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Stories that lead to real change for people

By Eunice Murathe     


I am a storyteller who has told narratives about hunger, unemployment, mental health, scientific breakthroughs, environmental issues, and climate change across diverse platforms, both as a journalist and a communications practitioner.


Frequently, I ask myself about the tangible impact these stories have on the lives of the individuals they portray.


At the Africa Media Festival 2024 in Nairobi, I was keen to attend the 'Journalism and Filmmaking for Impact; How do stories create change' session. The panel comprised storytellers from One World Media and DocuBox , along with journalists who shared impactful stories and films from across Africa.


One such example is a documentary in Kenya titled "The Letter," which shed light on the intersection of consumerism and Christianity, a story about the branding of elders as witches, in order to seize ancestral land. It used a story to create awareness on the complexity of the issue which has led to killing of many elderly persons especially at the coast of Kenya.


Another film, "Thank You for the Rain," illustrated how a personal climate story, grounded in a unique experience, captivated audiences, and inspired action. This documentary followed Kisilu, a Kenyan farmer, documenting the effects of climate change on his family and village. The impact of the film went beyond accolades, as it prompted international governments and stakeholders to recognize the importance of incorporating the voices of those most affected by climate change in decision-making processes.


Notably, the film's campaign led to the construction of an earth dam in Mutomo, Kisilu's village, benefiting over 1700 people, and the planting of thousands of tree seedlings to adapt to climate change.


Another film, "18 Hours," depicted the real-life struggle of Alex Madaga, who spent 18 hours in an ambulance after being denied entrance to multiple hospitals in Nairobi after a traumatic accident. This film played a role in advocating for the Kenya Health Act of 2018, emphasizing the immediate healthcare needs for all.


We unanimously agreed during the session that stories, truly matter. All these stories had one thing in common- they all told a variety of perspectives.


Two questions persisted: is the change instigated by stories sustained, or do we merely feign concern, moving on shortly thereafter? Is there anything more we can get?


Legacy media collaborating with filmmakers to produce, promote and disseminate stories emerged as a proposed solution.


A unique aspect of documentaries lies in their capacity to capture transformative journeys over extended periods, sometimes spanning years. The production of documentaries often demands considerable time investment, aiming to chronicle pivotal phases of an individual's or subject in depth.


Contrastingly, newsrooms and journalists operate within tighter timelines denying them a chance to go deeper, yet they possess a powerful platform. Leveraging storytelling through mass media can yield significant impact owing to its extensive reach.


We imagined if we could come together, to tell our stories as a community — to be a part of something bigger, part of something that matters to us. Recognizing the strength in unity, we acknowledged that collaboration indeed propels us farther than individual efforts ever could.


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