Christensen Fund: Stories of Land, Rights, and Culture: Indigenous Community Members in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mexico, and Tajikistan Document Their Efforts to Protect Human Rights and Preserve Traditions
Dominant narratives about the “development agenda” typically fail to consider the needs and desires of indigenous communities, who face disproportionate threats to their rights and cultural traditions as a result of land grabs, climate change, and pressures to adopt “modern” farming practices and ways of life. The Christensen Fund takes a holistic approach to supporting indigenous communities in regions around the world in their efforts to maintain their connections to their lands, preserve their languages and cultural practices, and pursue legal and political channels to protect their human rights.
From 2013-2015, Silence Speaks collaborated with Christensen and its regional partners in the Rift Valley region of Africa, Northwestern Mexico, and Central Asia, on a series of storytelling and participatory media workshops (in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mexico, and Tajikistan) with local indigenous leaders on these critical issues. The goal of the project was two-fold: to build the capacity of participants for sharing their own stories; and to garner increased coverage by local media of the challenges faced by indigenous communities. Our approach varied from country to country, taking into consideration the specific political, cultural, and linguistic contexts as well as the desires expressed by participants for technical skill-building. In each workshop, we led storytellers through the process of sharing and recording their own narratives, taking and selecting photos and video clips, and assisting with the editing of these materials into short digital videos. In some workshops, we also provided training on photography, audio recording, and photo ethics, to enable participants to continue documenting stories within their communities.
Following the workshops, we are polishing the stories, providing language-appropriate versions to participants from each workshop, and making the collections available online (watch videos from Ethiopia, Mexico, and Tajikistan; stories from Kenya are forthcoming once they have been distributed to the storytellers themselves). We also developed a set of story distribution recommendations, to support impactful approaches for the storytellers and members of their local communities to use in publicly screening the videos. For more information about the project, contact us.