Whose City Is It Anyway?
Mar 2010 05

Four extremely tedious days, slogging from 10am to 6pm every day, but every single moment we put in was completely worth it and all the credit goes to the excellent and amiable mentoring of Samira Kanwar from Babble Fish Productions and to the Global Fund for Children for enabling her visit.

The entire training process made us see a whole new light on how much difference can be made through the process of film making and digital stories, and how we can make so much of a difference through this medium. It made us realise that that issues can create pictoral memories and have far more lasting power through video in people’s minds, we saw how using pictures, videos and music (well put together!) reaches a number of people.


In one of our exercises, we were divided into teams of two where we picked extremely different topics to make digital stories on. We ventured into the different aspects of film making, from scripting and storyboarding to actually going on the streets to shoot and finally culminating everything in editing. We managed to make two Short Films on two of the most unconventional themes possible, ‘Labels or Love?’ and ‘Small Things That Make Us Happy’. There is a place for each one of us in the world of film, we all found our weaknesses and strengths through these four days, some of us preferred communicating through photography and some of us through editing. I say this for everyone when I say, that, each one of us found our own space in the training (not forgetting those who were the most technically challenged amongst us)!!!!

These four days were an absolute delight and a learning experience for all of us, with perhaps the most rewarding part being Samira’s feedback on our work. As we went about the training, we realised that film making is not a piece of cake, and its NOT what we thought it is, it’s sheer hard work, and neither is it as glamorous as it sounds, it requires hard work, time commitment, patience but I speak for everyone when I say this that this was just our absolute favourite training ever!!

After the training we have now come to the stage where we know where we are with the project and where we want to reach. The Butterfly Project in the coming year will hold workshops on Digital Storytelling as part of a project we’re calling ‘Whose City Is It Anyway?’.


The aim of the project is to hold workshops and bring together young people who live in Delhi to discuss, challenge and share their views on questions of inclusivity, access to public spaces, discriminative practices and the stigma and prejudice that is experienced by young people different self identified communities and identities. We’re doing this because we want young people in the city to come together and through film, challenge some of the stereotypes through which we see each other. And hopefully, break down some of those barriers. Often our actions restrict other’s rights, and we hope to build a space in the city where there is more respect for diverse identities. This project is for you, if you feel disconnected with young people within this city, if you feel discriminated against, because of who you are and what you identify with.

In November, we plan to have the 3rd Butterfly Project Film Series, our Bi Annual National Film Festival for amateur and first time film makers, in which we shall show the digital stories we would have made in the 3 previous workshops conducted, along with entries from young people across the country. The project is an open one, and will bring young people together where they can express themselves and the issues that concern them through the medium of film and literature.

Disha Sethi

The Big (Clinically Insane) Idea!
Apr 2011 29

– Nitika Khaitan and Aastha Mathur

Photos by Nikhil Singhal

Three times a week, from November to February, a group of 10 college students would take time out of their busy schedules. They would land up at the Ummeed Aman Gharana (Run by our partner organisation, Centre for Equity studies) near Qutub Minar; armed with digital cameras, 2-page lesson plans and emotions that ranged from excitement to apprehension. Then, they would get down to business.

An outsider observing the barren field in the Home, from 5 PM every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday would have seen a remarkable change. One by one, 25 children would start abandoning their elaborate games and tyre swings, disappearing into a classroom lit by a few electric tube lights. There, he/she would have observed the same college students, playing, working and interacting with the children at times with patience and love and at times in utter bewilderment.

All of this was part of one big (clinically insane) idea – take a group of children, who’d never held a camera in their hands before and in 3 months, turn them into movie directors.

Not quite like Professor Higgins quest to turn Audrey Hepburn, a flower girl from the dirt and grime of London’s streets into a refined lady of the royal household; our motives, of course, were different- we believe  in Article 19 written by our nation’s forefathers –“All Indian citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression.” But we also questioned, ‘What significance could that possibly hold for those who didn’t have the means to speech and expression?’ And that’s when we applied to participate in the ‘Adobe Youth Voices’ program, run in partnership with The Global Fund for Children, which provided us with all the technical help we needed to work with the children through a medium of communication as powerful as film.

That belief and the need to answer that question is what kept us alive through day-long training sessions where we struggled with developing editing skills, the horrendous traffic jams we valiantly endured to reach our destination and of course, all the red tape that The YP Foundation convinced us was absolutely essential (it was only at the end that we realized they were right).

The YP Foundation - Butterfly Project

Even more monumental was the challenge of (as our 3 Year Strategic Plan so eloquently puts it) ‘bridging the gap.’ Our whole idea depended on the assumption that children with life stories we’d only witnessed in versions of films like ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ would open up to us and actually learn what we wanted to teach them. To our utter bewilderment, they did actually want to learn with just a tiny difference: when we said ‘digital stories’, they heard ‘Bollywood films.’

Session by session, they finally understood the difference and made their peace with the idea that they wouldn’t be filming song-and-dance routines but instead, would be telling a different story, one of ‘meri kahaani, meri zubaani.’ We use the phrase ‘made their peace’ because they didn’t actually think their life stories were interesting enough to be told. Mind you, they are, in fact, extraordinarily interesting.

With more sessions (on scripting and storyboarding), they also (finally!) opened up to us – giving us an insight into their likes, dislikes, hobbies, the importance of education and their aspirations – which invariably involved earning lots of money and then giving back a lot of the same money to people growing up just like them; a selfless aim missing in many of us growing up today.

Missing in so many of us today is the belief in ‘living for the moment.’ Pure unadulterated happiness, a sense of profound wonder and awe at holding a camera in their hands, a broad excited grin at the mere sight of crayons and a blank sheet of paper. They would observe silently, play noisily, listen patiently, enquire impatiently, participate enthusiastically in activities and reluctantly listen to lectures, critically examining what we said yet also unquestioningly accepting our big idea as worth their while.

