The nice fellows from the TATA Tea Jaago Re initiative took my interview on the Importance of Social Media for Non-profits. I must have said something really nice, considering 67 97 people liked it by clicking on facebook thumbs up button. Though the opening line has a mention to the Bell Bajao campaign, the interview was conducted at a personal level. I mostly spoke about my personal journey from being a blogger to a social media activist.
Read the full interview here.
Below is some portion of the text.
Sanjukta Basu was among the few early women who started expressing themselves on the Web. Also a TED India fellow, Basu was also one of the firsts to realise that the digital media could help bring about a change. She worked as the community outreach and internet program coordinator for Breakthrough, the nonprofit behind the Bell Bajao campaign. In this interview with Jaago Re, she tries to explain the winning idea behind Bell Bajao—which just got Cannes Lions award for its social advertising— and how social media could enable us to empower women.
Sanjukta Basu, Photograph: Jace
Q. You’ve been on TED INDIA. How was it? Please share some of your experience.
A. Yes, I am a TED India fellow. It was great and a different kind of experience watching all those videos online and actually being there with the crowd. The speeches and conferences online are very motivating and everybody is very friendly there. The fellows get a lot of attention.
I have quit my job and now I am a freelancer. I am trying to be a social entrepreneur. My focus is going to be social communication for nonprofit.
Q. So how did all this start?
A. It all started when I began writing my blog five years back. At that time blogging was new in India. I just took it up as a casual thing and did not think that it would do anything great. I noticed that a lot of people were reading my blog which I had not expected. It was a personal blog where I vented my feelings. I wrote about personal matters like my relationship with men, sex and other such topics which women are not supposed to talk about openly. People really liked my writing and a lot of female readers said that they liked my boldness. They said that they wanted to talk about such issues but could not. I realised that with this communication platform I had created for myself I was also motivating others to come out of the closet and ending this divide between personal and political as a lot of issues related to women do not come out because they are not willing to talk about it. Blog gave me a platform to reach out to the people without using a radio or TV.
Q. Your generation started blogging to express themselves. Has it grown up now? Is it the first to realise that this digital media could really bring about a social change?
A. In the urban areas digital media is being used in very interesting manner but there are many who are just using social media for being there. They don’t want to bring about any change in the society. But that is fine because everybody doesn’t have to change the world. It is a huge achievement that so many people are expressing themselves on social media because we live in a repressed and suppressed society. We are told not to speak up against elders or in school so Facebook and Twitter have brought a change in that and also our relationships and I see it as a positive change in the society.
Q. People say that the digital media is empowering those who are already empowered.
A. Yes there are a lot of people who do not have internet access but they are slowly opening up to this media and I think that the gap can be filled. I am myself working with nonprofit organisations at grass root level and bringing it on the digital medium. So, people need to go out and understand how nonprofit organisations and social entrepreneurs are working in the rural areas and bring these stories online rather than just talking about films and gadgets. For example, if you have a blog you can write about an auto rickshaw driver or a taxi driver and other such people, who cannot take their stories to the internet as they don’t have time for blogging while struggling for their two square meals. But those who have time and the means they can bring out these voices and the stories.
Q. What were the challenges that you faced during Bell Bajao’s initial days?
A. Bell Bajao had a website and we were also present on Twitter and Facebook but the challenge was that nobody wanted to take interest in it as NGO’s are perceived as boring and working for some agenda by the youth. Also, domestic violence is a sensitive issue and people did not want to talk about it.
However, the reason that Bell Bajao became a success was that we were not communicating in the typical NGO language; we talked about day to day things like regressive TV serials etc. We used more friendly language. We also partnered with TV serials and brought that on Facebook and Twitter. Through our social media we were talking about the work that we were doing and we were also sharing and listening to the people. We were more conversational and getting into a dialogue. We replied to all the links and comments and had discussions on Twitter. We invited people to write on the blog and comment. The website today as it stands every piece is about taking some action like upload a video or write a blog. So all this motivated people towards the cause.
Q. What were your goals for the campaign? Were you chasing any numbers?
A. We were not chasing numbers as they don’t matter on social media as you can have quality followers or thousands of followers who are not even listening to you. We realised that we needed quality followers who were genuinely interested in the cause so that they will participate and spread a word about the cause. For example, Save The Tiger campaign has got a lot of followers but that is not helping the cause of saving the tigers. So you need genuine and constructive participation.
Q. What do you think is the main hurdle in women empowerment?
A. There are many hurdles but the main would be the gender roles that we have assigned to women by the society like they are house makers, care givers and they are more suitable to stay at home while men have to work. But women can go out and work and men can take care of children, they can also cry and be more sensitive. This mindset of what is appropriate for man and woman and what is not needs to be changed. Everybody should be accepted the way they are. I also believe in homosexual rights, it’s a personal choice and society should not have a say in this.
Q. So you are enjoying your work?
A. I am not working right now but yes, I am happy with what I have done so far as I did on my own calling and no one helped me. I did it without any self interest. I keep meeting people from various NGOs and ask them if they want any help with social media. But there is still much more to achieve as I want to use social communication for nonprofit organisation and help in bridging the gap between urban and rural and digital and non-digital.