Global Girl Media: Encouraging Self-Expression Through Video
“They’re starting something that can be incredibly powerful. And not just in South Africa. …The idea is to spread globally, and that’s a powerful message to send to other girls around the world. That you, too, can have a voice.”
– Julie Foudy, former U.S. women’s soccer captain, on the importance of Global Girl Media
There is no denying the fact that new media is changing the face of information consumption as we know it. Last week, Arbitron Inc. and Edison Research released a study about current trends in digital media use. One particularly interesting finding is that, for the first time, the Internet has surpassed television, radio and print as the “most essential” medium for Americans. The ever-increasing popularity of blogs, online news sites, social networks, YouTube and Internet radio is pushing traditional forms of media to the side in favor of new media. Rather than indicating a short-lived fad, these findings suggest that the way people consume media is changing for good.
The growing demand for new media is proving to be an asset for activists and social justice organizations. Through the web, activists around the world are able to connect with one another, share ideas and promote their work. Additionally, the inexpensive and accessible nature of digital video makes it far easier for people, particularly individuals without significant formal media training, to produce and distribute their own media. There are plenty of examples of groups and individuals employing new media techniques in an effort to achieve social change, but one organization of note that is using new media in a particularly groundbreaking way is Global Girl Media.
Founded in 2009, Global Girl Media is a non-profit organization that provides media training to adolescent girls in countries and communities around the world where such tools are not readily accessible. The purpose is to give young girls voices through the use of new media, so that they may connect with other girls around the world and share their stories and experiences.
Global Girl Media’s inaugural program, Kick It Up!, will send twenty South African girls to the 2010 World Cup to act as broadcast journalists. The launch of Kick It Up! coincides with the establishment of the Global Girl Training Academy, a curriculum through which the girls will learn about media and journalism. Held June 10-20, 2010, the training academy will pair the girls with professional journalists and broadcasters for rigorous lessons in shooting on digital video cameras, editing, writing, web basics and on-camera reporting. After the training is complete, the girls will be split into five Global Girl News Bureaus, so that each girl will have an opportunity to participate in the production of videos, blogs, new media and print publications for online distribution.
The promotional video below, featuring some of the program’s participants, explains Kick It Up! and Global Girl Media’s work in further detail (contains subtitles):
The idea of teaching young people self-expression through video is not, in itself, a new concept. What makes Global Girl Media unique, however, is the organization’s interest in all forms of self-expression. Rather than exclusively focusing on one issue (such as sports, or the difficulties of growing up as a young woman around the world), Kick It Up! (and Global Girl Media, as a whole) is interested in exploring all aspects — both positive and negative — of the lives of its participants. Brian Dalek elaborates in an article on IPS:
Global Girl Media executive director Amie Williams, a film director/producer, said she decided to start the group after a teen she mentored from Kenya was gang-raped, one week after the country’s December 2007 presidential elections. Many international groups considered the election corrupt, and the girl got caught in the outbreak of violent tribal protests in Nairobi.
Because Williams had been a mentor and friend of the girl for three years, she was asked to return to Kenya to lend her support. Surprisingly, the one thing the teenager wanted from Williams was a chance to tell her story on camera.
“Out of that came this idea of, ‘what if we could put cameras in the hands of women all over the world?”‘ said Williams, who is based in Los Angeles. “They could speak not just about rape but about sports, motherhood, or just being a teenager.”
In addition to the conventional newsmagazine-style coverage on the World Cup and the participating athletes, Kick It Up! will provide an opportunity for the girls to explore a wide range of other issues, including youth-related World Cup initiatives, health and reproductive rights, teen dating, community leadership, South African pop culture, girls who play team sports and their own personal stories, such as personal accomplishments and dreams for the future. In other words, though the training, the program itself and the deliverables are highly structured and rigorous, the issues the girls will be able to explore may be more open-ended and flexible. The idea is not to have an agenda, or to suggest that the girls only speak to one type or experience or life event, but instead to focus on the range of interests and experiences that the girls have, in order to cultivate their personal and professional voices to their fullest extents.
Global Girl Media has yet to publicize any projects to be launched after Kick It Up! comes to an end. However, the organization developed its curriculum through a partnership with The Press Institute, an NGO that offers journalism education and employment in countries such as Kenya, Mexico and Nepal. Considering Global Girl Media’s desire to expand internationally, it is possible that their next project may take place in a country where The Press Institute already has media training operations established.
No matter what Global Girl Media launches next, it is clear that their work is on the cutting edge of digital and new media production as it relates to activism and social justice. More specifically, Global Girl Media is on the cutting edge of video and new media in the global feminist community. Certainly, feminists are no strangers to the digital landscape — just look at the feminist blogging community! But more can be done. Blogging, like all written communication, has its drawbacks, particularly in a global context. For instance, it can be challenging to translate posts into multiple languages. In terms of advancing social causes, long blog posts may not capture the attention of readers long enough to persuade someone to take action on a specific issue. The importance of online video, therefore, cannot be overstated. The combination of visuals and audio can overcome language barriers — oftentimes, through video, words are not needed to state a point. Videos, particularly those designed for viral web distribution, are often short and succinct, allowing a viewer to tune in and consume information almost instantaneously. And there is something to be said for watching and listening to someone tell her story rather than just reading it. There is a power that video has that compels people to pay attention, take note and take action.
That is precisely what Global Girl Media is doing. As their website states, “If girls in the US can connect with girls in El Salvador or Thailand, they can share information that will improve all of their lives and communities.” In addition to providing girls around the world with opportunities to tell their stories on camera, they are creating a global online community for girls around the world to connect with one another and learn from each other’s experiences. It is a model that is quite compatible to that of the feminist blogosphere, and it is one that I hope to see other feminist organizations adopt in their efforts to encourage activism and self-expression.
Carrie Polansky is one of the Founders and Senior Editors of Gender Across Borders. Passionate about using video as a tool for achieving social justice, she works in development at a non-profit LGBT media production company. Read more about her here.