Global Resources

Video for Development Communication

Author: E. Wickett
Publisher: Communication Initiative
Publication Date: Jul 2004
Video is an important tool for planners in agricultural innovation or infrastructure projects such as water and sanitation. Video can communicate the ideas of women to planners in societies in which social interaction is split along gender lines. The experiences of projects in Egypt and Pakistan illustrate how video transformed top-down initiatives into collaborative, grassroots projects, directed investment to intended beneficiaries and motivated communities to participate fully in their development.

In the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan in 1993-1994, GTZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft f?r Technische Zusammenarbeit - German Technical Cooperation) with the Public Health Engineering Department introduced a community-based project to install tubewells and encourage the introduction of household latrines. But women, the main managers and users of water, were excluded from village management and decision-making bodies since no man, foreigner or local was permitted to meet with them.

The aims of the 'Woman to Woman Video' project were to give women the opportunity to have their say across the physical boundaries of purdah (custom of seclusion), discuss what water and sanitation infrastructure could be afforded and participate in choosing the best water supply option for their households. A camera was used for filming and linked to a portable, car-battery- powered monitor for playback, with no editing required (At that time, most villages had intermittent or no electricity supplies).

This project showed: that older women would agree to be filmed by women; women rather than male engineers were the designers, implementers and overseers of construction; women farmers became motivated to build latrines on discovering they could produce safe agricultural compost, a valuable commodity, after eight months; and women did enjoy power and could exert pressure on men to invest money in household innovations. 'Woman to Woman Video' effectively gave women a strong voice in water and sanitation planning.

Video was also used in Egypt to motivate farmers and householders to implement change in the 'Rodent Control Project', which aimed to combat household rat infestation, widespread in rural areas. Mature women were identified in three regions and asked if they would act as innovators. A team of women agricultural engineers would return to the field later to film their houses and experiences. Meanwhile the mature women tried out different methods of rodent control. They were thus able to acquire experience with traps that permitted them to comment authoritatively on their effectiveness, and talk convincingly about the disastrous experiences of using lethal poisons such as strychnine in their houses.

Other rural women who viewed the completed video seemed more persuaded by women like themselves, than by male 'experts'. That was the major lesson: mature women from the rural community, not local elites, were the most effective communicators to their own peer group. After lobbying messages from the 'rat' video were televised and were so well received, they ran for two years.

Four reasons are proposed why video is essential in planning and implementing development:
1. Video allows planners and engineers to see problems 'on location' since they can 'enter' houses and analyse problems without ever leaving their chairs. It also gives planners and implementers a chance to canvass the views of prospective beneficiaries after the project has started, and monitor progress. No report could be this dynamic, so visually engaging nor so communicative.
2. In rural areas, many innovations are governed by cultural norms. Often women manage these domains yet have little opportunity to contribute to discussions on design. Strong, mature women will influence public opinion though most have not had the luxury of education. Women and men generally respond to interviews well, speaking passionately about an innovation or a problem they have solved. Knowledge of rural environments, and the issues that affect them, is rare amongst urban elites. Video is a window into those worlds, and an invaluable aid to intercommunication of problems and solutions.
3. Video can bring about change in behaviour, for example in Pakistan, after the project, women became able to install latrines and persuade men to pay for piped water supply.
4. Video, like television, can create mass appeal. For projects attempting to change traditional infrastructure or agricultural practices across a large swathe of the countryside, mass media can inform and persuade.