Varta Trust offers orientation, sensitization and training sessions – one-off and series of workshops – on gender, sexuality and related issues to NGOs, educational institutions, government agencies, corporate bodies and other groups / agencies.
This service may be offered in lieu of donations to Varta Trust, on the basis of individual consultancy arrangements (on behalf of Varta Trust), or in relation to a grant of funds. Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your requirements and other details.
Programme objective: This six-month programme aims to build communication, documentation and journalistic skills among youth and other groups marginalized around gender, sexuality or other social markers. The focus is mainly on individuals from beyond metropolitan centres and those who have had limited educational or other socioeconomic opportunities. In the process the idea is also to enhance the employability of the participants.
Programme content and activities: Training workshops (including online ones), fieldwork, mentoring and writers workshops on issues around gender, sexuality, sexual and reproductive health, mental health, disability, social security, human rights, communication, documentation, storytelling and citizen journalism are part of the programme. Initial training activities may be spread over a month.
Activists, social workers, academics and practitioners with several years of experience from relevant spheres conduct the training activities. While English is the primary language for the training curriculum and activities, other Indian languages that the participants are more comfortable in are also used.
A four to five-month mentored content generation phase follows the initial training phase. The participants – Varta Community Reporters or VCRs – are encouraged to contribute articles, audio-visual material, photographs and graphics to the Varta webzine (or other online publications), usually on a monthly basis. The VCRs are paid a small monthly stipend to help them meet expenses involved in fieldwork and reporting activities, and as an incentive in addition to seeing their contributions published.
In the final month of the programme, an evaluation is conducted which includes both individual qualitative assessments and larger group assessment. Participants are provided certificates of participation on request as well as inputs on further skills building and exposure to other training programmes. The evaluation also involves assessing the advocacy impact of the stories published in Varta, including amplification of the stories when they are republished or cited in other publications.
Programme specifics: Training programme announcements are made usually once a year (at the start of the calendar year). Training is usually free, though participants may need to pay a nominal registration fee and use some of their own equipment (like computers, smart phones or cameras). Only a small number of participants are selected for each edition of the programme, with the primary requirement being a high level of commitment to complete the programme!
Selection: Applicants are usually asked to submit a short written, audio or video document explaining their motivation for participation in the programme. They may also need to demonstrate an aptitude for the issues and skills covered by the programme through submission of past or new works (in text, photographs, graphic art or audio-visual material).
There are no requirements for a minimum educational or professional qualification. However, some degree of fluency in English and / or at least one other Indian language is required. In terms of age, participants must be at least 18 years old. In each edition of the programme, in keeping with the position statement of Varta Trust, an effort is made to ensure as much diversity as possible in the selection of participants. There is no bar on repeat participation.
The first edition of the VCR Programme was part of a larger 20-month training, research and advocacy project to support economic inclusion of queer people in Manipur. The project was called Sexual and Gender Diversity, Welfare and Precarity in India: Impact, Advocacy and Process, and it ran from August 2016 to March 2018. It was led by All Manipur Nupi Maanbi Association (AMaNA), a transgender women’s collective in Manipur, and Empowering Trans Ability (ETA), a support forum for transgender men, lesbians and bisexual women in Manipur.
Implementation was supported by ally NGOs SAATHII, Imphal; CORE Manipur, Imphal; and Varta Trust, Kolkata. The project was supported financially and technically by the Sussex Social Science Impact Fund, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK.
The Manipur pilot of the VCR Programme aimed to provide continuity to outreach and advocacy efforts started under the economic inclusion advocacy project. Stories, photographs and audio-visual material produced by the VCRs covered cultural, legal, health and sanitation issues around economic exclusion of queer people, and were published in Varta webzine under a column called Manipur Diary (see sample stories here and here – editorial notes at the end provide information about the advocacy impact of the stories).
Six individuals associated with AMaNA and ETA started the programme and three completed it. The first edition team can be seen in the photograph below. From left to right in the front row are: Moirangmayum Asha (participant), Shampa Sengupta (resource person), Thingnam Anjulika Samom (resource person), Oinam Yambung (participant) and Randhoni Lairikyengbam (resource person). In the second row are: Santa Khurai, Moirganthem Ton, Bonita Pebam and Lily Khumbongmayum (all participants). Behind the camera: Pawan Dhall (resource person and VCR Programme Coordinator).
The second edition of the VCR Programme was part of a project focussed on the creation of an online searchable database (or locator) on queer friendly sexual health, mental health and legal aid service providers in India. The project (ongoing) is a three-way collaboration between Varta Trust, Kolkata; SAATHII, Chennai; and Grindr For Equality, Los Angeles.
This second pilot programme aimed to facilitate community monitoring of sexual health, mental health, legal aid and social welfare services in India, especially with regard to how queer-friendly these services were in their functioning. The training phase of the programme was completed through a series of online workshops during February-April 2019. The content generation phase lasted from April to July 2019, and the stories written by the VCRs were published in Varta under a column named VCR Diary (see sample stories here, here and here – editorial notes at the end provide information about the advocacy impact of the stories). More stories under the second pilot may be published beyond July 2019.
The full team of the second edition of the programme (four participants from three states Assam, Manipur and West Bengal, and five resource persons) can be seen in the graphic below (graphic credit Prosenjit Pal). The participants included Bonita Pebam from Imphal, Rith Das from Kolkata, Sadam Hanjabam from Imphal and Shivalal Gautam from Guwahati. The resource persons included Debjyoti Ghosh from Chittagong (in Bangladesh) and Kolkata, Pawan Dhall from Kolkata, Shampa Sengupta from Kolkata, Thingnam Anjulika Samom from Imphal and Rafiquel Haque Dowjah from Mumbai.
The third edition of the VCR Programme is focussed on documenting and reporting how queer people, other vulnerable groups, and their allies are responding to the hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic and associated lockdown in India. It also involves strategic dissemination of the published reports for community morale building, experience sharing and advocacy to ensure that affected people gain access to resources for immediate survival and long-term self-sustenance. This edition of the programme is being supported by CREA, Delhi.
The training and content-generation phases of the third pilot programme took place concurrently from May to September 2020. All training activities in this period were conducted online. The third pilot was extended till the end of October 2020. Subsequently, the third pilot was extended again till March 2021 with further training and content-generation activities. But the coronavirus pandemic caused long delays and the pilot was completed in June 2021.
Read Coronavirus Outreach News from ‘Varta’, a pre-story published in Varta that inspired the third pilot! Stories contributed by the VCRs are being published under a column named Coronavirus Diary. See sample stories here, here and here – editorial notes at the end of the stories provide information about the advocacy impact of the stories.
Read article No Lockdown on Domestic and Community Violence against Queer People during Coronavirus Pandemic written for The Gendered Contagion: Perspectives on Domestic Violence during COVID-19, special edition of the Gender, Human Rights and Law journal, published by the Centre for Women and the Law, National Law School of India University, Bangalore and partner agencies (2020 edition). This article is based on the stories documented through the third pilot of the VCR Programme.
The full team of the third edition of the programme (seven participants from Assam, Odisha and West Bengal and three resource persons) can be seen in the graphic below (graphic credit Pradosh Dash). The participants include Bana from Bhubaneswar, Chandan Kumar Nayak from Bhubaneswar, Joyita Mondal from Islampur, Pradosh Dash from Bhubaneswar, Shivalal Gautam from Guwahati, Sudipa Chakraborty from Kolkata and Sukanta Banerjee from Bally. The resource persons include Pawan Dhall and Suchandra Das from Kolkata and Rafiquel Haque Dowjah from Mumbai.
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