Digital storytelling

“If I had to say what was the most significant impact that APC has had on my organisation in the last four years, I would have to choose digital storytelling,” said Valentina Pellizzer, director of OWPSEE, a Sarajevo-based communications NGO and member of APC.

What is digital storytelling?

Every person has stories to tell, and it is in the telling that we discover how much of our experiences and learning we have in common with others. Telling stories can also have a profound impact on the story teller themselves – it is in the telling that we are able to interrogate and deepen our understanding of our experiences and assumptions about the world we live and work in, and also about ourselves. They can weave together our individual experiences to reveal a picture of a community, a group, a vision or a shared value.
The ‘digital’ in digital story telling, refers to the medium used to transmit stories. Digital stories are stories produced, stored and disseminated using digital media. The focus is on the story tellers’ control over the medium, choice of words (narration), pictures and music so that the process is as powerful for the story teller as the end product is to the listener. The APC Women’s Rights Programme (APC WRP) has used digital stories for documentation, evaluation, and healing and believe they are powerful tools for advocacy.

Why are digital stories useful?

Taking control of technology can be difficult if one has not had the access, confidence, language, training, time or space to experiment. The APC WRP has been training women to use ICTs since 1995 and knows that often technology will be disregarded by activists if it is not seen as a useful and applicable tool. The digital storytelling methodology simplified the tool so that it is accessible with a bit of training, which motivates people tell their own stories.

How it started

In 2006, APC member Women’sNet worked with survivors of gender based violence to process and produce their own digital stories. It was a powerful experience for trainers and participants alike and inspired the African network of WRP to host a similar workshop for the region in 2007. This workshop (Women’s Electronic Network Training or WENT Africa) brought together women who document the lives of women affected by violence. At the outset of the workshop the group soon realised that each women had their own story of violence to tell, and 12 short movies were produced.

Since then, APC has trained many people in the use of digital stories for activism, whether it is used by women to combat violence against women, people living with disabilities and their families or transgendered people to tell their stories, or used digital storytelling as an evaluation tool within the APC WRP’s Gender Evaluation Methodology (GEM). Given the power and popularity of this methodology, it is growing in use and application. As part of our work on the MDG3 project, the APC WRP hosted a Feminist Tech Exchange in 12 countries in 2010 to train women survivors of violence in digital storytelling.

At the 2008 Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) Forum, the APC WRP hosted the Feminist Tech Exchange. One track on digital storytelling saw a number of participants create digital stories. These were screened to and inspired over 2,000 people at the AWID to use technology for social change. Digital stories also form part of the Feminist Tech Exchange, a global campaign to help empower women through the use of technology. Women all over the world are now starting to use digital stories for healing, empowering and awareness-building for change. Due to the nature of the content, the risk of being identified can be a threat to the authors; therefore authors of the digital stories also have complete ownership of the story and can decide whether or not the story will be published online, used for educational purposes, etc. For some, the process alone of telling the story is what brings about healing.

Watch some digital stories:

Digital stories from sexual and internet rights activists created at the EROTICS India workshop with Point of View (2014).

Stories on the use of the new V female condom created at a workshop that was hosted by WISH Associates on behalf of PATH and facilitated by APC (2014).

Read about the FTX trainee who won an International Red Cross Young Reporters award with her digital story from the Pakistan FTX and watch her digital story about an acid attack survivor.

Created at the Feminist Tech Exchange in Pakistan convened by P@SHA and Bytes for All as part of the MDG3 Project: Take Back the Tech! to end violence against women and girls of the APC WRP (2010):

Pakistan acid attack survivor’s digital story runner-up for Red Cross award

Mother and daughter, by Nabeela Aslma

Watch some stories from the digital storytelling workshop for African youth with disabilities (2009):

Dark world

My unexpected teachers

Miss courageous

Created at a workshop hosted by APC WRP with Sonke Gender Justice and SWEAT with transgender sex workers in South Africa (2014):

The consequences and delinquencies of buying sex – Jamie

Bring on my call recorder – Mya

Life is outside – Pukkie

Joan’s story – Joan

The discreet bushveld – Lesly

Entrapment – Patra

The day I will never forget – Richard

Decriminalise sex work – Soso

Watch some digital stories developed by people using the Gender Evaluation Methodology .

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