In 2009 I founded Handheld Stories with one simple mission:
To provide communities confronting critical social issues the tools to digitally document their experiences and show the world what their lives are really like. We start the training with a simple prompt:
If you could show the world what your life is like - what would you say?
A lot, apparently. Students tackled issues in their communities ranging from cultural norms that encourage and promote underage drinking (as in Suraj's video below) to broader social problems like pollution and poverty.
Young women created documentary shorts discussing their agency (or lack thereof) in their community. Others chose less weighty subjects - their local sweet shop, school or friends. And one courageous participant shared the truth about herself which existed at odds with community and traditional expectations.
Our inaugural workshops took place in the West Bank of Palestine. We've also led workshops in Dharavi Slum, Mumbai, in Nepal, the Middle East and the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in the United States.
To learn more, participate, or host a workshop, visit handheldstories.com.
See more stories at handheldstories.com.
The Raksi Tradition
Suraj Nepali, 15 years of age, tackles the entrenched social mores associated with underage - in this case - primary school-age - drinking. Not only is this Suraj's first film - it's his first time holding a camera. The Raksi Tradition is a profound example of the stories that exist just beneath the surface, and can only be brought to light by members of the community, and best uncovered by a tenacious teenager.
A Change of Heart
A bracingly honest filmmaker, Aiden turns the camera on herself. The very real yet often neglected problem of bullying takes on a new dimension when we learn it's compounded by Aiden's very real desire to be herself - in a community dominated by atavistic standards and norms that don't reflect changing norms and social realities..
Handheld envisions a world where all people, regardless of their economic or social standing, have the right, the means, and access to participate in the global conversation. We believe in a world where all people have the opportunity to share their stories as informed global citizens, where no one remains underrepresented, and where the right to free speech also encompasses the right to be heard.