Creating change with stories
The project began whilst The Gathering Ground were working with the local FGM Community Association. They observed that while ever FGM was difficult to talk about within affected communities, any work by the law or statutory bodies would lack impact as the practise is only driven further underground. Those who maintain a deep belief that FGM as a form of protection for their children and fundamental to their cultural identity are unlikely to shift their view just because it is illegal. These very people who need to be reached, perceive any resistance to FGM be a westernised opinion and so reject it. Cultural change had to happen within the communities by engaging and supporting those brave enough to speak out and opening the ‘taboo’ to challenge beliefs from within. With this understanding People’s Voice Media were invited to deliver their Community Reporting techniques with members from affected communities and The Gathering Ground. Using video and audio storytelling techniques, we gathered people’s stories about FGM and explored ways in which these stories could be used to influence and inform people’s understanding of the issue.
As part of the project, we gathered stories from a wide range of people that covered a diverse range of perspectives and understandings of FGM. Because of the complexity of the issue, these stories included people from communities affected by FGM, from professionals working with people from communicates affected by FGM, religious and community leaders’ perspectives on FGM. The stories were all shared on the Community Reporter site and are currently being used to open up a conversation about FGM and health and wellbeing in different settings.
This project represents our impact cycle of gathering stories, curating stories and then mobilising the knowledge in them. To deliver this project we held the following sessions:
- Briefing Event: This introduced different stakeholders to the project and supported people from affected communities to recruit from within their peer network.
- Community Reporting for Insight programme: Over the course of a weekend, we worked with a group of residents of Northamptonshire to equip them with the technical skills and knowledge of storytelling to record their own stories and go out into their neighbourhoods and capture other people’s perspectives. Using snapshot storytelling and dialogue interviews, the group began to collect and share stories related to both experiences and perceptions of FGM.
- Co-Curation programme: Over a series of sessions we worked with the existing Community Reporters and trained up new groups members who had been recruited during the storytelling phase to review all of the stories gathered and identify their key points. From this a set of categorised extracts was produced and summative film that focused on some of the key stories gathered.
- Presentation and screening: To celebrate the achievements of the group so far, launch the film and recruit more stakeholders for the next stage we held an event that screened the film publicly and also presented the groups with their membership status to the Institute of Community Reporters.
- Story Advocates session: As part of the session, the group created a bespoke data mobilisation plan in order to connect the stories and their insights to the wider community and bring about change and influence. This included a plan of how a website would be structured to include the stories and that would act as a online space at which dialogue about the topic of FGM could be entered into. More so, the group produced a grassroots plan of activities that they could do to connect people to the stories and engage them in talking about the issue in the offline world. This include peer-to-peer story sharing and community oriented events.
Wrapped around this programme of activity was remote support for our partners and Community Reporters that enabled them to continue gathering and working with stories beyond our sessions.
Take a look at some of the stories gathered below, and if you have your own story on the topic of FGM then add this to this project page.