The Malaka Creative Community study group consists of village youth, most of them young women, in a village in North Lombok. The group visits people in their homes to interview them on issues such as waste management, the quality of the local health post, and the PNPM Mandiri program. The group records these interviews on a handy-cam before presenting the material to other members of the community, also in their own homes. Following the presentation, members of the group record the responses of the audience. It’s an interactive process that allows people who don’t often take part in village meetings to express their opinions and hear what other people think.
In the late afternoon, Sarimah and several other teenage women arrive at the home of Mrs. Haerani, one of the longest-serving of the volunteer health workers at the posyandu, the community health post in the hamlet of Pandanan in North Lombok. They are carrying video cameras, recorders, and a tape deck, which they set up on a covered bamboo screen in the yard. Mrs. Haerani and a handful of friends and neighbors sit and watch them, chatting, snacking and drinking tea. Before turning on the video player for Mrs. Haerani and the other women, the video team records the following interaction between Sarimah and Mrs. Haerani on a handy-cam:
Sarimah: Do you know what this video is about? Do you know why we are making it?
Haerani: No, not yet. No one has told me about it.
Sarimah: We’ve been making a video to record people’s complaints and comments about the community health post. We went to the health post while people were waiting for service to interview them so we can present their views to the volunteer health workers, the village officials, the midwife and everyone else so we can work together to improve it. Do you think this video could help us achieve that?
Haerani: As long as the video makes women realize that they have to come to the health post with their babies, it’s a good idea. That’s the most important message to get across. That’s the only way they’ll know if their babies are healthy.
The video presentation starts. The interview subjects generally state that the quality of the service and medical advice they receive is adequate, but that there are no mattresses in the facility and that there is only a small, uncomfortable waiting area with no chairs.
Following the presentation, the video team again starts recording as Mrs. Haerani’s adds her opinions to those of the women on the video, "It’s true. The waiting area is not a nice place for pregnant women and women with their children to wait. They often have to wait in the sun or the rain. In the neighboring village, the health post has a proper veranda. It has a good roof and chairs for the women to sit in."
"We still don’t have a proper building or the right equipment. That means women don’t want to come. Because of that, the volunteer health workers have to work harder in door-to-door campaigns to make them come. But we don’t have enough volunteers for that, either. It’s really hard finding women who are prepared to volunteer unless you pay them a transportation allowance," add Haerani.
In response, Sarimah, Nanda, Rifa and Lilik ask a few questions about the allowances and the difficulty of finding volunteers. Mrs. Haerani tries to answer, though some of the other women cut in and interject their own thoughts. Sahrun, the only man on the video team, keeps on recording as
Sarimah says, "We are making this video by going around to people’s houses to ask women, particularly pregnant women, about their pregnancy and health of their children, how often they take them to the health care post to be weighed, and whether they go every month or not. We are focusing on interviewing women. As well as pregnant women and mothers, we are interviewing the volunteer health workers to find out their opinions about how well the health care post works, whether they have the equipment and supplies that they need, and what problems they face. Once we’ve integrated the new material with the old material and conducted more interviews, we’ll be ready for the final presentation. We’ll invite the village head, the PNPM staff, and everyone in the community."
Sarimah and her friends are making the video as part of the Creative Communities project, which supports community groups in rural Indonesia in developing cultural media and forms of creative expression such as community video, theater, oral traditions, and mural painting. The idea is to use these media and forms of expression to encourage people to consider and discuss issues that have an impact on the community and to work out ways of addressing these issues.
The PNPM program is also intended to support communities to consider, discuss, and resolve issues of significance to the community. Another goal of the Creative Communities project is to encourage members of the community to participate in the PNPM program.
According to Roni Iwan Setiawan, the Creative Communities facilitator for North Lombok, community video is an effective means of involving people who don’t feel comfortable expressing their opinions and ideas through formal, established communications channels and forums.
"I think community video is a good way of getting people to talk about important issues. A lot of people can’t be bothered spending the time, energy, and money to attend village meetings. A lot of the time they think there’s no point. They don’t like speaking in public, or they think no one’s going to listen to what they say anyway," said Roni.
The whole idea of community participation is usually built on attendance: 'if you want to have your say on an issue, you have to go to a meeting to talk about it'. Community video changes the paradigm. Rather than making people come to the village hall, a video team can go to visit them in their own homes, where they feel comfortable and in control. You can record their ideas on an issue and present these ideas to other people. The other people can then respond in turn. So it’s not just about the team making a video and presenting it to a passive audience, it’s an interactive process that involves people. The people making the video and the audience are the same people.
At village meetings, the people who get up and talk are often respected individuals in the community, those with power and prestige. They are often older men with some official position and economic power, or at least they have close relations to such men. The Creative Community project hopes to involve different groups of people, including young women and men, people with bright, original ideas who don’t usually get listened to. Roni said that when he first worked to establish the community video project in Malaka, he deliberately targeted youth.
