First of all, PCI Media Impact wishes all of our friends a happy and healthy 2014! Thank you for your trust in 2013, we came a long way and we are excited to move into the next year with your support.
We are proud to report that our last year ended as impactful as the new year started.
In December 2013, our partner on ending sexual violence in Liberia, Takun J, performed his sociocritical songs at the HipCo Festival in Monrovia, Liberia. The festival attracted over 20,000 Liberians and national celebrities. HipCo is especially popular among young people who can relate to its catchy beats and African rythms. We invite you to experience HipCo yourself and share with you Takun J's Song for Hawa.
In January 2014, Takun J's manager Nora Rahimian spoke at the International Society of Performing Arts Congress in New York about the power of music to create change within a troubled society. In her presentation she explained to the audience how Takun J and PCI Media Impact use songs to prevent sexual violence against women, and why this work is so crucial for all Liberians.
This year will be an important year for Mobilize4Africa.We will deepen our program in Liberia and plan to produce more songs and music videos with Liberian artists. We hope you stay tuned and support us as much as in 2013.
“The people, they listen to us. And we, as musicians, we have a responsibility to talk about these things, the corruption, rape, poverty… all the things that are wrong in our country. So we knew we had to come together to strengthen our voice and make ourselves heard, to better impact our society,” Takun J
THANK YOU all for your wonderful support in the last months to keep our social movement in Liberia going!
As our friends, you already know that Takun J., Liberia’s Anti-Rape Ambassador, expresses his passion to end sexual violence against women through his songs. He lends his voice to break the silence and to question social attitudes that allow gender-motivated attacks to continue. Takun J. is convinced that his role as a musician is to affect change throughout his country, such as through his successful music video "Song for Hawa".
We are excited to share with you the latest news that we are entering the next phase in ending sexual violence in Liberia. Takun J. and other local artists will collaboratively take their music to its full potential to create social change. With your important contributions we will organize impactful concerts in Monrovia and across the country to reach a large audience with key social messages to protect the most vulnerable against sexual violence in the society: women and children.
PCI Media Impact is also continuosly working on national partnerships with crucial stakeholders in Liberia in order to scale up our community mobilization activities. We want to infiltrate as many lives as possible with our socially conscious messages and plan to undertake schools visits and organize and host town hall meetings across Liberia. Our approach is strengthened through the support of the outstanding Grammy Award-winning artists Steve Jordan and Angelique Kidjo. These partnerships and our collective efforts will enable us to engage audiences in much needed conversations about gender equality and shift the social norms that underlie violence against women and children.
Stay tuned for more to come soon!
“As a musician, I have to use my voice to carry the message. And as a man, I have to stand up for the women and the children. Rape needs to end so our country can move forward.” - Takun J.
We have the pleasure of reaching out to you with some wonderful news and updates on our work in Liberia!
As you know, in January and May of this year, the women at the THINK home for survivors of sexual violence, engaged in a participatory photography project, led by PCI Media Impact, telling their stories through photographs in response to the question, “What does it mean to be a woman in Liberia?” Their candid stories were published on the Backspaces website and in beautifully designed Photobooks. The act of telling their stories serves as a form of therapy and the photos galvanize discussion in the country and abroad.
We have also been working closely with one of Liberia’s most renowned Hip-Co artists, Takun J, with whom we have produced two songs and this music video, as part of an integrated transmedia campaign to tackle gender-based violence in the country.
As a result of this video and Takun J’s activism, Liberia’s Ministry of Gender and Development this year officially named Takun J as the country’s Anti-Rape Ambassador.
Takun J’s “Song for Hawa” was based on the true stories of girls at the THINK home. In May, our team launched his brand new anti-rape EP and hosted an anti-rape event in Monrovia, attended by the Liberian Minister of Gender and Development. This highly successful event engaged local partners, representatives from NGOs, community members and activists in a collective effort to reconsider shifting social norms about rape and reporting.
Several students from the THINK home shared emotional words about the impact that Takun J and PCI Media Impact’s Photovoice project has had on their lives:
“Photovoice helped us in many ways. It is a project that helps those who are not heard to be heard.” –THINK student
“As a Liberian I have a responsibility to do something important with this experience. Not everyone gets this chance.” –THINK student
We are now seeking continued funding to partner with UNICEF and design an even more comprehensive social change strategy, which will leverage the existing Photovoice project as well as mobile technology and marketing, Anti-Rape music, a second video, a comic book, and school/community visits to build an even stronger campaign that reaches across Liberia with a range of local and international partners.
It’s time for the culture of violence to change, and for a new social narrative to begin, one that celebrates and empowers girls and women.
Thank you for your support in this endeavor and for your commitment to improving the lives of young women in Liberia!
“I took this picture to show that if you are raped by a man you should be able to go to the police station, but many girls don’t because they are afraid that the man will do even worse things.”
