StoryMaker users and partners from the MENA region, Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe came together in Tunisia last month for the second StoryMaker Camp. The camp marks the end of a four-year project that trained over 400 journalists and citizen reporters and developed an innovative mobile storytelling app. The camp was a moment to reflect on the hard work and efforts of StoryMaker partners and users and look at ways forward.

¨What makes the StoryMaker project so special is the people behind it. Their energy, dedication and determination to engage in their communities, give a voice to the voiceless and be part of a network of storytellers who use their stories to advocate for issues that matter most”, says Free Press Unlimited Project Coordinator Bethel Tsegaye.

The StoryMaker project has been an amazing journey of trial and error and beautiful unintended outcomes.”

Community and empowerment
Representatives of Free Press Unlimited partners kicked off the camp by sharing the results of using StoryMaker in their projects.

Privilege Musvanhiri represented Free Press Unlimited’s partner House Of Consciousness in Zambia. He shared the successes of the pilot project Mama Sosa, in which 28 young women from the slums of Zambia’s capital Lusaka were trained to make StoryMaker video’s about their life in the Kanyama slums. With their small stories about what life is like in the slums, these women raised greater awareness about the bigger problems in Zambian society. They also were the very first women in their community to empower themselves and make a valuable contribution.

With the release of StoryMaker 2, many of the bugs were fixed and major enhancements were made to the usability of the app. There is an urge to continue using StoryMaker not only within the StoryMaker network, but extending far across the citizen reporter and journalism networks. While efforts continue to have a stronger, stable and user friendly app, there are interests to explore new ways to use StoryMaker and how we can focus on content and engagement.

Free Press Unlimited Director Policy and Programmes Leon Willems shared his insights about the importance of taking into account and navigating the democratic space in advocating for human rights. Willems: “Advocating for your cause is all about changing people’s mind in your advantage. Not by addressing the individuals that already agree with you, but by debunking the arguments of those who are against your cause. You have to analyze your goal, identify who are your friends and opponents and then try to place yourself in the minds of the opponents and offer them the arguments that can persuade them to think different.

Mohammed Al Qaq, a popular vlogger, writer and singer shared his knowledge about the art of digital storytelling and reaching an audience. We also had sessions by an expert who led participants through a holistic approach to safety and security. Erige Sehiri, co founder of Al Khatt led sessions on audience engagement and investigative journalism.

Remarkable StoryMakers

The majority of the 30+ participants were brave and talented trainers and journalists that have used StoryMaker to tell stories that really made a difference. Shaima Draz, a young investigative journalist from Egypt, is the only woman in her tribal community who has studied and made a career for herself. Coming from a powerful family that nobody dares to harm, she enjoys a protection shield that turned her into a real powerhouse. Making stories about topics nobody else, let alone a woman, has ever made in Sohag, in rural part of Egypt.

Walid Kerkeni practiced citizen journalism as a hobby and now runs a very popular Facebook page about the city of Sayada in Tunisia. With this project he connects the citizens and informs them about what is really going on in the city. His aim is to stay away from politics, because in his view politics drive people away from each other. One example of a story is this is video about a tennis club that wasn’t doing too well. Thanks to the StoryMaker video the club regained its momentum and social importance for the community.

These are just some of the hundreds of StoryMaker users from the community who are using StoryMaker in their communities to make a difference.

It is clear that the StoryMaker community will carry on long after the project is over. Discussions about future project ideas made it clear that there is a will and need to keep the momentum alive.

A new Facebook group called StoryMaker Community was created as a space where StoryMakers can share ideas, experiences or help come up with solutions to people problems.

Free Press Unlimited is proud of the hard work and dedication of all of our partners and participants over the past five years. Free Press Unlimited is especially thankful to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs who supported the project from the beginning. A special thanks to Al Khatt for organizing the StoryMaker Camp and our facilitator, Chris Michael.

About the author

Anne Koopman

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