Video series: Grassroots Resilience in Action
We are glad to share this short collection of video stories produced by grassroots activists from around the world. These five storytellers were selected and supported to create videos about their realities, the inspiration and ideals that drive their brave work, the risks and stigmas they face continuously, and their challenges accessing funds to serve their communities and ensure their own wellbeing.
These stories represent and amplify grassroots voices and visions in their own way. They are honest, open, vulnerable and creative!
The activists involved aim to raise awareness mainly among the international community of civil society donors and allies about the power, impact and resilience of grassroots activists and groups. Grassroots activists are leading critical transformations, and their impact must be more visible and acknowledged! At the same time, they want to highlight their hardships, the need for improving the quantity and quality of resources directed to the grassroots, and the need for cultivating authentic solidarity and partnerships that are free from the transactional, colonialist, racist, invalidating and dehumanising dynamics that rule the current aid system.
The art of ‘criminal’ tribes
Credit: Keyur Bajrange, Budhan Theatre, India
“I was 18 years old. At midnight, I heard some noises outside my home. There were police beating hundreds of innocent people in my community, including children and women. We were scared. I did not understand what was going on. My father tried to call someone. At 5:30 am the noises from outside stopped. My father and his close colleague filed the lawsuit against the police for beating, lynching and abusing us for no crime. Our only ‘crime’ was that we belonged to the Chhara community which was one of the tribes along with 198 other communities in India which were notified as ‘born criminals’ under the Criminal Tribes Act 1871 by the British Government,” remembers Keyur Bajrange, audiovisual producer and member of the Budhan Theater.
That law was repealed in 1949 and the communities were denotified, but they continue carrying social stigma until now. Keyur produced this video to raise awareness about this stigma and to make visible the powerful impact of the Budhan Theatre, a community theater group confounded by his father and other members of their tribe. The members of the Budhan Theatre see themselves as ‘born artists’ and are using the power of their art to defeat those toxic narratives affecting denotified communities around the country, empowering them to raise their voice confidently against injustice and claim their human and constitutional rights.
2. What is it like being an activist in Nigeria?
Credit: Priye Diri, Dorothy Njemanze Foundation, Nigeria
One in three women are victims of sexual and gender-based violence before the age of 18 in Nigeria. Despite this grim reality, the government’s response to this crisis is often inadequate. Human rights defenders have stepped up to provide victims with round-the-clock support, responding to crisis calls, helping survivors and coordinating with medical, law enforcement, legal aid and other resources. Their work is crucial in making a difference for these victims, but at what price?
In this video, human rights defender and first responder, Priye Diri portrays five activists (including herself) who share what their work looks like. Their testimonies show how first responders put in hours of unpaid work, face a range of discriminations and stigma due to their gender, disability or other social identities and lack proper funding and support to do this work. They are seen as proverbial “magicians”– expected to arrive and save the day – but are not appreciated, recognised or supported. This leaves them vulnerable and exposed to secondary trauma, suffering from emotional and psychological effects. Their organisations often go through temporary closures due to lack of funding.
Priye calls on donors to provide funding that properly considers the well-being of first responders and recognises their invaluable work while making funding more accessible to grassroots organisations and people with disabilities.
3. We need to get more funding
Credit: Juan Donoso, Formando Rutas, Chile
Meet Ranita del Loa, an adorable, brave and persistent activist frog working to save the ecosystems around the Loa River, in the Atacama Desert in Chile, from the dangers of irresponsible mining. Ranita not only has to fight big mining corporations but also power dynamics and censoring from the donor that gave them funds to produce a documentary.
If you are an activist, this must sound quite familiar!
This animation by Formando Rutas, a locally led educational project about lithium mining in the Atacama Desert. They came up with the idea for this animation from their own experiences with some philanthropic institutions that provided funds for their audiovisual productions. Several times, they have been asked to exclude or reformulate phrases because the script is seen as too radical, or because donors prefer not to be associated with making direct accusations to big transnational corporations. Some donors have also asked them not to use terms such as structural racism, gender oppression, green extractivism or even decolonisation (for real!).
Formando Rutas wants to highlight that grassroots activists often must deal with censorship and even self-censorship in order to establish relationships with funders, losing their artistic freedom and blocking their imagination. They invite us to question if accepting grants in these terms is about political correctness, reverence to power, prudence, fear, cowardice, money necessity or everything at once?
4. Educating through image
Credit: Dieula Jean Louis, Media Elle, Haiti
During her first year as a student at the Ciné Institute in 2014, Dieula Jean Louis realised that women were not taken seriously in the audiovisual field. When they had the first opportunity to produce a short audiovisual for an assignment, Dieula witnessed how even female directors preferred male over female students to do photo direction, editing, production, directing and other tasks. When she was ready to graduate, she promised herself to train a generation of women in the technical areas of audiovisual production. Since then, she’s been part of the grassroots association Media Elle, which is training women in Haiti in different technical trades of audiovisual production and encouraging them to believe in their own potential in this industry.
In this video, Dieula shows the work of Media Elle and its positive impact on the women that participate in their trainings. These women are not only fighting stereotypes and discrimination in the audiovisual field, but they are often also facing gender discrimination and violence in their personal lives. Some women receiving trainings are now using their skills to promote women’s rights through video.
As an organisation with very limited resources, Media Elle calls on donors to invest more in grassroots-led organisations that play a critical role in responding to the often-neglected needs of their communities.
5. ‘Artivists’ video series
Credit: Andrés Quintero, Bogotart, Colombia
Urban artists played a fundamental role during the massive social protests that took place in Colombia between 2019 and 2021, helping to turn this social movement into an unprecedented symbol for Colombian society.
With the aim of recognising the great impact of their work as artists and activists, the communication, culture and social change platform Bogotart produced a series of videos called ‘Artivists’. These videos reflect the essence, ideals, trajectory and daily life of artivists who have raised their voices against injustices and the status quo for a more fair and egalitarian society where human rights and the freedom of expression are guaranteed for all.
The series presents these five artivists linked to the world of music, graffiti, photography and urban art: Natu Ral High, DjLu / Juega Siempre, Alexa Rochi, Gallinas Furiosas and Encuentro Verde Color Café. Go to our YouTube channel to watch all their videos!