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‘Our Stories’ project: Children around the world share and connect online

UNICEF Image: Google, Our Stories
© ‘Our Stories’ video
The ‘Our Stories’ initiative will collect, preserve and share stories from young people around the world.

By Christopher Fabian

NEW YORK, USA, 10 December 2007 – A multitude of voices have joined together to launch ‘Our Stories’ – an initiative that will collect, preserve and share stories from young people around the world.

As children from more than 50 countries gather in New York this week for ‘A World Fit for Children Plus 5’ – the plenary session called by the UN General Assembly to follow up on its 2002 Special Session on Children – they will also be participating in the launch of the ‘Our Stories’ project. A recording booth set up at the meeting site will be available for youth delegates to share their thoughts with other children who were not able to make the trip.

‘Our Stories’ is supported by UNICEF in partnership with Google and the One Laptop per Child project. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan and UNICEF Advocate for Children Affected by War Ishmael Beah have lent their support to the project as well.

‘The ability to tell my story’

The ‘Our Stories’ website launched on 7 December with stories from Brazil, Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania and Pakistan. Stories from Argentina, Ethiopia and Nigeria, and translations of the site into eight languages, are coming soon.

© UNICEF/2007/Markisz
From left: Jargaldavaa, 16, of Mongolia, Kimberly Deonanan, 15, of Trinidad and Tobago and Ibrahim Adamu, 17, of Nigeria wait to record stories outside the ‘Our Stories’ booth at the Youth Forum leading up to the ‘World Fit for Children Plus 5’ meeting.

“The act of sharing allows us to form that necessary human connection that is often missing,” said Mr. Beah, former child soldier and best-selling author of the memoir, ‘A Long Way Gone’.

“When I was 11, a civil war began in my country,” he continued. “I was forced to become a child soldier at the age of 13, and I fought in the war for over two years. One of the most significant changes in my life has been the ability to tell my story for the benefit of others.”

With ‘Our Stories’, this ability to share and connect can extend beyond traditional channels of storytelling. In the first group of collected stories, common themes of protection, education and health begin to emerge.

A community of storytellers

Many of the stories focus on schooling, as young people either describe the present or look towards their future. Saningo Kimane, a young Masai who had lived most of his life as a pastoralist in Tanzania, was one of the first to record his story, saying “the day that I was really happy was when I started school, because most of the people in my society didn’t have a chance to go to school.”

The UNICEF Division of Communication’s Youth Team has been actively pursuing many avenues to connect young people who have no access to the Internet with others who do, using mobile phones, radio and other innovations under the ‘Uniwiki’ banner.

In the next phase of the ‘Our Stories’ project, the site will add the ability for anyone to record a story – thereby growing the community of stories and storytellers, with the goal of collecting millions of stories by 2010. UNICEF will also add functionality for recording stories on mobile phones and land lines, which will play a powerful role in connecting young voices worldwide.




Watch a video sampler of some of the oral histories collected via mobile phones, audio recorders and Internet cafes for the ‘Our Stories’ project.
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