Editor’s Note: In 2016, StoryCenter began a partnership with Grassroot Soccer South Africa, to support young women living in Cape Town’s largest township, Khayelitsha, in telling stories and taking the lead on speaking out about gender-based violence and women’s rights. This month, in recognition of the global 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, we share excerpts from interviews with some of the storytellers, conducted after they produced stories in a five-day digital storytelling workshop. Read more about this project in a case study on the StoryCenter website. The following is adapted from a conversation with Grassroot Soccer Communications Specialist Jenn Warren in collaboration with three digital storytellers from a Ford Foundation-supported program. Special thanks to the US Consulate Cape Town and American Corner at the Cape Town Central Library for the generous use of their MakerSpace and Digital Classroom.

Women of the Soil, by Sonwabise Dick

What was it like to tell your story? And what was it like to share it in the digital storytelling workshop?

I learnt that my poetry can change people. When you are reflecting through poetry, you understand yourself even more, and it’s easy for you to show others how you really feel and what they can expect from you. In some cases, poetry is sad and then at the end it shows emotion and says, whatever I’m going through, at some point it will end and change. Women are stable like the soil. Only the wind can blow the soil – when the wind blows, the soil will eventually return to the ground. Sharing my story gave me a healing space. The workshop made me a stronger person. I came to a conclusion that, if I didn’t share that story, I may not be where I am today. Maybe I would still have sleepless nights.

What is your hope for sharing your story?

I want my story to give hope, motivate people, make women resilient, and have an impact on our society. I would love for every woman out there to recognise my story and feel that relief of, “Yes I am a woman, and I am proud.”

Do you think a digital storytelling workshop like the one you attended could benefit others?

Every young person out there has a story to tell. I think it’s a platform of healing, especially if you work in an organisation where you listen to participants’ problems and you know that something really serious is happening. When you know there is a place where you can speak out, it’s easier to help others.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I want to be an activist and fight for women’s rights. The #nomorelipservice hashtag in my story is a call for us to be for real, feel free to speak up, and make a change. I hope my story empowers young women, because they are the ones who face so many challenges. Being an activist, sharing my story, people will know that I also came across something in life. When it comes to personal stories, it’s not always easy to just share; but in digital storytelling, it was amazing, it was relieving. I was the one making my own story. I made my own choices.

Silent Tears, by Aphiwe Mfanta

What was it like for you to create a Digital Story?

It was a great platform for me to express my feelings, also to motivate young women in South Africa. I learnt to express my feelings using media, and to share my story with everyone. I’m not the person who likes to share, and I’m not the person who likes to cry. But I was getting that opportunity to cry and share, and I enjoyed learning how to use a camera, audio recording equipment, and video editing software.

What was the part best part of the digital storytelling workshop? What was the hardest?

I’m doing something for myself that will also motivate youth, so as for them to not go in the same path that I’ve been through. The hardest part was the first day, it was so emotional, and it was not an everyday experience. When we were sharing our stories, it was difficult to see someone crying, sharing the same situation.

What did you learn about yourself?

I learnt so many things. I’ve learnt that crying is healing sometimes. People who have watched my story have been so surprised, and I say to them, that the beauty outside of your face may not determine the inside of your heart. All I can say is to be strong and alive, share with others, and talk about the things you have been through. And be around people who have the positive attitude, not those who have a negative attitude that can put you in a place that you don’t want to be.

Why did you choose to share the story that you shared?

I had this inner voice that I was ready to share this story, and the workshop was great platform for me. I think it was something inside of me, and I wanted to let the story, the past, go. But it’s not easy to let go sometimes, because when you reflect back on that situation, it becomes so emotional. Sharing the story in this digital format and stepping outside of myself made it easier to share.

What do you hope will happen, when you share your story with others?

I want someone who is watching, whether male or female, to understand that when you hurt someone, it is not right, and you must understand their feelings. I think most women share the same situation, but we don’t talk about it, and I think that this story can especially help those women who have been through a lot. You are not facing those challenges alone, we are facing them together.

Dreams Have No Gender, by Zesipho Mankayi

What was it like for you to create a digital story?

For me, it was like people just created that safe space, so that I could share anything that hurt me. I believe that the more we talk about the burning issues that hurt inside, we can feel relief. It’s much better to always talk about it and share with other people. It was my first time to share a story in front of people. The hardest part was when we were sharing our stories. It was emotional, but we managed to share, and we became free in everything that we did.

Did you learn anything about yourself?

When you speak out about something that you don’t like or something that hurts you, it gives another person strength, and a confidence to not keep quiet and let those pains eat at them every day. I am very, very grateful. Taking this step to share has helped me to help other people, and to trust myself.

Why did you choose to share the story you shared?

I chose my message, my story, because I find that most girls don’t know how to change gender norms, stereotypes, and gender expectations. But I believe that something is in us, we can change it. We can make the situation better. I shared this story in order to encourage young girls to play, to choose any sport that they like. They must not listen to what people say. They must focus on what they like. If I want to do something, I must not let people stop me, and I must focus on what I want to achieve. And also in terms of gender, you know, sometimes girls in our communities are not allowed to play soccer even if they want to; because of what people say about gender norms.

What is your hope for sharing your story?

I did this to show that if you have a chance, just make use of it, in everything. If it is sport, school, anything. If you think it’s a great opportunity, just grab it and do your thing. Don’t be scared to try new things. I hope to see everyone participating in every sport, for all women and men, and girls and boys. Equally. I find that some girls have lost their confidence, self-esteem, and their sense of belonging. They experience peer pressure, and I hope for them to put that aside and go forward. Soccer means everything to me. It’s sort of like church for me, because if a day goes by when I’m not playing soccer or exercising, there is something wrong. Without soccer, I think my life would be a mess. But today I have respect, team leadership skills, and communication skills.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I want to say to everyone, not to be scared. Don’t listen to what people say about you. Just focus on what you like and go forward, because dreams have no gender. We have so many choices.