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The right to communicate

Communication plays an essential role in the flourishing of individuals, families, communities and nations


A group of seated women in India watch as a female facilitator demonstrates how to use a mobile phone to record stories

Members of the migrant community in Delhi learn how to use mobile phones to record their stories. Photo: Ideosync Media Combine

Three Bolivian women smile and laugh together at a training workshop

From: Participatory communication – Footsteps 117

How to provide opportunities for people to share their ideas and influence change

‘My village was Benipur in Bihar, India. When the water came at night it swept people away, along with their beds. No water to drink – with water all around. I remember people went hungry for days. It was the most painful time.’

These are the words of Renu Devi who, after devastating floods in Bihar in 1987, moved with her husband to an informal settlement on the outskirts of Delhi, where they still live today.

Renu recorded these words, and more of her story, in a short video after taking part in a project facilitated by local organisation Ideosync Media Combine. The participants learnt how to use mobile phones to take photographs, record audio and video, edit short photo stories and browse the internet. 

The purpose of the project was to build skills and open up new communication opportunities for people whose voices are rarely heard. 

One facilitator said, ‘The women cried as they recorded their own voices and spoke of the hardships they have endured. They told stories about their mothers, questioned gender inequality and learnt to report on garbage and education issues.’ The women also recorded stories about unjust landlords, the lack of electricity in their homes and the hardship of earning a living selling vegetables on the street.

Two seated Indian women wearing colourful saris practise recording their stories on a a mobile phone

It is important that everyone has the opportunity to make their voices heard. Photo: Ideosync Media Combine

Communication rights

Communication – including speech, sign language, braille, writing, pictures, gestures and other expressions – plays an essential role in the flourishing of individuals, families, communities and nations. Free and open communication contributes to scientific and social progress, and to great artistic and cultural achievements. It promotes sustainable development, gender equality, reconciliation and peace.

However, many millions of people do not have the means or opportunity to communicate freely. They may also lack access to relevant and accurate information such as health advice or information about new government initiatives. 

There are many reasons for this including discrimination, oppression, illiteracy, language barriers and, in this digital age, lack of access to technology. 

Taking a rights-based approach to communication means giving priority to people who are marginalised, and reducing inequalities so that everyone can take part in decision-making processes. It also includes holding people and organisations (including governments) to account when the right to communicate is not recognised as being important, or is not respected in the way it should be. 

‘Taking a rights-based approach to communication means reducing inequalities so that everyone can take part in decision-making processes.’

New skills

Participants in the Delhi project produced 37 stories in total. These stories have had several public screenings and have helped the women to establish relationships with local non-governmental organisations.

Poornima, a young girl from Badarpur, spoke enthusiastically about how she learnt to take better photographs and make videos that she could show to her community. She expressed the hope that other girls would be given the same opportunity. ‘Every girl should get a chance to do something in their life,’ she said, adding that she is teaching others so they, too, can tell their stories.

World Association for Christian Communication

The World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) promotes the right for everyone to communicate and to be in communication, in the same way that everyone has the right to food, shelter and security. WACC partners with local organisations across the world, including Ideosync Media Combine in Delhi, India.


  • Insights into participatory video By InsightShare

    This practical guide includes facilitator techniques and key games and exercises to promote learning. Download free of charge from or email [email protected] to buy a printed copy. Available in English, Spanish, French, Russian and Bahasa Indonesia.

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