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COMMENT: What does it mean to tell a story?

Friday 20 November 2015 MSI US Policy and advocacy Cambodia, Tanzania

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Powerful, authentic stories are the coveted partner to evidence and data, but are not always easy to find. In 2015, with the generous support of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Marie Stopes International US worked with teams and clients to gather stories that would engage and inspire.

In the US office, we provide support to our 37 service-providing country programs around the world, and are often asked for client stories. In particular, stories that will help policy-makers and governments to understand the realities of women’s lives and how they are impacted by laws and regulations.

One of our team members had the privilege of interviewing garment factory workers, indigenous women, pharmacists, nurses in remote public health facilities, young people, outreach workers, and women working hard to build a better life for their children in Cambodia and Tanzania.

Based on the stories they shared, we created a collection of short narrative films capturing women’s experiences in their own words. These films demonstrate the incredible work being done by determined individuals on the ground in both countries - work that is made possible by donors like USAID, UNFPA, Australia AID, local governments, and individual donors.

However, as you’ll see in one film, much of this work is dependent on favourable foreign policies - or lack of unfavourable policies, like the rescinding of the Global Gag Rule in 2009. While changes in foreign policy can be difficult for governments and organisations to manage, ultimately the burden falls on the women and men who depend on services provided by organisations like Marie Stopes International.

The team member making these interviews continued to be struck by the generosity of the people who shared their stories for these films - people who revealed some of the most intimate details of their lives. As advocates, we often share the stories of other people, which demands significant responsibility - to portray each person as the autonomous and complex person they are.

We have worked tirelessly to ensure that these films preserve the integrity, dignity, and authenticity of the women involved in order to do justice to their stories. We have worked hard to portray genuine stories, and not allow them to typecast a dynamic individual into a static character. Indeed, the individuals you’ll meet in these films, like the Kahama outreach team in Tanzania, are dynamic and empowered - doing inspirational and important work.

At Marie Stopes International, we strive to keep the woman at the centre of our work, as they are the inspiration for everything we do. We hope you find inspiration in these films, too.


Watch the film collection

Read 'In their own words' - introducing the people behind the films

Read 'We go to where they are' - a story of contraceptive outreach in Tanzania

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