Simmi Dixit talks about empowering minorities through Me in Media
On Tuesday, September 13, a free public dialogue on how to challenge stereotypes and create a more inclusive city through media takes place at the Vancouver Public Library. To learn more, I interviewed Simmi Dixit, the National Coordinator of Multimedia & Multiculturalism (M&M) at the United Nations Association in Canada (UNA-Canada) which is co-sponsoring the event with Schema Magazine.
Dixit completed her B.A. in Human Rights and Political Philosophy at Carleton University. After graduating, she moved to the Philippines on a CIDA internship to become a Research and Advocacy worker with Migrant Forum in Asia. Her exposure to human rights and labor migration issues led Dixit to complete her Masters in Migration Studies at the University of Sussex in 2009. Eventually, she moved to India to work at the Aajeevika Bureau, a non-governmental organization advocating for migrant workers.
Currently, Dixit lives in Ottawa where she is a member of the Venus Envy Bursary Fund Board of Directors and operates her own desert catering business.
Simmi Dixit: We’ve invited four panelists to speak briefly at Me in Media about their experiences working in, critiquing and even challenging how ethnicity is portrayed in Vancouver. After their presentations, CBC Radio producer Jennifer Chen will moderate an open discussion about how we can use media to move forward, becoming more inclusive and representative.
The event is free and open to everyone—we hope that a broad range of folks from the community comes out to hear and participate in a lively, candid discussion.
TB: This event is part of UNA-Canada’s drive to foster inclusion in media through its Multimedia Multicultural Initiative (M&M). Why did UNA-Canada feel it was necessary to launch M&M?
SD: We conducted a large-scale study, surveying youth across the country about their sense of belonging in Canada. Overwhelmingly, we heard that youth felt that their voices and multicultural communities were inadequately represented in the media. Content is still filtered, negating and marginalizing many in the process.
While we definitely see a lot of great milestones to celebrate like the rise of ethnic media outlets in Vancouver, there’s still more room to grow and new directions for that growth to occur. Even with the explosive growth of ethnic media here, there seems to be little dialogue among different ethnic groups—resulting in the creation of silos.
As a result, UNA-Canada decided to implement M&M, a national programme that links ethno-cultural communities with media organizations in seven regions across the country. The programme is supported by Regional Coordinators placed on the ground in each of these areas.
We aren’t the experts so we rely on each local community to tell us about what is important to them and to build projects and activities that create meaningful dialogue. For example, Vancouver’s Me in Media event is a public town hall created by and for the community at large.
TB: Besides our event in Vancouver, what are other communities choosing to do?
SD: We’re active in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Halifax, Calgary, Regina and—of course—Vancouver. Since each of the communities is different, we’ve seen a broad range of programming from public panels in Ottawa and a series of film workshops for youth in Montreal to activities with immigrant support groups in Halifax and workshops for at-risk Aboriginal youth in Regina.
In addition, M&M manages an internship programme, placing 21 youth from across Canada with mainstream and community media organizations. In fact, we just finished our first cycle of internships.
TB: How is the internship related to the events that are being organized across the country?
SD: The internship is the most important and, I believe, unifying element of the M&M programme. We select interns from each of our seven participating regions as well as a media outlet in the same city. It’s six weeks of hands-on experience for these youth, giving them a chance to participate in the industry as more than consumers and to understand the process involved in creating media content.
Before the internship, we bring all of the interns together for a briefing and workshops. After they complete their internships, we organize a debrief to provide a space for the interns to process their experiences and look at their next steps.
The interns also represent the organization in all activities in that region. For example, Shima Ghailan will be speaking at Me in Media about the discussion she’s had with youth and their reactions to media coverage, as well as how each of us can become a hub for change through different forms of media—from grassroots to mainstream outlets.