Global Girl Media: Turning Trauma Into Purpose

Johanna McCloy wrote several articles as a freelance journalist for Truth Atlas, a magazine “featuring stories about people and ideas making the world a better place”. Truth Atlas provided permission to reprint her articles here. 

JOHANNA MCCLOY • JUN. 3, 2014 • COMMUNICATORS, POPULAR, SPECIAL FEATURE • ¦3886 views

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA–The year was 2007 and a young woman in Kenya was assisting Amie Williams, an American documentary filmmaker, in covering the national election. They were filming a mass funeral when government forces began to fire on the crowd, causing everyone to disperse and the two women to separate. It took several days for Amie to find her Kenyan assistant, only to discover that she’d been raped and traumatized. When talking about what happened, the young woman expressed a desire to gain a sense of control over her ordeal by owning the telling of it and sharing the story publicly. Amie gave her the tools to do so, teaching her how to use the camera and convey her story. This experience led to the incubation of an idea for Amie: the creation of GlobalGirl Media.

Having covered issues in developing countries as a documentary filmmaker for a number of years, Amie, 50, knew that there was little in the way of positive or empowering media reports surrounding the lives and experiences of young girls and women. She and other female colleagues recognized that much of mainstream reporting focuses on violence, celebrity, or disasters, while the everyday experiences and voices of the invisible majority, particularly young women, passes silently under the radar.

Amie Williams with GGM girls in Los Angeles

Amie Williams with GGM girls in Los Angeles

Amie launched GlobalGirl Media in Los Angeles in 2009 along with her co-founder Meena Nanji, a friend in the documentary film business who also spent considerable time covering gender and cultural issues in the developing world. They agreed that young girls, in particular, needed to be given the tools for storytelling, empowering themselves through media and journalism. With the explosion of social media networking and internet-based communication, it became even more important for young girls in at-risk and impoverished communities to get on board–and online. As stated on their website, “GlobalGirl Media seeks to address this disparity [in accessing these technologies] by supplying the equipment, education, and support necessary to help young women become digital and blog journalists, bringing their own unique perspective on their lives, their communities, and world events to the global web and social media community.”

GlobalGirl Media has news bureaus in South Africa, Morocco, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and will be launching one in Oakland in 2014, where it is partnering with Youth Uprising (a multi-service community transformation hub serving East Oakland) and focusing on girls in the juvenile justice system. To date, the main portals for their video reports have been the GlobalGirl Media website and dedicated YouTube channel along with various partners, including the PBS World Channel. Video topics fall under four categories: Arts & Culture, Politics & Society, Health & Environment, and Women’s Rights/Human Rights.

Amie Williams with GGM Reporter Rebecca Ruvalcaba at the TeenNick HALO Awards (GlobalGirl Rocio Ortega won this award in 2013)

Amie Williams with GGM Reporter Rebecca Ruvalcaba at the TeenNick HALO Awards (GlobalGirl Rocio Ortega won this award in 2013)

Amie says another objective of the organization is to get the girls to think and connect globally. “There is a tendency when living in impoverished neighborhoods for girls to think and feel like they’re alone,” Amie says. “They can’t really leave their neighborhoods so we help them to go online and test their boundaries by talking with girls in other places. We’ll set up Skype calls between girls in different parts of the world or have them connect on Facebook.”

Rocio Ortega, 20, is one of the girls they trained when the organization began. She has since won a TeenNick HALO Award and is on a full scholarship to Wellesley College. “Coming into GlobalGirl Media as a fifteen-year-old, I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew it was something I had to do because there was nothing available like this in my school or community,” says Rocio. “I not only learned how to film, edit, and produce stories, but I was also finding my voice. Working with other girls my age from Los Angeles and from our other chapters in South Africa, Morocco, and Chicago, I received international exposure that helped shape my values and goals. GGM equipped me with the necessary tools to not only speak up, but empower other girls to find their voice as well. Give us a camera or tell us we can do anything and we will take that wherever we go.”

Amie Williams with GGM girls during a training in Morocco.

Amie Williams with GGM girls during a training in Morocco.

GlobalGirl Media has formed a partnership with TV4 Entertainment, a portfolio of genre-specific broadband television networks to inspire worldwide communities poorly served by traditional television. Launching in 2014, the GlobalGirl Media Network (GGMN) will feature original video content created by the girls trained by the organization, along with third party content dedicated to girls and young women and global perspectives. The objective, always, is to stay positive in the messaging and to focus not on girls as victims but, instead, to find ways to make a change and to empower themselves.

Sthokozo Mabaso, 24, from Soweto, South Africa, is another of the many young women that GlobalGirl Media has trained. She received a four-week training as a citizen journalist in 2011 and told stories about her community in Soweto. In 2012, she traveled to Washington, D.C. with GlobalGirl Media Morocco journalist, Mandisa Madikane, to cover the World Aids Conference. At the conference, she was invited to participate as one of the panelists discussing the topic of women, abuse, and gender justice entitled “Taking Action to End Violence against Girls.” Her first blog was then featured on Huffington Post. Shortly afterward, Sthokozo received a scholarship to the Big Fish School of Digital Filmmaking in Johannesburg.

“You know, when I started GlobalGirl Media, I knew nothing concerning filming and I doubted myself all the time, but today I can proudly say I am a filmmaker, because I even see my name in the credit on TV,” Sthokozo beams. “I told Amie how thankful I was because if it were not for GGM, I would not have made it this far. Now, I am able to help other girls and I hope to also inspire them about the media they can make.”

Want to get involved?

GlobalGirl Media, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization, is dedicated to empowering high school age girls from under-served communities around the world through media, leadership and journalistic training to have a voice in the global media universe and their own futures.

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