Voice and support: storytelling as activism against GBV

Kathryn Weenig
Sep 3, 2018 · 4 min read

Written for #EducateToEmpower on the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) Blog, #SafeSpaces4Youth

hat feeling that you are not alone, that your experience is important for someone else…it is really supportive,” said ‘N’ in St. Petersburg, Russia. She had created a story on a mobile phone, trained by a peer and using an application her peers helped design.

Through narration and the pictures she drew, her story tells of her starting a safe space for young women within an activist community, where their voices are silenced.

Watch N’s story:

“It’s not a big secret that there are certain issues women are more comfortable expressing among themselves, with no men present. It’s not makeup and clothes, and it’s not even their periods and underwear sizes. It’s the issue of violence — both physical and psychological—and issues of discrimination of women,” she says in her piece.

N has shared her story through the Girl-talk-Girl program by Footage, reaching young people globally through the Girl-talk-Girl platform.

Girl-talk-Girl seeks to address the very issue N raises in her story. The program engages young women worldwide in collaborative media arts activism against gender-based violence (GBV). Through storytelling, young women examine GBV in their lives. Within safe physical and digital spaces, they discuss their diverse experiences and perspectives, forming connections and designing solutions across countries. The program began as a partnership between young women in the United States and Russia and has recently expanded to include young women in Ukraine and Chile.

At the heart of the program, is education. Girl-talk-Girl invites young women to learn about human-centered design, GBV, storytelling, and advocacy, as well as about themselves and other young women worldwide. Their own experiences and insights become educational materials, as they create resources for classrooms, organizations, and policy makers based on their stories. Each component of the program cultivates a young woman’s leadership potential, with media arts serving as a tool for expression, dialogue, personal growth, and social transformation. As a result, participants catalyze changes in how they and others see themselves and their worlds in regards to GBV.

“After the workshop, I started to think deeper about all this, to see these injustices, and to have a different attitude,” said ‘M’ in St. Petersburg.

Watch M’s story:

“I was reminded that it was in my power to counteract the dangerous situations and the devaluing of myself,” said ‘N’ in St. Petersburg.

Watch N’s story:

“I know that the stories from Russia have helped me and have affected me, and I would like to hope that when they see our stories, the same thing happens. I sincerely hope that it goes beyond that too, and that there’s women and girls all over the world that see these stories and know that they are not alone and that they have these experiences and that other people have them, and that at least, gives them some sort of hope and courage,” said ‘Z’ in New York City.

Watch Z’s story:

Young women’s reflections on Girl-talk-Girl reveal not only how their voices are vital to activism against GBV, but how their voices are activism—activism by which young women support each other with their own experiences, leadership, and creativity.

Stay tuned as Footage releases stories and insights from young women in Santiago, where the organization recently introduced Girl-talk-Girl to first generation students at Pontifica Universidad Católica de Chile.

Girl-talk-Girl has received funding from two United States-Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program Awards from the United States Department of State (2014–2016) and Public Diplomacy Program Awards from the United States Embassies in Ukraine and Chile (2017–2018). Program partners have included the Russian LGBT Network, Artil Maidan, and Theatre for Dialogue. Learn more at girltalkgirl.org and footageproject.org.

UNGEI Blog

All the latest news and insights on the movement to promote gender equality to, in and through education.

Kathryn Weenig

Written by

Impact Consultant for Footage. Nerd for art and media as tools for well-being, research, and social action.

UNGEI Blog

All the latest news and insights on the movement to promote gender equality to, in and through education.