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Oh what a ride it has been!


I joke with my friends that I am a product of colonisation. My mother is of British descent, born in India in 1947 – the year India won her independence from the British Raj. And my father is of Sindhi descent, whose family migrated from the Philippines to Sindh (Pakistan) to India in 1947, as refugees in the newly partitioned India.

My mother is strong, having raised four of us kids on her own as a ‘phirang’ or foreigner (as White people are called in India), since my father worked abroad as a ship’s captain most of the year. I was raised differently from other Indian girls around me and found myself more vocal about gender matters.

As a teenager in Bombay in the early 90s, I noticed the strong impact that the onset of cable TV had on everyone's lives. Simultaneously, I noticed how dispassionate middle class urbanites had become about the extreme poverty around us and I decided that I wanted a career that somehow used media for good.

I got a scholarship to study mass communications and theatre at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota and later worked at Berkeley Community Media, as a manager for 6 years. At BCM, I became inspired by the idea of people making their own media and broadcasting their programs on local public access TV. This made me research whether community media existed in India and I learned that the concept was still nascent with community radio policy having only been recently publicised. From my experience at BCM, I felt that community media could be transformational in India and decided to move back so I could contribute to its development.

After spending some time on the flip side, working for corporate media companies in Bombay as a producer, I yearned to get back to the non-profit world that I was more meaningful to me. I began working with Video Volunteers, who were friends in the community media field in India, and got a glimpse into the challenges of training rural communities that lacked experience, education and technical skills in media.

Shortly thereafter, I was thrilled to learn that a proposal I had written earlier, won the 2009 Digital Media and Learning competition, sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation. Women Aloud Videoblogging for Empowerment or WAVE was born, and I started working around the clock to implement my experimental model. With the help of the $100,000 grant, we were able to recruit one young woman from each of India’s 28 states, buy video cameras, and train them to regularly ‘blog on video’ about social issues that mattered to them.

The website we set up at and the project has been more successful than I had imagined, and has deepened my conviction in what I do. Naturally, I was drawn to apply to the Voices of the Future training program because there is so much synergy between the missions of World Pulse and WAVE, and I am keen to expand my knowledge of citizen journalism so I can be a better trainer.



olutosin's picture

I smile

As I read your smile, a little smile that creep from the left side of my large lips and gradually culminated into a large smile that turns in a molar to molar grin.
I love success stories and I can now do to sleep.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town


bintu's picture


i am intrig by this inspired story. thats quite a voice. thats speaking for yourself for the good of others.
I saw a real woman in that story, who stop at nothing to achieve her ambition. You know one thing i like about she woman, is once she set up a goal, no is never an answer. I am pround to be among this generation of woman. never kill a bettle. I join you in the struggle to give women the right to speak for themself. To regain their lost voice. to raise up to the challenge of womanhood.
Passing it over from generation to generation. with no retreat nor surrounder,



Dear Sapna

Your roots and rich diverse bloods personify your path.

Good luck with your project and Indian women indeed proud of you !


Sahar Nuraddin

follow me @snuraddin
"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."
- Helen Keller

Pushpa Achanta's picture

Making WAVES!

Dear Sapana,

Delighted to connect and read your stories. India, US, Video Volunteers, WAVE, Gustavus Adolphus College, corporate and non-profit organizations, Mumbai, community media, et al are things I'm familiar with.

Keep going more places, girl...

Love, joy and peace,
Pushpa's picture

Sapana, I was very much

Sapana, I was very much inspired by your story. You were able to learn in the corporate, take it to were it was more meaningfull for you and help many along the way. Bravo!

In lake'ch

sapnashahani's picture

Thanks Diana!

I'm so glad you liked my story :) I really enjoy what I do, and wanted to get better at it, and still do, so I thought it would be a good idea to learn from the corporate world.
Sapna.'s picture

it really is, i've tried to

it really is, i've tried to hide from the corporate maybe the answer is to go "through" it.


Julene's picture


You sound like a very strong and capable woman, which is so very inspiring! I loved reading about how much you have done in your life to help others, and I wish you much luck with your new video website and all that you do :)

Rebecca Roberts's picture

Sapna, I'm so impressed and

Sapna, I'm so impressed and inspired by you ~ you're already meeting the VOF goals! I can't wait to check out your website. Thanks for using your intelligence, education and enlightened worldview to work for and with other women. Are you finding any benefits to your program as a result of your connections here on World Pulse?



sapnashahani's picture

Omigosh, thank you!

Becki, that's really nice of you to say... It's a really tough time for the project right now since our funds are running out and we're in the process of fundraising but aren't sure what the likelihood is of getting funded to continue. So it's really encouraging to hear your comment!

It's been great getting introduced to World Pulse. Mainly because it's very inspiring and encouraging to see so many women from around the world work towards similar goals. I'm always excited to see notifications of comments in my inbox. But the discipline of writing an essay a week is good too, and I'm sure I'll learn even more in the training program, if I get selected.


antoniamichaela's picture


Hi Sapna,

What a wonderful story. Your WAVE project sounds very interesting. I am curious to know what outcomes have arisen from the phenomenon of young women from each state in India video-blogging about social issues of importance to them.

Would your central goal for participating in the VOF programme be to build the skills to train the women you have been teaching to blog-by-video in using Web 2.0 etc.?

Lots of good luck in continuing to fundraise successfully for your project!

Warm wishes,


sapnashahani's picture

Thank you Antonia!

Regarding outcomes, we've heard lots of positive anecdotes from the girls we've trained as well as people they work with who comment about how confident they've become and how they're getting more involved in the community or seeking out further opportunities for media studies/ careers.

Yes, the main reason I decided to apply for the VOF programme was so that my own skills/ knowledge of citizen journalism would get strengthened so I could train better.

Thanks again for your kind wishes :)

antoniamichaela's picture


Thanks for your reply - wonderful that the women you've trained have become more confident and getting more involved in their communities. You must feel very happy that your work is providing platforms for these women to empower themselves. Good luck with the VOF programme!



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