If the pen is mighty, the mobile phone can be mightier for the girl child

Theresa Takafuma
Posted April 23, 2019 from Zimbabwe
Mobile journalism
With just a mobile phone, communities can be changed for the better

I cherish my mobile phone very much, because it is one tool that has driven my growth and abilities as a journalist and storyteller more than any other tool I use in my line of work.

Sometimes I even think it is one of the most underused gadgets technology ever gave us because I have seen it doing so much more for me and my work than I could ever imagine, and the fact that a lot of people have one makes it even better.

I started my career as a print journalist, writing for a community weekly newspaper in a small town I am based in called Masvingo in Zimbabwe and as a young journalist all I was focused on was just the by-line.

There were moments I felt I was not doing enough for my community, especially for those people from low income communities, whose stories are usually left out by mainstream media because they "do not have enough influence" to make headlines.

Little did I know that I had all the resources I needed to tell the story about those stories that mattered to my community, including garbage collection, livelihoods from waste recycling and water rationing and above all, the woman story because more often than not, women's portrayal in the media was of them mostly suffering or at the middle of scandals.

In December 2014, I got the opportunity to learn and had my first ever stint with mobile journalism and my life as a communicator was never the same.

An organization called Her Zimbabwe embarked on a project called Mobile Community Zimbabwe, that created an army of citizens who are not necessarily media people but are keen to tell their community story using mobile phones to shoot, edit and share videos on various social media platforms, and I had the privilege to be part of the project.

In college, I had only learnt storytelling and reporting from a print journalism perspective, and here now was an opportunity for me to amplify the community voice and to illuminate women as newsmakers as I had already wished.

During the program I was taught digital storytelling, video and audio editing using mobile applications, as well as how to build an online following using the community stories. I also learnt more about digital safety and security and how to protect my data just in case I could get in trouble during an assignment.

At first, it was all too technical for me and I had a hard time meeting deadlines, but as time went on, I began to be good at identifying stories that mattered to the low income communities, and the more I did the stories, the more obligated I became to tell that story. Needless to say it started prompting policy makers to action to either address a community problem or to clarify its stance on several issues.

Early 2015, armed with only my mobile phone, I captured the looming tragedy at a local market, where farmers and traders were operating without ablution facilities. Open defecation was so rife that cholera was likely to break out anytime at the market, and many, especially women and children were going to be affected.

So dire was the situation that open human waste could be seen just outside the market demarcations, with swarms of flies terrorizing the food traders at the market. I had several interviews with the traders, shooting and editing the footage using my mobile phone.

After uploading the video on my YouTube channel, on the MCZ website and other easily accessible platforms like WhatsApp, it got a lot of people talking, finally landing on the mobile phones and laptops of the local municipality, which went on to build the long awaited for ablution facilities at the market.

The following year I won an award with Free Press Unlimited for the Best Social Impact Story—my first journalistic award, as the Masvingo municipality acknowledged that the video had catapulted them to action to contain the impending catastrophe at that market. This opened a lot of doors for me, more than any of my other work had.

From that time, visual storytelling and mobile journalism became my passion, and I finally had to move to the organization I am currently at, as my passion in the digital storytelling in low income communities continued to grow. My digital storytelling and mobile journalism skills bettered my chances of getting that job and I found myself being the "tech" person in my new workplace.

In 2017, I was selected as one of the ten female journalists in Zimbabwe to do what was termed the Zimbabwe Women Making Mobile Media (ZWM3), a project intended to tell the Zimbabwean woman story in a positive light, and that experience was a life changing one.

I had the chance to visit various grassroots areas making mini-documentaries about women's livelihoods, success stories, HIV/Aids response among other things, and I am sure that touched a lot of lives.

Every time I would approach my would be story-makers, they would be skeptical about the size of my equipment, which was basically my mobile phone, compared to the big DSLR cameras usually carried by big time broadcasters, but after seeing the finished video on YouTube or WhatsApp, they would be amazed at the impact it had.

That still felt like it was not enough, and as I continued doing the stories I started feeling that I had harnessed so much power to influence access to information especially to women and girls in low income communities, who were on several occasions the subjects of my stories but I needed to use that power to give them a voice.

As it is said, if information is power, then access to information is empowerment, I began to think of ways these young women and girls could be empowered through the use of tech and media to give them a voice to tell their own stories, become opinion leaders in their communities to enhance development as well as advocate for change.

With a few of my friends, we created Girls Speak Out, an after school program for young women and girls from low income communities (between 14 and 24) to train them on media and tech skills like coding and mobile journalism.

Through Girls Speak Out, I am confident that a lot of women and girls will not only get media and tech skills, but can also use the coding skills to influence social change in their very own communities, whilst they can also be empowered to generate income because the future is tech.

The determination with the team that drives Girls Speak Out gives me hope for the girl child, and there could be nothing more satisfying to see than women leading in media and tech using what is readily available to them like mobile phones, and that is the exact thought that motivates every GSO class.

The coding skills the girls and young women get, coupled with the media skills will be such a loud voice that will be difficult to ignore, and I am almost sure that these skills will give the girls a better chance at success in their respective careers.

As I continue doing my mini-documentaries, as well as become "the" tech person at the company I am working for, I can never underestimate the power of tech, as it gave me a voice through my favourite gadget that made me one of the girls in ICT--my mobile phone.

For more details on Girls Speak Out visit: www.girlspeakout.co.zw

(Girls Speak Out was recently selected as one of the 90 Champions at the 2019 World Summit on the Information Society 2019 in Action Line 9 Category 16-Media)

For more on my mobile stories follow: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGF8Jhm4G4JS_OSBqGeyhCQ  

 

 

This story was submitted in response to Girls in ICT Day.

Comments 9

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Dawn Arteaga
Apr 24
Apr 24

Wow congratulations on all your success with Girls Speak Out! I will definitely follow your work online - so inspiring. I also love your statement about the cellphone being mightier than the pen these days! So, so true! Thanks for sharing this!

Theresa Takafuma
Apr 24
Apr 24

Thank you for your kind words. Please do follow our work online. We are on all social media platforms as well.

Jill Langhus
Apr 24
Apr 24

Hi Theresa,

How are you doing? Thanks for sharing your inspiring and empowering story of how you got introduced to ICT, and doing what you currently do. Do you have a different link for the Girls Speak Out site? I get an error for it, but would like to follow it.

Hope you're doing well, and having a great week.

Theresa Takafuma
Apr 24
Apr 24

Hi Jill
Thanks for reading. I'm realising that for some reason the link may be broken. The correct link is: www.girlspeakout.co.zw
Kindest regards

Jill Langhus
Apr 25
Apr 25

Hi again:-)

You're welcome! Oh, I got it to work now, and I'm already following... great! Thanks!

Hope you're having a great day, and week!

Lisbeth
May 06
May 06

How are you? I hope you are doing well. Nice experience. Do you have any future vision concerning ICT? Something big?

Theresa Takafuma
May 08
May 08

Hi
Thank you for reading about my experience. My vision for ICT is seeing girls from low income communities taking charge of media and tech through giving them skills like coding and advocacy, which will then help them pursue careers of their choices. In the bigger picture, I envision big time ICT entrepreneurs who are women, who would have come out of the usually forgotten parts of the world. I wish for Girls Speak Out to be that beacon of hope for girls in tech.

Beth Lacey
May 08
May 08

Great story. Congratulations on Girls Speak Out and being "the" tech person at your company

Theresa Takafuma
May 08
May 08

Thanks Beth. I really appreciate it.