At first glance she is the archetypical tribal woman with a tattooed face and heavily pierced ears. The next minute she is an empowered woman wielding a video camera with professional ease. Meet Namita Manjhi, a tribal woman from Orissa's Kandhamal district, who has had no formal education but can take pictures and even shoot a film.
Forty-one-year-old Namita is undergoing training as a cameraperson. “I am learning to be a grassroots reporter,” she says through her translator. “If there are more incidents of violence like the ones that occurred between August and December 2008 at Kandhamal in Orissa, she will be able to capture and document it,” the translator is quick to add.
Namita is part of a group of women who are being trained by non-government organisation Jan Vikas to be able to report from the grassroots and enhance their life skills. Wielding the camera at a two-day conference in the Capital that concluded on Tuesday, Namita's brief was to capture the deliberations on the Kandhamal violence that affected thousands like her.
“Though the violence did not spread to our block, we were scared with what was happening. So we left home and took refuge in the jungles. It took time for us to return home and now we are learning how to rebuild our lives,” she says.
Two years after the violence that left many dead, homeless and scarred, Namita is preparing herself for a new role. “I know shooting violence and capturing the pain of people will not be easy, but I am not afraid and I will forge ahead,” she says.
Paid Rs.1,750 as honorarium, Namita's training will be over soon and she will return to her job as a daily wage earner and a mother to her five children. “My husband knows what I do and he does not object to it. Once my training is over I will be able to return to my everyday life at home,” she says, as she zoomed in on a series of exhibits on display at the Constitution Club here that conveyed the brutality of the Kandhamal violence.
Keywords: Kandhamal violence