How To Talk To The Government In A Digital World | Chimee Adioha
In 2017, SPACES FOR CHANGE started a participatory action research project that was begging to arrive at how the government viewed slum dwellers in Lagos. SPACES FOR CHANGE is a research and policy organization working to infuse human rights on the social, cultural and economic categories of the state. The research was majorly funded by the USAID- Strengthening Advocacy and Civic Engagement; The United States Agency for International Development focal area that covers the civic needs of the people.
We called the project – Digital Storytelling Training, targeted at slum youths of selected Lagos communities, mostly the ones under threats of forced evictions. The participants comprised of young boys and girls from Badia-East, Ebutte-metta and Otumara. The USAID funding went into providing resources for the training; food, transportation, general logistics, purchase of digital equipments like cameras and recorders. The timetable was a weeklong series of digital training on how to tell their stories, write it in form of scripts, get images themselves, be conversant with the video software they would use to edit their stories and make it into well meaning standard short videos.
The idea of the Digital Storytelling Training was to subscribe for an option, the digital option; a newest method we think can work faster in pushing for change in the urban and housing sector of the country. In a jet aged year as 2017 when all spheres of modern and digital technology are on the high side, and there seems to be a more comfortable social media interaction between policy formulators and the citizens, so therefore, we assume talking to authorities using that medium is believed to be more convenient, or rather easier. In that way, when the youths must have made their stories into videos, they would share them on social media platforms, using harsh tags as #slumdigitalstories #UpgradeNotDestroy #StopForcedEvictions #InclusiveHumanSettlements.
Another plan the training had was not only to create a medium where the discriminated community youths would find a way to express their fears and worries over forced evictions, lack of basic amenities, housing challenges as low income people, but also to empower them, teach them new skills that would be permanent and sustainable in their lives. Many of the youths who were trained were never close to conversance with media technology, but the training would be an eye opener for them. There was also a need to use the youths in such advocacy, because they tend to be more proactive, and because we believed their voice would go farther in the process of pushing for change.
Since our participants were slum dwellers, who were always presumed and generalized by the authorities who carry out these terrible demolitions to be miscreants, criminals, drug traffickers, and many other negative labels usually attached to slum settlers, embarking on the digital storytelling training was a project to challenge government authorities, in telling them that many good things, good ideas, can also be vomited out from the slum. The percentage of the participants who were involved in the training was not among the assumed miscreants.
During the weeklong training, the exercise involved visiting the communities, doing interviews, learning, taking pictures and of course, getting some fun. The participants were left to be free, while they were divided in three groups, so each group went into their assigned community, gathering content that would benefit their different stories.
The many stories made by the youths were challenging stories of their forced eviction experiences: government neglect, discrimination, non inclusion. In one of the stories, Hannah told a harrowing account of how her family was caught up in a fire accident in the slum that took the life of her little sister. Moses Ilawole’s digital story was a short documentary on how his life was slowed down due to the usual forced evictions in Badia-East, and how today, he believes that his voice will one day; bring a change to the entire community.
We didn’t just train them so the knowledge would dwell in their heads forever and just for the purpose of learning. We had an important plan to use the training as a means of empowerment. In many ways or the other, the trained youths would use their training to work in places, gain employments, and earn a living.
That was how we drew sustainability into it. This has happened as expected, the youths have confirmed to have been employed or assisted to work somewhere due to the knowledge they gained at the Digital Storytelling Training. As this is happening too, they are also using their different video stories in many places, sharing on social media, telling friends to view and spread the news, believing one day, their voice will be an influence to the policies of the government.
We have also prepared and have proposed a draft eviction guideline to policy makers. The eviction guideline was a document of guidelines that subscribes for a ‘’due process’’ during evictions. It contains a better approach that authorities would use during evictions, an approach that is devoid of encroaching into the rights of people.
Images: Spaces for Change on Flickr