film production + social action



Gawaahi: Video Storytelling in Pakistan

By @ChristieM

Happy 100th Anniversary to International Women’s Day! I’m a little late in my well wishes, but the sentiment is still there.

This is my first blog post for Righteous Pictures and after following Michael Kleiman’s always entertaining “This Week in RP” and Alexandra Bunzl’s inspiring post, “Can Art Change the World?” I”m a little nervous. For RP I hope to blog weekly on Technology and Social Change: How new online and mobile technologies are accelerating positive change around the world. You may also hear me talk about storytelling fairly often as its not the tools themselves that are creating change, its how people are using them to tell their story and allowing all of us the opportunity to see into each other’s worlds.

Being International Women’s Day, I wanted to highlight the launch of a new website, called Gawaahi, by my friend Sana Saleemand her Gawaahi co-founder Naveen Naqvi. I’m highlighting their website today not just because they are women, but because they are giving a voice to women in Pakistan. I had the honor of meeting Sana at the International Youth Conference in Islamabad in December, during which she skillfully schooled the Minister of Information on the government’s education policies.

In their own words, “Gawaahi.com is home to digital stories of Pakistan. Stories of abuse and survival, the testimonies of the survivors of the worst floods in Pakistan’s history, the narratives of Pakistanis celebrating their individual identities are just some examples of what we have for you. Our team finds stories that are under-reported in the mainstream media.

Gawaahi.com serves as a platform for anyone (not just women) in Pakistan to submit their story on their own. Gawaahi also goes out into local communities to seek out stories and gather opinions, usually on video, from the people of Pakistan. Through their blogs posts and videos, they able to put a spotlight on the individuals, stories, and events that are often ignored by traditional media, which faces government and military control and intimidation.

 

One of the videos I watched most recently was of a seventeen year old girl telling her story of how after insulting a man, she was attacked by him with acid. I have heard about acid attacks on women many times before and have always been horrified. But watching this brave young woman stare straight into the camera and unabashedly tell her story, without the dramatic music and setting of a scripted, highly-produced video, effected me more than all the news stories of unnamed women I had read in print.

With an Islamic government and terrorist bombings nearly everyday, many of us have a negative idea of what life in Pakistan is like, and know very little about the actual people there, myself included. Gawaahi offers people in Pakistan a microphone for their voice and the rest of the world an insight into the stories and opinions of Pakistanis that news media rarely covers.

If you do one thing for International Women’s Day, please go to the website and just watch a few videos and learn from these incredible women. I think (and hope!) that like me, you will see a whole new side to Pakistan.

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  1. asma siddiqi

    Unless Gawaahi.com identifies the perpetrators of abuse, violence and harrasment in its stories, it will be just another media outfit that carries stock narratives that we have heard, read and viewed a million times: generic stories of rape, harrasment and injustice. Gawaahi.com will thus join the ranks of NGOs and development agencies whose sole aim is to acquire funding from donors and sponsors.Nothing new about that.
    Goodluck Gawaahi.
    Asma Siddiqi

    Mar 09, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

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