#MeWeSyria: Youth-led storytelling for social change

The innovative programme, #MeWeSyria, empowers young Syrian refugees to share their narratives, voices and vision for change through storytelling and communications.

As highlighted in an article on the UNHCR Innovation website, the programme integrates therapeutic, artistic, and communications frameworks to develop self-awareness, promote recovery and wellbeing, and restore some control and hope in a world of chaos. Through collaborative storytelling exercises, these young people practice working in creative teams, leadership, and creative problem-solving skills, while honing their role as agents of change.

For example, youth in refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey are given video cameras to share their stories in creative ways. In the video below, young people film conversations between their future and present selves.

#MeWeSyria is so important for two key reasons. Firstly, by enabling young Syrian refugees to take the lead and tell their story through collaborative and creative ways, these young people can focus on hope, innovation and positive change. Furthermore, they help move the narrative on Syria away from extremism, loss, and helplessness towards healing, empathy, and resilience.

#MeWeSyria’s director, Mohsin Mohi Ud Din, powerfully expands on this in an Al Jezeera feature story: “In the process of storytelling we find the ingredients of peace and of change-making and sustainable development. Because without empathy, without pluralism, without self-expression – without these things being taught and exercised by Syria’s youth – then you’re just going to have a camp filled with young children that are going further and further into isolation, and further and further into extremism.

When we look at the world right now, we see a world on fire. We see the failures promoted. We see those that have the microphone and yell the loudest, they have the control of the stage. And if we let this continue to happen – if we let those with evil intentions have the microphone, have control of the video – we’re going to lose and miss out on supporting and valuing young change-makers and the creative enterprise that exists among Syria’s youth.” Watch the video below.

In addition, the programme creates a platform and avenue for the rest of the world to empathize with, hear and share the stories of hope and peace from these young people. In the UNHCR article, the authors – Mohsin Mohi Ud Din and Michael Niconchuk – expand on this point quite eloquently: “Just as we pay special attention to tragedy, we, as their audience, should learn to listen better, nurture and value their hope, and take their successes, and not their sufferings, as a rallying cry to protect, support, and value their change-making lives.”

Indeed, as the authors note, “Youth are not just consumers or containers. They too are the creators and curators.”

Learn more about #MeWeSyria via the following links:

 

 

 

Ethical image use: telling compelling stories while respecting peoples’ rights

Photo: Paul Akiko and his family with a polaroid of themselves in the village of Cuivir Rainha, Niassa, Mozambique. © WaterAid/ Panos/ Adam Patterson 

In the field of communications for social development, images are king. But depending on how they are used, and despite the intention, they can have positive or negative consequences. Video and photographic images can spur emotions, connect people and cultures, raise awareness, enhance evidence-based advocacy and boost knowledge, leading to increased stakeholder support, funding, partnerships and policy change. However, they can also reinforce stereotypes, misconstrue messages, cause bad publicity and negative controversy, and lessen stakeholder support and funding. Key questions in the development sector include:

  • How can organizations sensitively and fairly portray the needs they are trying to address?
  • How can organizations give a fuller, more rounded picture of the places in which they work?
  • How can organizations use emotive images of people and communities without compromising their rights?

As part of an organization’s content strategy, images should tell the full story – the trial and error, the failure and success, and the experiences and perspectives of all beneficiaries and stakeholders. And most importantly, all of these images should respect the rights of all of the people, communities and stakeholders included.

In order to address these aspects, it is important for organizations to develop video and photography guidelines, and more specifically, an ethical image policy. The NGO WaterAid recently released a comprehensive ethical image policy covering:

  • Accuracy – ensuring videos and photos are truthful
  • Consent – ensuring people fully understand why they are being photographed or filmed, and are comfortable with the process and outcomes
  • Longevity – how long the images should be used
  • Integrity – producing respectful images, avoiding stereotyping and ensuring privacy
  • Manipulation – what is and is not allowed in post-production
  • Child protection – ensuring that children featured in images are safe from harm
  • Equality and non-discrimination – ensuring that video and photographic practices include everyone, even the most marginalized

Read WaterAid’s take on ethical image use or download their ethical image policy for inspiration.

#IfMenHadPeriods: Brilliant campaign raises awareness of women’s sanitation

1.25 billion women don’t have access to a toilet during their period. It’s staggering facts like this that make me wonder why talking about menstruation is still so taboo worldwide.

To get people talking and to support the improvement of women’s sanitation, the NGO WaterAid launched a brilliant campaign last month called ‘#IfMenHadPeriods’. The campaign includes a series of funny videos where tampons become manpons, worn and promoted with pride. Check out the videos below.

WaterAid says: “If men had periods they would be considered a sign of virility, men would brag about them on Facebook, #ImOnMyPeriod would probably trend regularly on twitter, and tampon adverts would be fronted by celebrities.” Read more

The campaign also calls on us to sign the ‘Make it Happen’ petition, to help get women the dignity they deserve and help billions in need access safe sanitation. I signed it – have you?

Excellent way to present your results online

Here’s a straightforward yet effective way of presenting your results in the last year, courtesy of the NGO Concern Universal. Strong photos, clear and concise texts, relevant/significant content, multimedia elements — it has it all!

CHECK IT OUT. And below, you can check out the awesome music video they made for their Global Handwashing Day campaign in Nigeria, featuring Nigerian musician Sunny Neji.

UNICEF wins Webby Award

Congratulations to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for winning a Webby Award for best YouTube channel in the Public Service & Activism category! I highlighted some of UNICEF’s great videos in a previous post, which is why I’m very happy that they’ve received this accolade.

Winning a Webby is a big deal. It’s a high profile, internationally-recognized award, highlighting excellence on the Internet. Award categories include websites, interactive advertising, online film and video, and mobile.

Find out more about the Webby Awards

Check out great UNICEF videos below or visit the YouTube channel