The Hear Her Voice Project

Girl Effect’s tech-led community initiative

Saziya is 20 years old and lives in Bangladesh with her parents, younger brother, and sister. Before the pandemic, Saziya used to be busy attending college, doing a part-time job, and spending time with her friends and cousin in the afternoon. But for the past three months, life has been a challenge. Documenting her life journey she shares:

“On one hand, the teachers are going forward with the curriculum through the online classes, but at the same time, many of the students cannot attend the online classes. This can be due to various reasons, it can be due to lack of megabytes, or many of them don’t even have a smartphone, to begin with for attending online classes.”

22-year-old Mufy from Nigeria has a similar story. On a normal day, she will pray, complete chores, sell sewing materials with her mother in a shop and complete her national youth service. But the pandemic has made life tough. She adds:

“My mother is the breadwinner in our family…this lockdown has affected her business and the livelihood of my family. Most businesses are not like before because of the lockdown, and it will take a long time for things to be back to normal…”

She is also video documenting her experiences on how the pandemic has affected her livelihood.

Not just Mufy but young girls from countries like India, Bangladesh, US, Malawai, and Nigeria are documenting their life experiences during the ongoing pandemic. They all are Technology Enabled Girl Ambassadors (TEGA) who are driving The Hear Her Voice Project - an initiative by the international nonprofit organization Girl Effect.

According to the nonprofit TEGA is a girl-operated digital research tool to uncover unique insights into girl’s lives by allowing girls to collect close to real-time insights into the lives of their peers.

Girls aged 18-24 are empowered and trained using a bespoke mobile app to become Market Research Society (MRS) qualified researchers and TEGAs. TEGA integrates technology that can operate in places with poor network connections across multiple languages.

Recently while understanding how children nonprofits are doing storytelling on the website I was opened to the world of Girl Effect, especially their recent work “Life in Lockdown” - a unique project giving 25 girls in five countries a platform to report on their experiences of life in lockdown – in their own voice – via digital diaries.

During the times of extended lockdown and social distancing, the TEGAs are unable to conduct qualitative interview research in their communities. Instead, they have turned the cameras on themselves to create weekly digital diaries answering co-created questions that are submitted via mobile phones through the TEGA app.

Good learning for a nonprofit who is worried about creating content. We know the power of videos but marketers have been touchy with the quality of a video. Obviously we all love an HD video with great audio. However, these are challenging times and even renowned creative agencies are shooting videos on smartphones. So if a nonprofit can create video stories around these content ideas it will definitely add value:

  • Stories from the ground during the ongoing pandemic

  • Creating internal stories on how the nonprofit is working during a lockdown

  • Employee stories, how are they battling the ongoing work from home

  • Explore more stories around your Why or brand vision. For example, if you are a nonprofit working with children and education. Can you build stories around the changed school boundaries? Both my nieces send me pictures and videos of their new study desk with headphones on. 

Videos are appealing but the execution will always remain a challenge even if you create a basic video. Just keep these things in mind:

  • Write your content plan, video script even if it is a two-minute video and test.

  • People are comfortable in their own language. Go for it, people want to consume regional content just add subtitles.

  • Try daylight shooting if possible and switch off the fan while recording the video.

  • For editing, I have found Inshot easy and simple. However, it has a watermark.

  • Make sure you create a blog post around the video story and embed it in the post. Don’t just upload on social media and leave it there to die.

  • Finally, don’t make it a sales pitch. Keep it simple and focus on the message. 

Talking about videos, in 2019 Girl Effect launched Chhaa Jaa, an online content-driven program to educate and inform adolescent girls with the right skills and confidence to navigate their teenage years and reach their potential. In other words, the nonprofit bought what content agencies were selling to brands in 2018-19 - “Videos are the big think on Facebook, and Indians are loving it.” 

Nonetheless, the content platform has invested the heart and money into videos and has a mighty presence on YouTube. In 2018-19 Culture Machine excelled in video marketing. The format of the videos includes a mix of long and short format videos talking about issues that we normally don’t speak in open. 

I have just one simple question - Why is the website being treated as a stepchild? Maybe ex-agency folks don’t find websites sexy.