In the process of planning my research project and experiencing my first few days in Delhi, I am starting to learn that adaptability is a crucial capability for working (and living) in India. Due to a change in schedule, the project I had planned on assisting with during my time in Delhi has been pushed back. This change is coming after an already significant shift in research focus from the project proposal I submitted to India China Institute to become a research fellow almost a year ago. Uncertainty is a reality of working in the real world, and when working with a small—three person—NGO like Nazdeek (the office I am consulting with for my research fellowship) flexibility is a necessity for success. After a series of discussions with the Nazdeek staff about what projects I could contribute the most to during my short time in India and how they might fit into my research requirements, we have identified three project that I will be developing for Nazdeek covering both of the primary campaigns they are involved with.
First, I will be developing a flier to be distributed among workers on a tea plantation in Assam. Assam produced close to 1/6th of the world’s tea, but legislation and customs derived from colonial era indentured servitude forces garden workers to live in abject poverty—making less than $2 USD per day for their work. Nazdeek has been working with an activist group in Assam to push for an increase in pay to reach a livable wage for the plantation worker. The current flier they have been distributing is predominantly text, which Nazdeek knows is not the most effective way to reach the garden workers. I will work on creating some infographics, re-designing the flier to increase legibility, and re-conceptualize the content to be more directed at the needs and interests of the worker; all of this will hopefully raise awareness and activate the community around the push for a wage increase.
Second, I will be working to create a series of infographics regarding the wage campaign in Assam that can be distributed digitally on social media, press releases, and newsletters to help Nazdeek raise awareness for the issue of unjust wage in Assam and promote the work they are doing nationally and internationally. These documents will be marketed towards an international audience, and will need to work as standalone images as well as in series when presented together. This is an interesting cross road between advocacy and advertising, but when the work Nazdeek is doing is so grounded in activism the two are essentially one in the same. An effective media series, in this case, will raise awareness of the issue and Nazdeek, hopefully drawing in support (financial and otherwise) for both the cause and the organization.
Finally, the largest project I will be involved with comes from a grant from Every Mother Counts—the event that inevitably shifted the timeline of my previous research project—funding Nazdeek’s work on maternal mortality in Assam tea plantations and in New Delhi slums. The grant will provide funding for Nazdeek to run workshops helping build the local capacities of women in Assam and Delhi to address human rights violations regarding maternal health, and train a network of lawyers in Delhi and Assam who will work with these women to pursue justice. The grant, however, require that Nazdeek produce a series of 12 “stories” over the course of the next year profiling individuals effected by the project. These stories can cover anyone (mothers, activists, lawyers, family members, health care providers) involved or effected by the work Nazdeek is doing, and can be told in any media—video, photography, or short story). I will be working on developing a feasible strategy for creating these stories, including a timeline of production, some content guideline, who to profile, interview questions and narrative arcs for each story, and which medium will be most effect. I will also be working on producing the first story to be submitted to Every Mother Counts—due mid-August—and released alongside Nazdeek’s announcement of the grant funding. This is a spectacular opportunity for me to explore both communications strategies and production of advocacy media. Although it is not what I originally signed on for, this project with Every Mother Counts encompasses almost all of the areas I am interested in pursuing as part of a professional practice, and I feel like I can really help Nazdeek (as a group of human rights lawyers) by bringing my expertise into this project. I am excited to move forward with all of these projects, and hope to post some reflections on the experience and process work as the content gets developed in the next few days.