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Voice - An International Media Project for Women

What is the biggest contributing factor to women’s inequality in disadvantaged communities? The lack of a VOICE. Women everywhere suffer from inequality, abuse, and demoralization. However, in western cultures, most women have a voice with which to speak out against these injustices. Women in impoverished communities all over the world may have a voice, but they rarely have an audience to listen. How do we give women a voice? By using media (video, photography, audio, Skype, and their written words) to deliver their message to a specific, targeted audience with the resources, funding, and drive to help. The "Voice" gets delivered to pre-qualified social activist groups in partner universities throughout the developed world.

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Provide a short description of your idea

The Voice Project works with a group of women - who are in need of help - in an impoverished, urban area (anywhere in the world). Native women field staff work with the group to create an in-depth, holistic picture of the women's lives and the specific problem they are trying to solve. They create a full media kit, including video and audio interviews, photography, and written words, and deliver this media kit directly to a pre-assigned university group. This university group, in turn, becomes familiar with their assigned women's group and they begin the process of IDEATING a solution to their problem(s). The university group and the women's group work in COLLABORATION over the course of 6-9 months. The women are just as involved in the problem solving as the university group. The idea here is that the women themselves should be empowered to solve their own problems, however, they often lack the resources, funding, and necessary framework to do so. The university group can "fill in the blanks" in this way, using connections, fundraising, and advanced education and technology skills to help the women reach their goals. The university group (hereinafter called the "primary university" group) will partner with a university group in the women's home country as well. This will serve two purposes. The university group in the home country can lend cultural knowledge about what will and will not work, and involving these students will help raise local awareness of issues and help to create a cultural shift by engaging students (male and female) in solving problems affecting women in their community.

Get a user's perspective on your idea.

Our target audience is women in impoverished, urban areas around the globe. We aim to work with groups of women with a common need. That "need" could be assistance in starting a small business, developing an educational program for girls without access to schooling, or establishing a safe-haven for victims of abuse within their community.

Our primary university groups will problem solve, in collaboration with the women's group and the home country university, over a 6-9 month period,. They will work together to create a long-term solution to the problem(s). This solution may also require fundraising on the part of the primary university group.

The women will be closely involved in creating their solution, further empowering them. Without significant cultural knowledge, we cannot begin to understand the plight of these women. This is another reason they MUST be involved in creating the solution.

Show us what implementation might look like.

We will begin with our pilot project (explained in the "Fill in the Details" section). Training in Digital Storytelling will begin in August of this year. Our Ugandan field staff will begin working with our first women's group (the Entebbe Sharks Girls' Rugby team) on September 1st. In October the field staff will deliver, to the university team at NYU, the media kit. On November 1st the team at NYU will begin collaborating with the Entebbe Sharks on a way to solve their problem, specifically how to acquire annual funding for their own team, as well as how to build up a larger organization, creating more teams and helping more girls. NYU will partner with Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda on the ideation. We will closely monitor the ideation process, and will document it in its entirety. It is expected that the pilot project will be a learning process, complete with mistakes and missteps along the way, but it will serve to create a working model from which to serve future projects. Once the 6-9 month ideation process is complete, field staff will visit the women's group every 10 weeks to document progress, and at the end of a full 12 month period, the field staff will visit the women's group once a year, to conduct an annual report.

Once we have successfully run through the pilot project, we will begin replicating the Voice Project in other high-need urban areas around the world. This will consist of training field staff, recruiting more university partners (which will not be difficult, as we've already had several respected universities contact us to partner), and locating more women's groups (which also will not be difficult in high-need areas).
Through our experience with women in impoverished communities, we have learned that when given the opportunity, these women have a LOT to say.  Often, we have walked away from conversations and thought, "Wow, if only the world could hear what she just said".  Most people in the western world will never leave the western world.  For this reason, most of us have absolutely no idea what lies beyond our line of vision.  We are not incapable of helping, nor are we selfish, heartless people.  We simply don't know how serious the problems affecting global women really are.  When we do see or hear about them, it is through second-hand stories or commercials on television that de-humanize the people in them by showing only the most malnourished, fly-covered children in an effort to make us donate money.  While this tactic works on a targeted funding level, it also creates in us a sense of disconnect and pity.  It makes us view about 80% of the population as so beyond hope that there is nothing we can do to make a difference. 