Quotes like this one, from Gertrude, accompany powerful photographs taken by the 25 girls at the THINK home and are a vivid depiction of the reality of rampant sexual violence in post-civil war Liberia. Thanks to your contribution, each girl living at the THINK home in Monrovia engaged in the life-changing process of telling her personal photostory in response to the question, “What does it mean to be a woman in Liberia in the past, present, or future?” and we are proud to share each and every story on this beautiful Backspaces site: http://backspac.es/tag/photovoiceliberia
We are also excited to report that the girls have been actively engaging in student-led “homework” assignments over the past two months. They are working in small groups to continue practicing their technical photography skills, as well as taking pictures that give voice to their struggles, which include stories of abuse by men and family members, abandonment, and teenage pregnancy. One student took a picture of her history notebook and said:
“I took this photo to remember the past. In the past, my father refused to allow me to go to school at all. He left my mother and I lived with my aunt who also had no money to send me to school. This is part of my history. And now I’m in school, finally learning the history of my country.”
PCI-Media Impact is grateful for your support in helping to complete this successful first stage of the Photovoice project, which empowers girl victims of sexual violence to tell their stories and inspire change. And it doesn’t stop there! We are thrilled to announce that we will return for the second phase of the project in May. In the second phase we will deepen the girls’ expertise with photography for storytelling, continue to create space for healing dialogue around the issue of rape, and train teachers and counselors to facilitate photography projects in the future.
We will also hold an event with Takun J, a famous Liberian rapper to showcase two anti-rape songs co-produced by PCI-Media Impact as well as to draw widespread attention to the candid photo stories. Your contribution has made possible the documentation and the resulting awareness of the widespread issue of sexual violence in Liberia. Your involvement in this project has already changed the lives of 25 girls, and will have ripple effects well into the future.
Thank you for your support. Please consider further contributing to the next phase of the project in May!
Hello Photovoice supporters,
Fresh off our return from Liberia and the extremely productive week we spent with the girls at the THINK home, I wanted to reach out and provide you with a project update outlining some details and progress of the trip!
We entered the THINK home, a one-story building without electricity, rickety wooden school chairs and a couple of chalkboards and were immediately greeting in song by the 25 girls who reside there. This warm welcome provided a window into the gratitude, excitement and overall sense of achievement that would be communicated regularly by the students over the course of the week.
We spent some time presenting an introductory workshop, wherein we discussed the importance of photography on catalyzing change and made sure that necessary communication barriers were tackled immediately. For example, the word “gender” and its meaning as an indication not just of sex, but of cultural norms and practices in Liberian society was explored to make sure that the girls had clarity over the overarching theme that would guide that week’s photography: “What does it mean to be a woman in Liberia?” Initial responses to the question included, “You are forced into marriage.” “You are beaten by men.” “You are denied care if you don’t provide sex.” We tackled this conversation as a group before handing out cameras, and the utter joy of opening and assembling the 25 digital cameras quickly lead into a frenzy of practice photos, giggles, hugs and thank you’s.
The Photovoice work progressed throughout the week with small group, focused discussions that allowed each and every girl to choose six photos that represented her experiences as a woman in Liberia in the past, present, and future. As the girls became more comfortable with the format of these discussions, they began to open up and share extremely wrenching personal experiences that, alongside their photographs, provide an emotional illustration of the hardships experienced by young women before and after Liberia’s civil war.
One student shared her thoughts about a picture of Daniel and I, the Photovoice trainers, “When you came I was happy because this was the first and only camera in my life. It’s important because I want to work like you two. When I was out in the community I cried because I was young and they raped me. I put these things out of my mind because when I think about the past I cry.”
Despite the gravity of numerous stories being told by these girls about gender based violence and sexual violence by men, boys, and family members of both sexes, the sense of hopefulness about the future was palpable. This generation of women, ranging in age from 13 to 24, straddles a time in Liberian history that is incredibly significant. They can look back into their pasts and clearly remember the atrocities of the civil war and its reverberations throughout society but remain focused on the opportunities that the THINK home and Liberia’s slow and steady recovery gives them to provide a different future for themselves and their children. In the words of one 19-year-old student referring to a picture of herself: “I see myself learning how women are special in society. My father beat me and his woman abused me, but now I see myself with my life changing. If I go out there again I will be a good girl. I will advise my friends not to have a baby at a young age. If you say no to boys and they still come to you, you go to the police.”
The students finished off the week with a gallery walk including presentation of their favorite photos and discussion of the aspects of others’ photos that had particular meaning. Print outs of their favorite photographs seemed a small gift, but for this group it was generally the first and only printed photo they have owned and they received it as if it were a treasure. Group leaders have been identified to ensure that the use of photography to represent women’s voices in Liberia continues.
The students are heavily focused on their education, amongst them are 19 year-olds reading at a 4th grade level, or 23 year-olds planning to apply to high school when they leave the THINK home. They thanked us and our donors profusely for giving them the gift of knowledge, and responded to the question, “How can telling your story through photos help others?” with thoughts like, “It helps to tell my friends out there that they should feel courage to go to school, because education is the key to success.”
The stories told this week and into the future will be displayed on a variety of platforms, online, in print, and in gallery showings so that the world has access to the unbiased truths of gender based sexual violence in Liberia, told straight from the sources that experienced it so directly.
We thank you deeply for your contribution and continued support of this important work,
PCI-Media Impact, Program Officer
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