Telling Stories, Sharing Knowledge, and Creating Change
The magic of storytelling
Tai Tanzania intends to bring awareness to Tanzania’s youth about issues which affect them and encourage them to change their own behaviors and create positive transformations within society. Tai empowers teenagers in pursuing their dreams, questioning social norms and making a positive change in the society. Most recently, Tai does this through the implementation of the Darubini Project, which specifically aims to reduce teenage pregnancies and the spread of STIs that are affecting girls’ access to education and resulting in high dropout rates amongst secondary school girls.
So how does a youth-run organization intend to reach these youth and create these needed societal changes?
What would you say if we told you it was by telling stories and creating 3D animation videos?
For generations, stories have been an important way of sharing information. Scholars studying storytelling say, “Stories are what we do as humans to make sense of the world. We are perpetual storytellers, reviewing events in the form of re-lived scenes, nuggets of context and character, actions that lead to realizations” (Lambert 2013). Additionally, research shows that there are large advantages to using narrative stories in processes of health interventions, finding that “narratives have a sizably significant impact on combined changes in attitudes, intention, and behavior” (Wang and Singhal 2016).
At Tai, we were inspired to use 3D animation to raise awareness and empower adolescents from a UNICEF project called “Sara Communication Initiative”. They used short movies to tell stories and convey educational messages to girls. This method was found to be effective in teaching them skills such as problem solving, conflict management, self-awareness, coping with emotions and stress, and claiming their rights (Russon 2000).
From this inspiration we created the 3D animation series Harakati za Lucy and combined it with our Darubini Project, following the concept of “edutainment,” or entertainment-education (EE). Edutainment is the process of creating and distributing a message with the intention to both entertain and educate, thereby increasing audience members’ knowledge on a topic, changing social norms, and influencing behaviors and attitudes. Scholars utilizing and researching methods of EE have shown how effectively it influences individual attitudes and behaviors, and also helps to create the necessary conditions for social change at the system level (Singhal et. al. 2003).
We are of the opinion that it is important to do school-based intervention because in this way you can capture a lot of teenagers and address the issue of teen pregnancy resulting in unequal access to education for girls. It has been shown that using edutainment videos in schools is an effective health education tool and has a positive impact on knowledge and attitudes of teenagers. Using digital storytelling in schools which captures the challenges youth face allows students to talk about issues not normally addressed in school and gives an opportunity to increase dialogue, counter misunderstandings and assumptions, and provide accurate information (Reed & Hill 2010).
To have a greater impact, following other examples of proven projects using storytelling and edutainment methods, the 3D animation stories are used as the starting point for opening group discussions between teenagers and volunteers (Bieri et. al. 2012). This participatory communication encourages more impact and greater change by involving the intended audience, in our case the school-aged youth, in their own process of learning (Khadka 2000). Additionally, we involve adolescents in the construction of the animated work and base the episodes on issues they experience and on stories which are specific to them. Our 3D animations also aim to reflect the adolescent culture through the use of local voice, the look of the characters, and the environment. By doing so, teenagers can easily relate culturally, which has been found to be an important requirement of storytelling and edutainment practices’ success (Khadka 2000).
This method of telling stories in a culturally relatable format allows us to convey complex information, such as sexual and reproductive health, in a manner which is easy for youth to consume, and to address sensitive issues in a less confrontational way. Telling stories encourages the youth to share their own stories, and sharing our knowledge encourages them to share their newly gained knowledge with their communities. It is in this process of sharing that we believe Tai will help them to create their own social change and improve society.
Bieri, F. A., Gray, D., J., Raso, G., Li, Y., & McManus, D., P. (2012). A Systematic Review of Preventive Health Educational Videos Targeting Infectious Diseases in Schoolchildren. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 87(6): 972–978. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.2012.12-0375
Khadka, N. (2000). The participatory development communication paradigm: Communication challenges and change, Australian Journal of Communication, 27(3), 105–122.
Lambert, Joe. (2013). Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community. 4th edition. New York: Routledge.
Reed, A., & Hill, A. (2010). “Don’t keep it to yourself!”: Digital storytelling with South African youth. International Journal of Media, Technology and Life-Long Learning, 6(2), 268–279.
Russon, C. (2000). Evaluation of the Sara communication initiative: Final Summary (Prepared for UNICEF ESARO).
Singhal, Arvind, and Cody, M., Rogers, E., & Sabido M. (2003) Entertainment-Education and Social Change: History, Research, and Practice. Routledge.
Wang, Hua, and Singhal, A. (2016). “East Los High: Transmedia Edutainment to Promote the Sexual and Reproductive Health of Young Latina/o Americans. American Journal of Public Heath, June 2016.