Prototype:

  • Field Staff: A team of women in Uganda.  We have known these women for years, they are capable, educated,  reliable, motivated, and they have the necessary, state of the art video, audio, and photography equipment and the resources to facilitate this project. 
  • Women's Group: A young women's Rugby team in Entebbe, Uganda, the Entebbe Sharks. This team is comprised mostly of children who have been orphaned.  The team was established to empower these girls (as we all know, rugby is a TOUGH sport!) They are struggling financially to find continuous funding for the team, and they want to reach out to other girls who can benefit from joining the organization.  
  • Primary University Partner: An existing team at NYU, ready and willing to take the challenge.
  • Home Country University Partner: Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda will work in collaboration with NYU to lend cultural understanding to the ideation process and to become more familiar with issues affecting their community.  
  • Digital Storytelling Training: The team at Creative Narrations is training me (Amy Carst) and I will, in turn, train our field staff on how to accomplish the best results with digital storytelling, how to use the equipment, how to get the groups to "open up", etc.  It is common for women in these areas to be hesitant to open up to outsiders, and for many of them it is not the cultural norm to speak of their injustices.  That is why our field staff must be comprised of mostly native women AND why the projects have to be so long in duration.  We do not expect the groups of women we are working with to share all of their concerns with us over a one day, one week, or one month time span.  We must work with them long-term and slowly, safely, build a trusting relationship.  
  • Educational / Health videos: The team at The Global Health Media Project (globalhealthmedia.org) has provided us with an extensive, award-winning library of globally sensitive health videos on everything from cholera to umbilical chord care in newborns.  These videos have been translated into multiple languages. This will begin our educational video library, which will be built upon with videos on starting small businesses, small-scale farming, safety, etc.  
  • Promotion beyond the pilot project: I (Amy Carst) will travel nationally and internationally, speaking on behalf of the Voice Project, recruiting university teams and field staff, finding high-need women's groups to work with / support, acquiring corporate sponsors, and speaking out against the inequality and injustice that women face worldwide.  I will also travel to field staff locations, as they are established in impoverished urban areas across the globe, to train field staff in digital storytelling.

Explain your idea in one sentence.

Voice is an international media project that creates a direct channel between women in need and a specific, targeted audience with the capacity, resources, funding, and drive to IDEATE a solution to their problem.

What is the need you are trying to solve?

If a tree falls in the woods but no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a woman needs help but there is no one to hear her plea, does she have a voice?

We will use media (video, photography, audio, Skype, and the written words of women participating in the program) to deliver their message to a specific, targeted audience with the capacity, resources, and drive to help. Who is the audience? Pre-qualified university student groups, comprised of social activists and entrepreneurs willing to devote a significant portion of their time to their assigned women’s group. Each social project will be 6-9 months in duration, from start to finish, although the relationships students will develop with their group may very well continue on for life. Field staff and volunteers will prepare the project prior to assigning it to a university, creating a complete "media kit" for the group of women needing help. The field staff will conduct interviews which will be recorded on video. The women will tell stories of their lives, their hopes and fears, their dreams, their biggest problems and safety-issues in day to day life. Field staff will translate and create the “Voice Book” which will combine the women's words with beautiful photography of their daily lives. Once the media kit is complete, it will be distributed to the chosen group of university students, who will become familiar with their group by viewing and reading the material within the kit. The following week will begin with face to face meetings (between the women and the IDEATORS) via Skype. These face to face meetings will happen once a month. It will be the mission of the selected university group to IDEATE, and work in collaboration with their assigned group to reach a solution to the most serious safety and well-being problems affecting the women they are working with. Young, driven, activist-minded, intelligent college students who want to make a difference, will be given the most important project of their life, one through which they can immediately “change the world”. In addition to working in collaboration with the women, the primary university group will also work with a university in the women's home country.

Who will benefit from this idea and how would you monitor its success?

The world will benefit from this idea. While women in impoverished countries may see the most immediate benefit, the world (men, women, children, business, government) has been suffering from the disproportionate balance of women in power for centuries. If the world is run entirely by men, it is out of balance. This would be equally true if the world was run entirely by women. Balance is balance. Any decision made without an appropriate male and female balance is an incomplete decision. We know that the majority of decisions affecting the general state of our planet are made by men. So isn’t it logical to assume that the majority of decisions are imbalanced? This is not to say all male-dominated (or female-dominated) decisions are wrong. But how can we trust decisions that are only representative of one-half of our species?

