Olivia Kyomuhendo, 22, walked into Entebbe airport and wanted to pinch herself. “Am I dreaming?” she asked herself. Olivia was at the main airport in Uganda with three girls from her videography program, waiting to fly to Turkey. For Olivia and her three friends, this was their first time out of the country and anticipation was great. When the voice on the loud speaker announced that their flight had arrived, Olivia jumped up with excitement. It was finally going to happen. She was going to travel outside of Uganda.
Olivia was on her way to attend the 12th AWID InternationalForum on Women’s Rights & Development
in Istanbul, Turkey. The trip was sponsored by InsightShare, which collaborated with BRAC Uganda to train 12 members of our Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) programme
in participatory video for monitoring and evaluation. The project aimed to build the capacity of young women to use participatory video as a tool for engaging in local dialogue to raise concerns about their communities. The collaboration builds on ELA’s goal to develop young girls into empowered, confident and self-reliant individuals who become active agents of social change in their families and communities. Started in 2008, BRAC Uganda’s ELA program reaches 36,000 vulnerable adolescent girls, providing safe spaces where they receive life skills and livelihood training and fraternize with their peers under the supervision of a peer mentor.
Trained over seven months in filmmaking skills, Olivia and the members of the ELA participatory video project rotated around various BRAC offices, training facilities, and local communities learning filming, interviewing and editing techniques, and facilitation skills. They also collected stories, wrote scripts and produced short plays to depict the issues their communities are grappling with.
In Turkey, Olivia met three girls from Guatemala who also received participatory video training from InsightShare and exchanged experiences and videography techniques with them. “The Guatemalans were young compared to us, but they would say things that mature people couldn’t say,” Olivia recalled. “Their voice, their speech, their points were very strong.”Shifah Namatovu, 26, Olivia’s Ugandan colleague from the participatory video training added, “Their struggle was to give women a voice in society and they were very convincing in their delivery.” She continued, “They were also very proud of their culture. They wore their traditional clothes, so they stood out. I loved that. They were unique.”
The girls saw similarities between BRAC’s ELA program and the Guatemalan program. “We both work with vulnerable girls, and have club activities and books. And we both offer life skills training in leadership, self esteem, sexuality, and reproductive health,” Shifah said.
The trip was also a chance for Olivia and the three participatory video trainees to gain exposure and make connections. At AWID, the girls met renowned feminist thinkers, women’s rights advocates and leaders from around the world.“It felt right to rub shoulders with women of influence,” Olivia said. Added Barbra Babirye, 23, a third member of the Ugandan participatory video project, “These were women of political influence and we were so surprised to be there because we see them on TV and read about them in newspapers; it was great to be there with them and talk to them.”
The AWID conference was held from April 19 – 22 in Istanbul and attendees participated in stimulating lectures and discussions, allowing them to think, exchange and strategize around their collective task of “Transforming Economic Power to Advance Women’s Rights and Justice,” according to the forum guide.
In addition to the AWID conference, the girls attended a one-day conference with Girls Grassroots Initiative, organized by MamaCash. The conference brought together feminist groups to discuss women’s rights and share experiences from their communities. At the conference, the girls screened a selection of their films and participated in a question and answer session where they conveyed their story and talked about the techniques they utilized to encourage people to talk openly about their experiences. Audience members then offered suggestions for the girls to improve their skills. Additionally, the girls were afforded a platform to talk about BRAC and what we do.“People were surprised to hear about BRAC,” Shifah said. “They were surprised to hear that it was more than microfinance.”
Speaking about her take-away from the conference, Olivia said, “The conference helped me broaden my view on matters concerning women’s economic, social and political rights. The trip changed the way I relate with people because before I had this fear in me to approach people if I wanted something from them, but because I was in a new environment with new faces, I had to come out of the box and this has improved my self esteem drastically.”
Shifah chimed in. “The women impressed me; they had passion. I thought women were oppressed only in Uganda. Then I heard a woman talk about the challenges they face in South Africa. I was surprised. I had to walk to her afterward to ask her some questions.”
Building on the confidence developed on their exposure trip to Turkey, the participatory video girls are keen to start a business utilizing their videography training. “We are the ‘Video Girls for Change,’” Shifah beamed. “Filmmaking is a source of empowerment. It empowers people to have a voice. Video can be a source of communication to connect people on the ground with policy makers. It is a source of educating people.” She continued, “We want people from Uganda and beyond to know about us, about this new methodology – participatory video for monitoring and evaluation. Plus video is known as a boy’s thing and we’re showing that girls can do it, too.” Added Lydia Nakiyemba, 22, who completes the participatory video team: “I am a filmmaker now.”
After the AWID conference concluded, the girls took some time to relax and tour Turkey. “People wanted to take pictures with us everywhere we went. It was as if it was their first time to see black people,” Lydia said, chuckling. Added Barbra: “Turkey is very different; it was very organized. I didn’t see any building of less than four floors.” She continued, “Turkish people like flowers. There were flowers everywhere. They even make a human being out of flowers.”