371.5 Understandings from the process: How can PV affect the agency of women?

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 3:10 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Namita SINGH , Communication and Systems, The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
The aim of this paper is to explore the link between Participatory Video (PV) practice, its use as a research method and its impact on women’s agency, while focusing on the sustainability of such agency. The paper is based on my ongoing PhD research, which is being conducted with long-term PV initiatives of two NGOs, working with women on gender issues in Mumbai and Hyderabad (India). The link between PV in practice and PV in research emerges from my professional field experiences with PV, and its use as a research method now.

In this, I draw on Amartya Sen’s Capabilities Approach to investigate if women’s participation in PV can build their capabilities to engage in bringing social change. Data gathered suggests that working with their own local communities through video-making, often encourages women to assume leader-like positions. They start exercising their agency in several ways, like, negotiating power relations within their community, presenting their views through videos, establishing dialogues in public screenings demanding resources for communities, and even advocating for their rights.

However, this building and exercising of agency is often restricted by several factors, like, limited participatory nature of the process, reduced engagement with communities, lesser opportunities for expression, inability to network and finding opportunities to fulfill personal aspirations, and constraints stemming from project boundaries. In such a case, sustainability of participant agency, and of the process itself, may become questionable. This paper looks into what kind of implications does this analysis have on the use of PV within research. In conclusion, the paper argues that for PV processes initiated to build the agency of participants for engaging in social change, both in practice and in research, there is a need to critically evaluate such aspects before assuming the process to be inherently ‘empowering’.