When a group of us “organizational security practitioners”* gathered in Prague this February, we were cautiously optimistic about what we could achieve.
Many security experts and practitioners have been gaining invaluable experience while working to strengthen human right defenders and civil society organisations' awareness, ability and confidence in thwarting security threats while continuing on their striving for positive change. Commonly referred to as "organizational security", this engagement comprises a complex, evolving and multifaceted process which has been fraught with challenges.
So, earlier this month, 15 such practitioners convened in Prague to share our experiences, resources and approaches, and to address our collective challenges by coalescing our understanding of what organisational security is, and how we, a fledgling community of trainers and organisational security practitioners, can grow and hone our practice.
The groups that participated were:
- the engine room
- Association for Progressive Communications
- The ISC Project
- Access Now
- Digital Society of Zimbabwe
- Front Line Defenders
- HIVOS-DIF / pantraining
More specifically, we put thought and effort into understanding and answering some questions:
- What do we mean by organizational security? what are its reaches and boundaries?
- What are the components (or "stages") of a successful organizational security process? How are they interrelated?
- What are the barriers and the enablers towards success for the organizations? for us, the practitioners?
- What are some of the resources already in place? what more is needed?
- How can we benefit from each others' experiences? How can we better leverage our collective expertise?
The result was an inspiring start, which we like to share and expand.
We want Prague to be the beginning. We were very encouraged and buoyed by the depth and breadth of the collective knowledge to be tapped, and resolved to use the Prague gathering as a launching pad towards a larger knowledge space and a community of practice.
If you are attending the Internet Freedom Festival [https://internetfreedomfestival.org/], we invite you to join us to discuss what we started in Prague, hear our outline of how to grow as an independent, open, and collaborative community; and if you are interested, to join efforts. You'll find us at the organizational security session, currently scheduled for Friday, March 4. We want to hear from you about the challenges you face implementing organizational security support and your solutions; about your own organizational security systems and practices; and how you could benefit and contribute as an active member of this growing community.
Today, video has quite possibly become the strongest conveyor of stories. Considering the power of storytelling, its potential to leave you hanging by the edge of your seat, change minds and force audiences to see things differently, it is no wonder video is so popular within human rights work. Nonetheless many organizations have a rather simplistic view, or approach, on using of video. It’s often something like: go to a site of injustice and record the activities and people there. Let people tell their stories, illustrating the injustice taking place. Take the recorded footage home, edit it and post the results online. The video(s) then become part of an already existing, or perhaps newly created advocacy campaign hoping to influence both public and policy makers. Sound familiar? Parts of it perhaps?
Through a real-life story I would like to illustrate a different way in which video and the power of storytelling can be used. In 2011 Asrida Elisabeth, a young Indonesian woman originally from Flores, an island in the eastern parts of Indonesia, joined an activist pastor in Papua, a huge island at the most eastern end of Indonesia. For decades the Papuan people live in oppression. As a primitive society living on a land incredibly rich in natural resources they have become an easy target for big mining companies, whom facilitated by the Indonesian government simply take, take and take. Everyone profits from Papua except for Papuans, as a Guardian journalist put it.
In her activist work, trying to educate and empower the Papuan people, Asrida noticed that using video was very effective. People would gather easily to watch and audio-visual media resonated strongly, provoking discussions on issues addressed in the videos. As most of the videos used are produced outside of Papua, often even outside Indonesia, Asrida wondered: Wouldn’t it be great if we could make our own videos and show them here?
EngageMedia, a non-profit working with video in South-East Asia, was active in the region through a project called Papuan Voices. Besides producing videos Papuan Voices has a strong empowerment aspect. Asrida got involved and learned a thing or two about filming through workshops and engaging with the local Papuan Voices team. Later on she joined with filming and also managed to produce two of her own videos independently.
When an opportunity presented itself through Project Change to get funding for a video on women living in marginal communities, Asrida grabbed it. By now she knew how to film plus she had a network and access to a region in Papua where she had been actively working for quite some time. The idea for the documentary was simple: follow one mother (Mama) in her struggle to survive in her own land (Tanah). The resulting documentary film, Tanah Mama (2015), was a big success. It opened many Indonesian viewers’ eyes about the oppression of the Papuan people. It is still screened in an effort to empower Papuan communities, providing exactly the type of locally produced videos Asrida had wished for back in 2011. On top of it all, Tanah Mama won the prestigious best documentary film award at the December 2015 Yogyakarta Documentary Film Festival.
It’s not so much the winning of this award that illustrates my point, although I hope it opens up new opportunities for Asrida. It is the way video was used within Papuan Voices that’s most interesting. While it produced someamazing videos, Papuan Voices’ greatest impact is achieved during the process and in the way the project was set up. From the onset the goal was to provide Papuans with the means to tell their stories.
