THE BLOG
11/25/2013 02:07 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

Girls Are Leaders. Leaders Are Storytellers.

Around the world, it's clear that a key component of leadership -- at every level -- is the ability to tell your story. Think Sheryl Sandberg, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Malala Yousafzai. Their stories of triumph and hardship are core to their leadership. Stories carry an inspirational and transformative power, not just for listeners, but also for the storyteller. As we learn how to articulate our stories, we feel stronger, more confident and poised to face our own challenges and those in our community, including the global issue of gender based violence (GBV).

At Women Win, we see infinite potential in the stories that are lived and told by girls, particularly at the intersection of sport, rights and leadership.

In September, one of our young leaders, Pallavi Gaikwad, a netball coach with our partner NAZ Foundation in India, delivered a speech from the main stage of the Clinton Global Initiative to some of the world's most influential people. Pallavi told a story about the importance of sport for girls in India, and how the sport experience can change their lives. Her story was most powerful because it was told by her, not about her or on her behalf. Telling this story is part of her path of inspiring other girls like her to take part in sport, gain confidence, realize their rights and their own power to become leaders who can then share their stories.

Storytelling and Leadership Building

Storytelling, like sport and leadership, is something learned. The ability lives within every girl, many of whom come from communities rich in storytelling traditions. And, like all skills, storytelling excellence can be taught, honed and practiced. Communication can be improved through building muscles related to story message, delivery and knowing your audience. Learning to use and master ITC skills, such as computer usage, internet literacy and using software and applications, creates transferable employability skills. Because we recognize the power of storytelling for cultivating the empowerment of girls we are launching an innovative project training young women leaders in digital storytelling (DST).

DST is a workshop-based methodology that focuses on the everyday person's ability to share aspects of their life story. Over the course of a 5-day intensive workshop, DST participants are given the opportunity and skills necessary to produce a 2-5 minute video story. The focus of the workshop is on the learning process, not the end result. The beauty is that the experience is grounded in storytellers' ultimate control over the medium -- words, images and audio -- ensuring that the stories are told by those who lived the experience.

During the workshop, girls learn to identify key components of a good story and are led through a process of self-reflection that allows them to really see their own pathway to leadership, and give voice to what participating in sport has meant to them. By reflecting on their own experiences, the girls are able to clearly see their own lives, recognize their strides and transmit those experiences to others. The outcome is not just a powerful story, but a young person better equipped to use communication tools to influence social change.

Storytelling and Addressing Gender Based Violence

We all have a story. In fact, we have many. No single story defines us, but our personal collection shapes who we are, and how we are. Among girls, there are far too many stories that involve direct experiences with gender-based violence (GBV).

Digital storytelling gives girls the space and tools to share these stories. In a DST workshop, the storyteller has complete power -- they choose what to say and how to say it. There is a profound healing power in that process. As participants actively construct and reconstruct themselves and their stories through the narration process, they grow more resilient and poised to move forward.

Similarly, sport provides girls the opportunity to gain strength, both physically and emotionally. Over the course of three years, Women Win has gathered a diverse set of experts to learn about sport as a strategy for addressing GBV. Sport can help girls develop a greater ownership and understanding of their bodies. It can also be a place where girls learn to communicate, negotiate, lead and build meaningful connections. When girls express the benefits of sport aloud through DST, they become tangible assets that can be employed off the field.

Aim to Change

At Women Win, we provide girls with the tools and training they need to become agents of change in their communities. Through DST, girls are practicing essential leadership skills with intentionality and purpose. As the world has already seen with Pallavi, girls have the power to drive global change through sport. We firmly believe that by helping girls share their stories, they will become better leaders and role models, and will widen the point of access to sport and leadership opportunities for others who follow behind them.

Hear girls' sport stories at womenwin.org/stories/digital-storytelling-project

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