The ICTforWomanity interview series focuses this week on video production. To cover this area, we are meeting with Amie Williams, an award winning producer/director specializing in documentary film and video for television. Amie is the Executive Director & Co-Founder of GlobalGirl Media (GGM), an organization that develops the voice and media literacy of teenage girls and young women, ages 14-22, in under-served communities, by teaching them to create and share digital journalism designed to improve scholastic achievement, ignite community activism and spark social change.
Servane Mouazan – Womanity: Amie, what should the world specifically know about GlobalGirl Media?
Amie Williams – GlobalGirl Media: By arming girls with cameras in low income urban areas, the invisible girl is transformed into an agent of visibility, with the power to disrupt the silence surrounding gender-based violence, reproductive rights, poverty, racism, sexism and many critical issues facing adolescent girls today.
SM: What is it that you are doing differently, compared to other citizen media innovations?
AW: GGM harnesses the power of new digital media to empower young women to bring their often-overlooked perspectives onto the global media stage.
GGM offers an immersive, interactive educational curriculum, which features both soft and hard media skills, with a focus on entrepreneurship: our training prepares young women to be competitive in an increasingly challenging job market. We also connect girls across borders and boundaries, via Skype and social media. Since we are global, we encourage girls to think about citizen media as a global movement.
We give girls cameras and challenge them to take on the untold story, the one that matters, because it matters to them.
SM: What type of technology do you use at Global Girls Media and how does it make a difference?
AW: We focus on video production and blogging. Research has shown girls’ relationships, self-esteem and school performance are negatively impacted by the more time they spend online. Both traditional and social media is dumbing girls down, consistently negatively impacting their body image, sexuality, self-esteem and ability to succeed. When statistic after statistic tells us how under-represented women are in media, and when the male perspective dominates most of this media, it unconsciously reinforces the invisibility and silencing of women.
Global Girl Media has the solution: hand the tools of authoring this media over to girls. We give girls cameras and challenge them to take on the untold story, the one that matters, because it matters to them. We believe that by empowering girls to tell their own stories and teaching them that their lives matter, a systemic change begins to take form in family, school and community. Media plays such a central and powerful role in girls’ lives that being authors of that media is critical in helping them navigate a world seemingly daunting because the white, male perspective dominates it. What we are really doing is advocating for a girl-driven “global citizenship” where young women connect using new media and share their experience, strength and hope with each other from places that are under-reported, marginalized, stereotyped or silenced.
SM: What questions do people never ask you, you wished they did?
AW: It is this question:
“How is the work you are doing impacting the actual heart and soul of individual girls?”
As opposed to outward metrics like academic performance, numbers of girls trained and scalability of program, what about the individual journey each girl begins once they start our program? It is very difficult to gauge soft outcomes like the rise in a girl’s self-esteem or links to decisions made or feelings developed as a result of learning to tell one’s own story or focus on positive storytelling in negative environments.
A report by AWID (Association of Women in International Development) in 2010 questioned current M&E practices in its report, “Capturing Change in Women’s Realities”,” and discusses this need for more creative and thorough approaches to assessing the success of girls and women’s rights programs, and the inherent challenge in measuring social change within the gender context.
A quote from this report really helped me:
“When you work for women’s interests, it’s two steps forward – if you’re really smart and very lucky! – And at least one-step back. In fact, it’s often two or three steps back! And those steps back are, ironically, often evidence of your effectiveness; because they represent the threat you have posed to the power structure and its attempt to push you back. Sometimes, even your ‘success stories’ are nothing more than ways the power structure is trying to accommodate and contain the threat of more fundamental change by making small concessions.”
SM: What was an unexpected suggestion or commend by one your program participants that opened up new perspectives?
AW: Basically the one message (which comes in all sorts of ways) from our girl reporters is “don’t give up on this program, no matter how hard it is to keep it funded and keep it going… we need this!”
I get messages on Facebook, I hear it when during a training, a girl who had submitted her master’s thesis, that day told me: “I could not have gotten this far without GlobalGirl Media, it really turned my life around…” It’s thanks to moments like this that I realize just how powerful and far-reaching our program is.
SM: Can you share a story of success that your venture triggered?
AW: I would like to share two stories.
The first one is of Sthokozo Mabaso, a young HIV-positive woman from South Africa who left rural Transvaal with no money or hope, ended up as a housemaid for a cruel Aunt in Soweto, found out about our program, really excelled, and we invited her to cover the World AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., where she was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, ABC News, blogged for Huffington Post, and returned to South Africa to a full scholarship at a private film school and is now working in the professional film industry, most recently on the Hollywood film MATRIX.
The other huge success story is one of our reporters, Rocio Ortega, graduate of our very first program in Los Angeles, born and raised in East L.A., first in family to attend university, who took our program and as a result got introduced and interested in political training for leadership. She not only won a full scholarship to Wellesley, but she was also selected as the National Spokesperson for the UN Program Girl Up! – the only girl of color- and introduced First Lady Michelle Obama at the last GirlUP! Convention. She also won the MTV/HALO award for teen leaders, which came with a $10K contribution to GGM and to her education. She wants to run for political office and be the youngest Latina to run for Governor of California.
SM: What was a pivotal moment in/around your programme?
AW: I think the groundswell of awareness around the overall gender imbalance in media, movies or news and recently in particular the EEOC investigations here in the U.S. as to gender discrimination in Hollywood. We have been at this five years, and in those five years I have seen a palpable shift in the awareness, but not so much the financial support behind the work to see tangible progress.
Lately I have really been inspired by our Moroccan group of GlobalGirls who took on the leadership of the entire organization themselves. They are now registered in Morocco as an association and are fully running the organization, training more girls, getting paid work as journalists and videographers, and growing their vision of how media should represent girls and women in Morocco!
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