Human rights activists or organizations will achieve greater impact if they can go beyond letting people tell their own stories and move towards actually enabling people to tell their own stories. A much more long-term and process orientated approach, acknowledging not all outputs can be predicted from the start. Video projects then are initiated by listening and engaging and aim to let go as much and as soon as capacities and circumstances allow. Thereby opening up a space where video making becomes a collective creation and learning process, filled with creativity. Only then will more Asrida’s be given the opportunity to surface and address the world in more meaningful and impactful ways than any human rights organization can. Their job is “simply” to enable the impact to happen and capture it in order to inspire.
Join New Tactics in Human Rights and EngageMedia for a conversation on Video for Change & Impact from February 22-26, 2016.
The BarCamps in Yangon have been huge successes, seeing thousands of participants every year. And this year, I took part in it as a speaker and participant.
On the first day, people came as early as 8am (an hour before the event started) to start sharing and learning from each other by embracing the freedom of knowledge. There were over 60 “colorful” topics at put up on the speaker board such as Start-Ups, Big Data, Web Development and even Magic! For the eager participants, it was a mind-boggling experience, as many of the sessions were happening at the same time.
The topic I offered was 'How to make films on mobile devices', which is targeted for citizen journalists and youth who are interested in producing video content. My sessions on this topic are typically 45 minutes long, where I actively share information and experiences, screening some very short films, teaching practical skills and demonstrating the use of mobile video apps.
To fit the BarCamp model, I had to make the session shorter. I started by welcoming everyone to the room as a “creative space” and went through tips on mobile video making. There are two very useful apps I introduced, CameraV & Storymaker.
Several participants wanted to learn more about how to stabilize cameras and how to script/storyboard your mobile videos quickly. They were also themselves offering tips, opinions on the topic, and proposed an idea to start a mobile video filmmaking industry in Myanmar.
One keen participant said that, “We’d like to produce good mobile videos but we don’t know how to produce them step by step”. Her suggestion was that mobile videographers like myself need to share our skills on social media platforms. I hope that I can share my mobile video production tutorials in Burmese online in the near future.
On the second day, I distributed Burmese-subtitled DVDs of EngageMedia‘s Crossroads and Papuan Voices advocacy video collections. One of the campers said, “I never thought I’d get these kinds of gifts at Barcamp. It’s really difficult to get documentary films from outside Myanmar with Burmese subtitles”.
I also spent some time participating as a Camper in other sessions, such as a discussion that was held on the Womens Rights app market.
At the closing ceremony, the organizers and I discussed how to share our mobile video making tips in more detail at next camp, where we decided that I should run an even longer session and hopefully collaborate with other trainers as well.
Yangon BarCamp was filled with people from so many different backgrounds – the independent movers and shakers, the geeks, the youth and more. It was a great place to develop new relationships and have fun while learning. Congratulations to the Colorful BarCamp!
In the bustling city of Yangon, it’s not uncommon to see kids sniffing glue in dark street corners. Most people have gotten used to this sight. The many children make money from selling goods such as flowers, helping on construction sites and in cafés, but often from prostitution and criminal activity such as break-ins as well.
Most of them live in constant insecurity. They are scorned by society, cast out and have no chance at having a normal childhood. Some were sent out to work because their parents could not afford to send them to school, while others are refugees in the conflict zones across Myanmar.
If Street Children's Day is an opportunity to send a message to and request action from all the governments of the world, then the new government of Myanmar, led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy, have to show a strong commitment to ensuring the rights of children.
We hope that the following videos help you to understand the plight of street children in the country, and share them to help raise awareness on this tragic, unresolved issue.
The Kids Who Sniff Glue
Growing up on the streets of Mandalay is tough. Many children sniff glue as a means of escapism and to forget their hunger. With no one around to help them, they are vulnerable to abuse and further decline into harder drugs.
I Wanna Go to School
Filmmaker Nyan Kyal Sal told the story of a brother and sister who’ve always dreamed of going to school. Together, they try to escape from obstacles such as gender inequality, poverty, child abuse, forced labour and human trafficking that prevent them from having access to education.
This film was an awarded animation film at the Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival in Myanmar in 2015.
Giving Their Lives Back
“I was 16 years old and always wanted to be a driver. I was approached by a guy who offered me a job as a driver, so I went with him. He then took me to the army and I had to stay for two years.”
For over a decade, children in Myanmar have been recruited to participate in violent, armed conflicts between the state and numerous militarized ethnic groups. Community organizers are working hard to return child soldiers to their families and end this profound abuse of children’s rights.
Below are some organizations working to help street children in Myanmar, which you can volunteer with or donate to.