"We went to a football match between villages and to the strategy meetings held beforehand. We interviewed and videotaped the kids. We edited the tape and played it back to them. The kids got to see how video could be used to record and document something they were involved in and really into. We wanted to get young people to participate. They aren’t so busy with work and with their families. They are still passionate about things. And they usually understand technologies such as digital cameras, videos, and social media better than their parents. For once, they have an advantage over people older than them," Roni stated.
Roni’s first attempt to show the young people how community video works involved a soccer match, an activity dominated by adolescent males. At first, the community video team consisted mostly of these young men. However, after a very short time a lot of them became bored and dropped out. Two teams of 15 youths from two hamlets in Malaka village eventually participated in the activities, which took place from April to June 2013. Their video works were presented in three screenings and exhibitions in the village.
After the completion of these activities, five members took the initiative to develop an additional activity: a video survey on the health services provided by the community health post, which was meant to support the PNPM Generasi program. Of the five members, four were young women.
As Sarimah said, "I think girls are more interested in the community video project because boys are too busy with their own activities. They play football and perform in bands. There aren’t so many activities for girls, so the girls were keener on sticking to it."
According to Sarimah, at the beginning many people had trouble taking a group of young women with video cameras seriously and didn’t see the point of taking part. However, attitudes have begun to change.
"At first, people in the community weren’t very supportive. Some people didn’t understand what we wanted from them when we tried to interview them and thought it was a waste of time. Other people said that we should pay them money if we wanted to interview them. But we kept at it anyway. I think people’s attitudes are changing now. I think people are beginning to see that the video production actually helps everyone in the village. For example, just recently, after we began making a video about the health post, a local bank donated money for free medical services. People in the village saw that the video helped make that happen. So now they think there’s some point to it," said Sarimah.
The Creative Communities project is a pilot project supported by the PNPM Mandiri program, so when Sarimah and the other members of the study group first became involved they had frequent contacts with H. A. Ichwan, who at the time was serving as the head of the PNPM’s village-level Activities Management Unit (TPK). They pointed out to him how people in the village had a lack of knowledge and understanding of the PNPM program, which Mr. Ichwan says was largely due to a former village head’s own ignorance and unsupportive attitude.
"We found that most villagers didn’t know much at all about PNPM, so we spent a whole day making a video that we called 'A day searching for PNPM'. We went out and asked ordinary members of the community what PNPM was, and none of them could answer the question. So we visited the village head, and he couldn’t answer, either. We met with the workers who were actually involved in building the road that was a PNPM project. They didn’t know what PNPM was, either. So we went to the sub-district office to meet the sub-district facilitator," said Sarimah.
We showed him the video we had produced and discussed our findings. He tried to explain the principles of the program and why it was important that the community get involved. He also explained how they could attend meetings. We recorded his responses and edited all the material that we had collected to present to members of the community in their homes. Then we recorded their questions and responses to the explanations provided by the facilitator. Finally, we gave a final presentation of our findings to a group including the village head and other members of the community. That’s the basic methodology that we use.
Since the making of that first video, in October 2013, Mr. Ichwan himself has been elected to the position of village head. Perhaps not surprisingly, given his previous involvement with both PNPM and the study group, he remains strongly supportive of the project.
"I saw that the video helped make people understand the program better. Since I’ve been the village head, I’ve given my full support to the study groups’ activities. Apart from helping people to understand PNPM better, it’s a useful tool for getting people involved in other activities. We could use it to get people to manage rubbish properly or to encourage people to grow vegetables in their gardens. We could use it to make sure that kids get fed properly, or whatever issues we all decide are important," Ichwan stated.
At present, the community video study group’s activities are supported through Creative Communities. Like most pilot projects, the funds to support the activities won’t last forever. What happens to the project after the pilot study finishes?
"So far, all the village administration can do is to provide the study group with a place to work in the village hall. We’ve given them some chairs and a table. We give them paper and let them use the printer. In the future, I’d like to see the village provide funds to buy equipment and so on. I’d like to see the team integrated within the structure of the village organization so that they are eligible to receive funding from the village budget. We could pass a resolution to recognize that the group plays a role in getting the community involved and becoming more aware. The group could be officially recognized as being a communications and public relations work unit. That way, they could keep on doing what they are doing now without support from the pilot project," Ichwan said.
To view the videos produced by the Creative Communities Study Groups in Malaka, please visit the following sites:
Sehari Mencari PNPM (“A Day Searching for PNPM”): A video prepared by the Pandanan study group to determine how much villagers knew about the PNPM program, with input from the village head and PNPM program implementers.
Visual Presentasi Dusun Pandanan (“Visual Research Presentation in Pandanan”): A video focusing on waste management shows the process of presenting videotaped material to members of the community and to the village head to elicit further feedback and input, which is recorded and integrated with the final product.