Monitoring of success will be completed via the field offices' annual reports. At the conclusion of the 9 month project, the field office will conduct "site visitations" at 10 week intervals to monitor continued success. After the first year, field offices will conduct site visitations on an annual basis to monitor progress and prepare an annual report.

Who would be best equipped to implement this idea in the real world? You? Your organisation? Another organisation or entity?

This international media project will be best implemented by the establishment of field offices in high-need, urban areas. Field offices can consist of a brick and mortar building, or they can simply consist of a small team (volunteers and/or staff) who work “in the field”. Volunteers, or staff, would need to be equipped with iPads, camera (with recording capabilities), and internet access. The volunteers, or staff, would need to be at least partially comprised of native women, in order to
communicate with the women groups and to ensure that the project is conducted in a culturally sensitive manner. Volunteers, or staff, would need to be bi-lingual in English (or Spanish) in order to translate written and spoken material for presentation. There would need to be a skilled writer on the team, however, this person could be located anywhere in the world. There is an amazing group of Ugandan women at the Malayaka House orphanage who are the ideal team for our pilot project in Uganda. In addition, there are countless international volunteers (Spain, USA, Mexico, Germany, etc.) who either live in, or simply spend significant time in, Uganda. Many of these volunteers are educated, cultured women with a passion for effecting positive change in Uganda. The Malayaka House orphanage home will be established as a field office for our pilot project in Uganda (described in Prototype) and will remain a field office for all future Voice projects.

Where should this idea be implemented?

This idea can be implemented in disadvantaged communities across the globe. We would like to begin with a pilot project in Entebbe, Uganda. We are
associated with the Malayaka House orphanage in Entebbe, and have spent significant time living and working in Uganda. Because of our connections in Entebbe, we can work with myriad groups of women; from aunties working at the orphanage, to women coming to our gates asking for help with caring for and feeding their children, to girls living as “street children” in various slums throughout the Entebbe / Kampala region. We also work closely with the police in Entebbe and are regularly informed of issues of abuse on women and children, and child neglect or abandonment – both of which are rampant in Uganda. In addition, a multitude of women are not experiencing abuse, but wish to provide for themselves through starting a business or learning a skill. However, many of these women do not have the money or resources to do so. Malayaka House is working hard to create income-generating opportunities for the women we work with, but there are countless other women outside our walls who would benefit greatly from the resources, training, ideas, experience, and funding that could be generated through this international media project.

What might a day in the life of a community member interacting with your idea look like?

For our group projects, participating women will work with field workers (at least some of whom are native women). The field workers will ask predetermined questions to gather information (in a culturally sensitive manner) on the women's lives, their specific problems, their concerns about participating (if any), what their goals for the program are, etc. The women will be video and audio taped in a comfortable setting with a native woman as the interviewer. They will be photographed (same parameters), and they will be engaged in a collaborative storytelling project which will allow the fieldworkers to write down the women's thoughts in a fun, creative way using poetry, song, and other storytelling techniques. They will also be shown how to use the online forum, which will allow them to communicate with other women and to watch an extensive library of videos of their choosing. These videos will range in subject from newborn care to hygiene to starting a small business to gardening / farming. Once a university group has been assigned to that particular project, the women will begin communicating with their assigned university team using Skype. The process will be entirely collaborative so that the women are empowered to build their own solution with their team.

In addition to the use of media to educate the IDEATORS on the plight of their assigned group, the project will also use media to educate the women on issues directly impacting their safety and well-being. The online forum (to which they will have full access) will have videos on everything from newborn care, nutrition, urban and small-scale farming / gardening to hygiene, abuse, how to call for help, menstruation, and starting a small business. It will also - eventually - consist of a larger community of women from around the world in similar situations, who are also taking part in the project. Through a Google translate-style program, women will type their posts in their native language, and the posts will automatically be translated into the native language of women around the world who wish to read, or respond to, the posts. This will further develop the sense of community, on a global level.

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Hi Amy,
Shane Zhao from IDEO pointed me in the direction of your idea as it has some real relevance to my own https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/urban-resilience/ideas/shoutbox.
Just wanted to say how much of a great concept I think it is and was wondering if you've developed it any further?
Also, if you're interested have a look at my concept as it may have some application in any further development work you are doing in this area.

Kind regards,
Simon

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