“Before, we only had videos, now we have numbers, too,” says Rekha. “This really helps with our advocacy work.”
In 2010, Rekha joined Video Volunteers (a media rights NGO) as a community volunteer tasked with developing community-driven videos and multi-media content as a way to highlight issues related to gender-based violence and discrimination in the rural areas of Madhya Pradesh in India.
To make her videos, Rekha interviewed impacted individuals, families and community members on a wide range of issues, ranging from domestic and sexual violence to access to maternal health services. The videos prioritised issues previously raised by the community and were later shared with the local government as evidence to call for change.
In an effort to improve her advocacy work, Rekha conducted household surveys as a way to collect data on the prevalence and incidence rates of violence against women in her area. The data were analysed and compared with other states and regions in India, while the results were shared with local media as a means to raise awareness of the issue.
What she found is that many women were reluctant to report personal cases of violence and discrimination for fear of negative or harmful repercussions. Based on Rekha’s interviews with women, and after following-up and comparing documented versus undocumented cases, she concluded that women faced fewer problems when they did in fact report any form of misconduct to the police.
In order to improve data collection and increase the number of women who were reporting cases of gender-based violence, rural women of various communities in Madhya Pradesh have formed self-regulated watchdog groups.
In addition to community campaigns, the female-led watchdog groups are trying to encourage the police to join them in their reporting outreach efforts. The groups believe that if police accompany the home visits and explain the legal processes, then there may be an increase in the number of women who report personal cases of violence and discrimination.
Ultimately, Rekha thinks that the government should be held accountable for the violence and discrimination experienced by women in the state, given their duty to protect all citizens. She hopes that the data that they collect and the videos that they make can continue to drive change in the community.
“Fortunately, we see the situation for girls and women improving – we must just continue moving forward,” she concludes.
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