The end result of this process? Well, as some wise guy said, ‘Knowledge is Power’. If in the future, they want to share their stories, they’ll know how to do it. If in the future, they want to work with a camera, they’ll know how to handle it. If in the future, they want to work in a group, they’ll know how to accommodate other’s opinions while forming their own. If in the future, they want to just reach out and express their thoughts, they’ll know how to use an incredibly powerful medium to do it.

As for us, the core group of volunteers working on this- our initial emotions of apprehension turned to amazement at the children’s incredible capacity to retain what we taught them, then to excitement at the thought of playing and learning with the kids and finally, pride – at our kids, who now understand not only lighting, camera angles and the manual mode on a DSLR, but are confident, vocal and unafraid to express their ideas and ambitions.

And that, for those of you who patiently read this up till this point, was our big clinically insane idea.

To read more about our Digital Media Partnership with the Global Fund for Children, click here. The project, run in partnership with the Center for Equity Studies will continue in 2011 – 2012, scaling to work with an additional 25 children and 15 peer educators, ensuring that 25 children who graduated from our 2010 class continue to work with digital equipment in an enhanced media programme. Watch this space, as we release the final films of our 2010 Class of Superstars!

Media literacy and Life Skills
Apr 2012 13

April 2, 2012, Delhi

Media literacy and Life Skills

When I joined The Butterfly project in 2011, my understanding of the project was limited to just honing of technical skills and imparting the same through the concept of peer-education. What I perceived of media literacy was more of just scripting, composing shots and editing of films and stories.

Kirti Gandhi, Photo: Rachit Sai Barak

I had a very restricted idea of how media and life skills were related, and if they were at all related to each other. But after working with the programme for almost 8 months now, I have realized the relevancy of life skills to media.

Media literacy would not only include composing a digital film or story. Each person interprets a message differently based on age, culture, life experiences, attitudes, values and beliefs which makes it imperative to consider such disparate understandings.  Therefore in order to ensure that the message or idea intended to be communicated is correctly interpreted, it is important to know how to express the idea and how to present it effectively for the target audience to be able to comprehend and appreciate.


A direct link 

Media being a highly creative tool of communication develops creative thinking and also allows critical thinking. It is essentially concerned with developing an informed and critical understanding of the nature of the media, the techniques used, and the impact rendered by those techniques. Also, when a particular story or film puts across an idea or thought, it allows people, who might think differently, to critically examine the idea and further encourages them to form conceptions which may prove to be contrary or similar to the one being communicated. Hence, media helps develop the process of critical examination in people, which not only makes it an effective but a highly persuasive and influential form of communication.

After joining the programme I realised that Media literacy, indeed, has a lot more to it which entails the ability to be able to interpret, analyse and appreciate the language of images and sounds.

Our team at Khushi Rainbow Home for Girls which comprises of me, Gagandeep and Baanie and a group of 10 girls from the Home – Zikra, Blessy, Roni, Shabana, Shabnam, Anmol, Sabya, Kajal, Hameeda and Sabroon, work collectively towards understanding how media makes us more resourceful, not only in terms of the tools and techniques we learn but also, by making ourselves more cognizant of the issues that surround us and affect our lives and of those living around us.

While working in the programme, I have realized what one requires to be able to communicate through any media is not just technical awareness but also cognizance of how media influences and defines our own lives and the communities we live in.


Developing an Understanding

The programme emphasizes not only on constructing media but also on creating meaning. The girls at the Home come from different backgrounds and have a deep understanding of the issues which they have seen around themselves. The use of digital stories helps them express reality through their own stories.

Storyboarding by Girls at Khushi, Photo: Rachit Sai Barak

Skills like problem solving, creative and critical thinking, awareness and sensitivity towards the issues of the communities the girls live in and ability to communicate these to the outside world, which the girls develop during the process, enables them to address & advocate for change and consequently become active participants in society.



The goal is to make the young girls we work with exercise their full right to expression. We envision the girls feeling empowered and safe enough to express themselves and use media to analyze, access, evaluate issues they feel passionate about. We hope that the media they create through this process strengthens their voices and encourages them to speak out loud. 

It would be appropriate to assume media literacy as a process of self-discovery, recognizing and channelizing the innate talent present in each one of us. The programme not only enables us to broaden our perspectives but further sensitizes us to the various tools and techniques that can be used to express and voice our opinions.

The team at Khushi, Photo: TYPF


– Kirti Gandhi, Peer-educator, The Butterfly Project


The Butterfly Project is a Digital Storytelling program that works with 20 boys (aged 13-20) and 25 girls (aged 13-20) from vulnerable backgrounds; and 14 peer educators from the National Capital Region (NCR) at the Ummeed Home For Boys, Khushi and Kilkari Rainbow Home for Girls, run by ‘Dil Se Campaign‘ (Managed jointly by our partner organizations, the Center For Equity Studies and Aman Biradari).


The peer educators – Mudit, Shaman, Ishan and Garima work at Ummeed Home for Boys with Armaan, Salmaan, Ramzan, Akshay, Sukhbir, Sanah Ullah, Sukhdev, Raja, Ismail, Vijay, Rohit, Rahul, Suraj, Fahim, Chand, Ameer, Sameer, Rakesh and Raju.

The peer educators – Munmun, Saral, Natasha, Meghna and Vidhi work at the Kilkari Rainbow Home for Girls with Sonam, Ameena, Basanti, Rihaana, Ruksaana, Kajal, Sonia, Nikita, Puja Raju, Puja Manoj, Manju and Mona.


To follow the other blog of The Butterfly Project, Click here.

To read about the ‘Dil Se Superstars’ Programme, Click here.