This blog is part of a series of reflective essays by participants of the Voices to End FGM/C workshops run by Sahiyo and StoryCenter. Through residential and online workshops on digital storytelling, Voices to End FGM/C enables those who have been affected by female genital mutilation/cutting to tell their stories through their own perspectives, in their own words.
By Angela Peabody
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to do something I had not done before. I participated in one of Sahiyo’s Voices to End FGM/C storytelling workshops in Washington, D.C. The experience was engaging for me. Although I have a television news background, I found myself fascinated at the thought of learning how to make my own video.
I missed the first day of the 3-day experience, due to a family emergency. I was discouraged because I thought missing the first day was crucial to what was expected during the workshop. How wrong I was; Mariya and Amy [of Sahiyo and StoryCenter] called me the evening of the first day, and briefed me on what I had missed that day. They also advised me on what to expect the following day when I joined the group.
When I entered the room that morning, I must admit that I felt a bit apprehensive, not knowing any of the attendees. I was greeted warmly by Mariya, which was not surprising. But Amy came over and formally introduced herself and proceeded to introduce me to everyone else in the room. Everyone seemed welcoming and pleasant, which helped set the mood for my own comfort. Later that morning, I saw a couple of participants whom I knew. Before the end of the day, I had become familiar with a participant who followed a vegan diet as I do. She and I found much to share with each other. I was pleased that I did not need to concern myself with whether there would be food conducive to my diet. There was a vegan muffin waiting for me in the morning, and when we broke for lunch, a vegan sandwich had already been ordered. I had also become familiar with someone who is engaged to a Liberian. Since Liberia is my country of origin, she and I shared unlimited information about that country.
Amy did an introduction of video making, and what the preparations entailed to make a video. We first needed to write the script of the video. Then we recorded the script in our own voices, which would later become the audio of the video. It was quite a strategic process; yet, it was intriguing. The homework for the evening was to find photographs to match the script, which was a challenge for me. We could not use stock images, especially due to the intellectual property law. The images needed to be real life photos. I did my search and found several photos, but I was not sure how they would blend with what I had written in my story.
The final day was full of matching photos and audio. Amy gave us a course in combining the images and the audio. As she demonstrated on the big screen, we followed her instructions by doing our individual videos. We were even taught how to add the credits at the end of the video. With a lot of help from my newfound future fellow Liberian, I had my video ready by mid-afternoon. I learned to superimpose images so that my story had a more impactful result.
At the end of the 3rd day, we were asked to share with the group what affects the workshop had on us. The inspiration to share our stories was effective; whether or not a participant had experienced female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), or if she had had a different encounter with FGM/C, telling our stories through the eyes of our videos was enthralling. We ended the evening with a preview of everyone’s video. As an advocate against FGM/C, I have seen and heard stories at various levels, but those videos gave me a whole new perspective.
In summary, I congratulate Sahiyo and StoryCenter for holding these workshops. It is a great experience for not only survivors of FGM/C but also for advocates, health providers, and everyone working to end the practice of FGM/C. I am glad I was a part of it.