Communication for Development: project updates

Maartje van Eerd and Alonso Ayala from the Urban Housing, Equity and Social Justice (UHES) thematic area of IHS, in collaboration with IHS alumni Dr. Sunitha Don Bosco & Dr. C. Velayutham from the Media Department of Anna University in Chennai are conducting an action research project in Chennai, India, called ”Communication for Development: Interventions in urban resettlement to improve livelihood outcomes for poor women”.

In a world where displacement and resettlement are on the rise, impacting especially women, who suffer more from unemployment and unsafe living conditions, this project aims to identify how to best support women from resettlement areas through ICT and create a device that makes that possible.

The objectives (detailed here) are to raise awareness of their rights, provide access to resources or support groups, give them information about services provided by the government around their new resettlement site and help them create new business opportunities. In a further stage of the project, we shared the research questions and components. Data has been collected in the pre-, during and post-displacement phases, to try to identify the needs, capacity, ways of communication and awareness level regarding resources at different times in this process of relocation.

Last month marked key milestones of the project, with a course, a conference and a documentary film screening in Chennai.

The course on "Urban resettlement from a gender, governance and livelihoods perspective" was held by IHS staff Alonso Ayala and Maartje van Eerd and Dr. Sunitha Don Bosco & Dr. C. Velayutham from Anna University. By combining different learning and teaching methodologies from participatory lectures to group work, field visits and exposure to international experts in the subject matter, the course equipped participants with knowledge on the governance of the housing sector and housing rights, helping them understand the link between housing policies, gender and livelihood.

This cycle of activities was closed by the "International Conference on Communication for Development: Interventions for Empowering Women", followed by the screening of a documentary film based on work in the area, called "Gender Dimensions on Resettlement in Chennai". The documentary is the result of a one-year participatory film project funded by DAIDA, on the gender impact of resettlement. The film uses storytelling as a tool for women to share the issues that affect them in the resettlement site and the initiatives they undertake to improve their lives.

This year, the project continues with the participatory component. The team will begin discussing, designing and-  later on - implementing the ICT intervention in collaboration with the resettled women. Collaboration is key to the success of this intervention. Given the type of vulnerable community that constitutes the target audience and co-participant of the project, it is essential to work together and ensure that technology is not inserted as a panacea for deeply-rooted structural problems, but as a tool for social change, which works if embedded in the community and their way of living.

Working together with the target group is in line with the chosen methodology for this project. Participatory action research means that the project team works with the affected women and their communities throughout the whole research process, not as subjects of study, but as much as possible as co-researchers. This would also result in an improved and strengthened relationship between the ‘expert researcher’, the affected women and their communities and other stakeholders (NGOs/CBOs/local gvt/private sector) and ultimately, would support re-balancing of power relationships in a fair and egalitarian way, to collaborate with local communities in defining and designing the intervention that will support their livelihoods.

stills from the documentary film screening in Chennai

photo taken during the film-making process

More information

The research is possible with the involvement of inhabitants from Perumbakkam, activists, scholars from MIDS, IHS staff Alonso Ayala and Maartje van Eerd, Sunitha Don Bosco and Velayutham Chandrasekaran from Anna University, IHS students, Anna University students and PhD students. The project is supported by the Ministry of Human Resource Development of India, through the SPARC initiative (Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration).

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