory video
can be a component of an alternative bottom-up strategy in which poor
people are at the center of the development process that involves local
authorities as well as other institutional stakeholders in it.
interest in participatory video with poor communities would be
important. Of potential attraction to donors could be that for a
relatively small funding contribution there is the possibility to
leverage several times this amount in terms of community and local
institutional contributions for community focused development initiated
as a result of the video production. There have been failures with
participatory video, generally when communities were poorly organized,
when the organization working with the video makers tried to direct the
production, or when the video production did not lead to further
development processes. However, the knowledge about participatory video
is growing, so the risk of failure of future projects would be likely to
is International Team Leader of the Access to Services Program of
Practical Action (formerly the Intermediate Technology Development
Group) in Rugby, UK, and a member of the Advisory Board of Global Urban
Development. He is co-author of
with the Grassroots. Otto Ruskulis is currently an
independent consultant and author, and previously served as a Human
Settlements Information Officer for Practical Action/ITDG in Rugby, UK.
He is co-author of Building Bridges with the Grassroots, from
which their article is reprinted by permission of Practical Action.
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