Funding Young Feminist Media in a time of rising fundamentalism

By: Ani Hao and Ledys Sanjuan Meija

Today, the media, traditional or not, is the battleground of ideas and ideologies. In the media, entire elections are won or lost. In the media, feminists and other movements have come together to win incredible reforms, changes in attitudes and influenced culture faster and more effectively than ever before. Still the media landscape seems like a losing battle, with corporate owned media oligarchies at the top pursuing rich, old, white men’s agendas, and fragmented, struggling-to-survive independent media platforms at the bottom that report on some of the most urgent yet unreported issues. 

This is why FRIDA created the Young Feminist Media Fellowship in collaboration with The FBomb, a young feminist platform created by Women’s Media Center that would elevate the stories of written by and about young feminist activism. We selected four Young Feminist Media fellows from Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Mexico and South Africa. Talented activists, journalists, poets and media-makers in their own ways, the fellows reported on and told stories about young feminist issues and movements within and outside of their communities. Stories that would otherwise never be told. They blew us away with their considerate and careful reporting, feminist analysis and creative, nuanced formats. From personal pieces to a photoessay and original reporting, the fellows used different formats to communicate their messages.

 

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Amna Nasir, from Pakistan, wrote about Dalit Women Fight and their work in the context of #MeToo in India, which has raised conversation about the violence that middle-class and Savarna women face but ignored the implications of caste and class. Ngozi Cole, from Sierra Leone, wrote about the comprehensive and holistic work that Girls Empowerment Sierra Leone is doing and their six- year- long informal educational program grounded in feminist activism that is nurturing teenage girls. Ariana Smit, based in Cape Town, wrote deeply personal pieces about their experience of living with PCOS, the violence of the medical industrial complex, and reflections on gender and sexuality in the context of emerging discussions about correlation with PCOS. Nany Guerrerx, from Mexico, connected as a visual artist to the work of ThaiConsent, a young feminist Thai group that uses illustration to deepen understanding and dialogue about consent. This is just the tip of the iceberg – click here to see each fellow’s profile and read all of their articles.

We talked with the fellows to discuss their fellowship experience with the fellowship and asked them to describe the implications and importance of young feminist media in today’s world. Nany Guerrero reflected on this by telling us a story from Merida, Yucatan. “It’s a different lens when we get to tell our own stories and make people actually hear us. For the March 8th protest in Merida, there were male journalists present, photographing us. One of them photographed me in an inappropriate way and I asked him not to publish the photo – he did, anyway. If there had only been feminist journalists covering the protest, I know that they would have been more sensitive to our needs and reality.” Ngozi Cole said, “It is very important to bring stories from the margins, stories that would be considered less important (from developing countries), just to give those stories a platform, to be aware of the differences, how feminism crosses borders, how young feminists are dealing with different issues…. Some of these stories were highlighted for the first time.”

The fellows also reflected on the resources and the skills that they gained from the fellowship. “One of the most unfortunate things about journalism now is that there is not enough funding – journalism doesn’t pay as much as it should. That affects a lot of stories. It only supports certain issues, and it doesn’t support young writers and many stories. For us, with the fellowship, we can pursue [feminist stories],” said Ngozi Cole. The fellows received a stipend from FRIDA for the entire duration of the fellowship, and payment per article by The FBbomb. All fellows marked 4 or higher (on a scale of 1 to 5) on gaining professional skills and connections received from the fellowship.

Media-based organizing is a strategy that young feminists will continue to use because it is impactful and effective. In the fast-paced and increasingly saturated yet unequal media world, we need to strengthen spaces and opportunities for young feminists. At FRIDA, we have shown how young feminists use creative and arts-based strategies to achieve cultural, social, and even policy-based change in their contexts and communities. We know that once we have a platform and resources, we have powerful voices and necessary stories to tell. We hope that young feminists will transform the media world as we know it, and show how their priorities, such as activism, the environment, community work and feminist leadership, are more news-worthy than ever.

The FRIDA and FBomb Young Feminist Media Fellowship 2018 was a collaborative effort between FRIDA staff members, consultants and The FBomb. We are greatly appreciative of the time, effort and leadership of the following people involved:

  • Julie Zeillinger (FBomb founder) – Editor and co-conspirator
  • Ani Phoebe Hao (FRIDA Media Consultant) – Editor and mother hen of the fellows
  • Deepa Raganathan (FRIDA Communications Coordinator) – Coordination with internal FRIDA community and unconditional love
  • Ledys Sanjuan Mejia (FRIDA Senior Advocacy and Communications Officer) – Project lead and coordination
  • Devi Leiper O’Malley (FRIDA Outgoing Co-Executive Director) – Project’s Ideation and ignition energy