Giving communities a voice: one woman at a time


By Natasha Msonza

Everybody has a story tell; but not everybody gets the opportunity to tell it. Stories are the medium through which we connect to the lives of others and exchange experiences. Video, in particular, is one of the most powerful ways of expression.

A group of young women, under a project dubbed Zimbabwe Women Making Mobile Media (ZWM3) – is using the power of video – created through mobile phones – to tell the often sidelined stories from their communities, with a particular focus on amplifying the voices of women and their lived realities.

The ZWM3 is a fellowship for women, by women, looking to promote agency, self-expression and women’s participation in digital storytelling through building the capacities of young women storytellers in effective digital media use and gender sensitive reporting. It is about the enhancement of the digital literacy skills of young women, to strengthen their practices in using mobile devices for nonlinear storytelling.

As mobile storytelling apps are increasingly changing how stories are told and how voices are heard throughout the world, the ZWM3 seeks to give voice to the many tales of everyday life and the socio-economic and political issues as experienced by ordinary people.

How it started

Between 2013 – 2015, the Mobile Community Zimbabwe project – a citizen journalism school – trained over 120 young Zimbabweans in mobile digital storytelling using a free mobile app called StoryMaker. It was a powerful experience both for trainers and participants alike as some really compelling, untold stories emerged from Zimbabwean communities. Following this, MCZ has cultivated a nation wide network and community of digital storytellers harnessing the power of technology and multimedia to tell the alternative Zimbabwean story from marginalized communities.

The successful implementation of this project inspired the creation of a sub-project called the Zimbabwe Women Making Mobile Media (ZWM3), which also endeavored to tell the untold community level story, however applying gender-sensitive and feminist lenses. Ten young women fellows were then selected from the existing alumni, which enabled us to achieve a geographic diversity of participants.

The thinking behind ZWM3 was that applying a feminist lens would bring into sharper focus community life narratives, exchange of experiences as well as self-expression of marginalized voices as a way of creating alternative sources of knowledge.

Located at the intersections of mobile technology and storytelling, the ZWM3 project envisions a future with endless possibilities, wherein it will be a lot easier to document, preserve and pass along the important stories and histories of our communities.

The Project

With support from HIVOS and Free Press Unlimited in partnership with Her Zimbabwe, ten young women were trained for 5 intensive days on a comprehensive curriculum incorporating gender sensitive reporting, effective storyboarding, story pitching and scriptwriting using digital storytelling methodologies. They emerged from this experience with a better understanding of both digital tools and what gender sensitive reporting entailed.

Following the training, the fellows are undergoing a 5-month mentorship process within which they get guidance from their mentors in and are expected to produce four mini-documentaries on stories of their choice that they perceive to be pertinent community issues.

The technical aspects of the training integrated StoryMaker and other mobile apps such as VivaVideo, that would enable participants to use mobile phones to collect, create and disseminate stories in a compelling manner, and with emotional impact.

With the freely available mobile apps, the fellows capture and edit their stories using optimized mobile devices and with just a few clicks, proceed to publish them directly to their YouTube accounts for wider dissemination over social networks. The simple editing tools available within the StoryMaker app for example, make it possible and easy to combine video segments with photos, music and other related content to help the young women produce compelling stories. Moreover, all editing happens on the device, making the process convenient and uncomplicated, as there is no requirement for any sophisticated softwares or equipment to achieve this.

Each of the mini-documentaries is anything between 2.5 – 3 minutes long, and is predominantly made using the StoryMaker app. All the stories produced by the young women are available here and here .

At the end of the project in 2016, there will be a public screening of some of the stories and a competition for best documentary award. The next phase of the project will target underprivileged young women from peri-urban areas in Zimbabwe with these life changing and empowering digital storytelling skills.

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MCZ Admin