Vibrant Voices Program 2019/20, Capacity Building Program for Women’s Organizations on Mobile Storytelling and Digital Advocacy
“25% of the household in Sri Lanka are women-headed. Women are the most affected in issues concerning post-war Sri Lanka. Journalists need to focus on this situation” stated Ms. Shyamala Gomez, the Executive Director of Center for Equality and Justice in a private interview with Sri Lanka Development Journalist Forum (SDJF).
Often, the mainstream media tends to exclude numerous economic, social and many other difficulties confronted by women in rural areas. Utilizing women as a ‘marketing tool’ by mainstream media further exemplifies the narrow focus of gender-sensitive reporting in Sri Lanka. The rapid growth of the social media landscape in Sri Lanka has enabled everyone to utilize it in their professional work as well. Majority of the social media users, especially girls and even women in rural areas of the country lack the technical knowledge to transfer information via social media and new media platforms.
In this backdrop, having recognized the need to empower women in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Development Journalist Forum (SDJF) launched a programme entitled ‘Vibrant Voices; make your voice heard’ under the Media Empowerment for a Democratic Sri Lanka (MEND) program in partnership with International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) with the support of USAID. The overall goal of Vibrant Voices is to widen the space for Sri Lanka’s women and other gender issues in the media content by using new and social media tools. To that end, the programme will be focused on capacity building of women representing different women and other gender-based organizations by using smartphones to produce video/audio stories of numerous issues confronted by women and girls in their community to disseminate them through social media and web platforms to build meaningful advocacy for gender justice and equality.
In phase 1, four women’s organizations and one transgender civil society organization representing Anuradhapura, Badulla, Batticaloa and Colombo districts benefited. “It was a unique platform to learn and practically grasp the techniques of reporting, identifying a newsworthy story that can awake public awareness,” stated Ms. Yasawathi Wasala from Ape Shakthi Women’s Organization, Polonnaruwa recalling the experience she gained from the Vibrant Voices Program. SDJF was glad to notice how the Venasa Transgender Network has set up their own ‘storytelling unit’ to disseminate appealing stories in their community after participating in the training programme.
Ms. Christamary Rajeswaran from Eastern Social Development Foundation, Batticaloa further recalled her experience stating “At ESDF we do a lot of projects such as capacity building programmes and we document them only in print. The Vibrant Voices Programme was immensely helpful for us to document our work visually using multi-media stories which we believe are more appealing and have more reach.” It was a pleasure for SDJF to note how ESDF has incorporated the knowledge they have gained not only to report challenges faced by women in Batticaloa but also disseminate success stories in order to inspire and motivate other women across the country.
With the success of the first phase, SDJF is pleased to announce the second phase of the Vibrant Voices Program with a focus on ‘mobile storytelling’ (MoJo) as an innovative and powerful method of telling the stories of marginalized and voiceless communities.
The orientation program of the second intake of Vibrant Voices will be held from 13th to 17th September 2019 at Goldi Sands Hotel, Negombo with the participation of 24 individuals representing 8 women organizations from Colombo, Kandy, Trincomalee, Nuwara Eliya, Ampara, Puttalam, and Mannar districts.
The selected members of each organization will undergo structural intensive training on using a smartphone (MoJo) to capture the issues of women and other gender groups, Participants will learn more about camera basics, basic shots types, free MoJo Apps, video editing, social media tools and dissemination of stories, storytelling techniques, interview techniques and digital advocacy.
The workshop also includes a field visit day where the participants will be taken to the real story setting to apply all the class room learnings and produce their first individual MoJo story. At the end of the workshop each organization with the support of SDJF mentors should produce at least 6 MoJo stories focusing on the issues of women and other gender group in their respective districts.