How you tell a story can build or destroy the world. Eunice Mwaura, coordinator of Vice Versa Global talks about the power of a positive narrative, three months after the establishment of this platform. Through it, great untold stories have been brought to the fore. Positive remarkable stories that have invoked social change.
A week ago I visited Rusinga Island, one of the many fishermen islands that lie east of the largest fresh water lake, Lake Victoria. I can vividly recall the beauty over the horizon of the lake when the sun goes down. A deeply lighted expanse that would be easily mistaken for city lights. Yet, it’s just another fishing night for the fishermen who use lanterns to attract fish to their nets. The vast majority of the community here still prefer fishing as their main economic activity. However, with a growing population and overfishing, it is no longer as viable nor sustainable as before.
From the bay, you would be forgiven for thinking that’s it’s just another fisherman island. Be that as it may, when you drive deeper into the island, what captures your eye is the green banana farms spread all over. This is in a community that has believed, for years, that agriculture cannot thrive there and fishing is the only economic activity they can engage in.
Over the years overreliance on fishing has sparked a series of social upheavals. The one that most identify the island with is Jaboya (The term refers to a phenomenon where female fish traders have no choice but to extend sexual favours to fishermen so that they can secure their supply of fish). Women have borne the brunt of this practise for they lack the resources. None of them is a boat owner, nor has the expertise to venture into the lake from dusk to dawn for fish. Therefore, they have to rely on the fishermen.
This narrative is what has been prominently and sensationally published in the mainstream media about the island. Such negative spotlight has deprived the power of a positive narrative by a society striving to diversify their economy against perceived odds. With women being the greatest beneficiaries, such diversification would consequently scale down, if not completely eradicate, the vice that is Jaboya. Suchlike negatively angled narratives only give us one story.
A Journalistic Platform by the Youth
It has been three months since the inception of Vice Versa Global, a journalistic platform spearheaded by young African journalists so as to share ideas and spark dialogue about social change. We hope we shall play an instrumental role in influencing behaviour, changing mind-sets and spurring action. Our mantra, journalism for social change, has been at the core in our endeavour to bring you the best stories as well as invoke social change. We believe in the power of a positive narrative, best told from a youthful lens. A story like that of the young innovator from Sierra Leone, Emmanuel Alie Mansray by Cynthia Omondi.
Emmanuel has immensely contributed to bridging gaps within his home country by coming up with inclusive and climate friendly inventions. His solar powered car and other eco-friendly inventions have garnered him admiration from scores of people around the globe. Unfortunately he couldn’t pursue a career of his passion, in engineering, due to a lack of school fees. Thanks to a feature on Vice Versa Global, a reader came forward and funded his education. Now he can better address the seventh SDG of the UN which advocates for affordable and clean energy for all.
We have more young local journalists working for Vice Versa Global, bringing you inspiring stories. To mention but a few;
Our Ugandan correspondent, Eva Nakato. Aside from being a columnist, she also runs an inspirational vlog called Up Close with Eva Nakato on Vice Versa Global. On this platform she provides an in-depth interaction with the leading game changers. They range from business and community leaders, to peer influencers and all top shots around the globe. In one of the episodes she features a beauty queen, Miss World Africa Quinn Abenakyo. She sensitizes women and girls from less privileged areas on matters sexual and reproductive health. Be sure to check it out and to also subscribe and watch the other amazing stories she has done. Truly inspiring.
Nicera Wanjiru is our informal communities’ correspondent. Currently, she resides and works in one of the largest informal settlements in the world. Hence, she not only understands, but also represents and vocalises on scalable initiatives by people within her community committed to realise sustainable change. She strongly advocates and writes about a need for climate action in informal settlements, end to gender based violence, innovation and technology, to mention but a few.
Apart from writing stories and coordinating Vice Versa Global, I have my own YouTube channel, Youth Canvas, an affiliate of Vice Versa Global. Through video documentation on this channel, I feature scalable initiatives by the youth, to influence fellow youth to take on the wheel of leadership.
Like Rahmina Paulette, the 15 year old environmentalist saving Lake Victoria from getting suffocated by recycling the hyacinth and making eco-friendly products. As always, don’t forget to subscribe to it and share as much as possible.
A Fresh Perspective
Our stories confirm that the youth are conscious about contemporary critical issues in the world. Time and again they have been the lot in the frontline to challenge and offer solutions. The phrase “the youth are the leaders of tomorrow” no longer holds water. It’s a phrase that has further alienated them from making a contributory injection to some of the issues that plague our continent and the rest of the world.
We seek to develop a deeper understanding for our audience and the rest of world on their insights and thoughts on critical topics, and offer a fresh way of looking at things. It is time for more young people to be invited to the table, for they are the resources that we have to invest in. We should also optimise on them, their diverse ideas and innovative minds and skills. Through this we can cohesively integrate their ideas and the older generations’ experiences to achieve the change we want to see.
Positive and Constructive Narratives
The nature of telling stories has greatly evolved over the years. A majority of those who hold the tool of telling stories have subscribed to a culture of playing judge and jury. This is what we seek to challenge and hopefully earn the positive story its right of place. We have enriched the negative with so much power it overshadows the positive. Aside from all the negative stories splattered on the cover pages of our newspapers every morning, there lies a collection of untold stories of phenomenal people. Individuals within our society catalysing change and moulding a habitable and sustainable society for this generation and the next.
As Vice Versa Global, we have chosen to take the standpoint of a positive narrative. This doesn’t mean that we are oblivious of the numerous issues still abound globally. Far from it. We are well aware that the monster that is FGM is yet to be slayed. GBV cases have shot up tremendously in the last year and human rights abuse cases are still on the rise. At Vice Versa Global, we are recognizant of the fact that there are people out there who are trying to bring about justice and social change. These are the individuals that we choose to shine the spotlight on by highlighting their achievements and telling their stories.
A standpoint from which we hope to build and transform our society one story at a time. The past three months have allowed us to harness the power of telling a constructive narrative through support from our readers across the globe. It has created opportunities and amassed recognition for some who have been featured on our platform. Vice Versa Global is the beginning of the end of the culture of telling one sided negative narratives. Narratives that have uprooted and stifled the power that can be harnessed through a positive story.
We have not been walking alone and we are calling out for more of you to join the bandwagon. Together let’s build our society, one kind act and one story at a time.
You can empower us to tell it better through your support. Your readership and subscription to the links pinned below and sharing our work with your web of connection shall be our building block in our mission that is “Journalism for social change.”
Eunice Mwaura is co-founder and coordinator of Vice Versa Global. She works and resides in Nairobi.
Vice Versa Global is a platform spearheaded by young African journalists who are keen on telling the African story from the youth’s point of view by creating socially conscious content through vlogs, columns, video, articles and discussions in order to share ideas and spark dialogue about social change. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.