On March 2023, survivors of child labor trafficking on Lake Volta, in Ghana, gathered to participate in the Advocacy and Power of Story workshop. Participants are from a group called the “Courageous Crew”, a branch of the Ghana Survivor Network, which is part of the Global Survivor Network. The Advocacy and Power of Story workshop is a tool that is used all around the world by International Justice Mission (IJM) for local networks of survivors. This workshop enables survivors of violence to harness the power of storytelling to support their own continued healing, develop themselves as leaders, and to inspire action in their communities. Participants discover the power of personal storytelling to create lasting change for themselves and others.
There were many wonderful facilitators and coaches from IJM staff, leading this workshop with a uniquely tailored, yet effective, approach. The content of the workshop was contextualized to make it relatable to the survivors. Facilitators presented examples of influential leaders from the local community in Ghana that had led impactful movements of storytelling in the past. This set the stage for communicating the importance of advocacy and helped workshop participants understand the incredible power that their own voices hold. Additionally, the facilitators and coaches all spoke in the native Ghanaian tongue, which opened doors of comfortability and vulnerability. Facilitators took intentional time considering what would cater best to their audience and it paid off immensely in the outcomes of the workshop. One facilitator, Josephine Aparo, Senior Lead Global Survivor Network, IJM Ghana/Global Programs, reflected that “the workshop struck the perfect balance between informative and interactive.”
One of the most interactive aspects of the workshop was a beautiful statement that the participants enthusiastically recited over and over again, “My Story, Our Story, Take Action...NOW!” According to one facilitator, “The chant empowered them (participants) to speak, share and demand social justice. It also served as a guide to build their stories upon, as well as a framework to give feedback to others during coaching sessions.” The creation of this unique chant was a vital foundation of the success of this workshop. Because of the upbeat, encouraging, and positive atmosphere, participants were able to clearly understand the content and start to utilize it to share their stories in powerful ways.
Initially, the coaching sessions started out slowly, but one brave young lady got the ball rolling by courageously sharing her story, which encouraged others to do the same. As the participants began to realize that they could empathize and associate with each other's stories, the doors of communication swung wide open. Survivors leaned on each other for support and advice as they began to carefully craft their stories. The opportunity provided by workshop small groups was one of great authenticity, healthy challenge, and unwavering reinforcement for survivors. As astutely observed by one facilitator, Jacqueline Oyimer, “By the second day, I could tell that the small groups had become a space of healing, support, and growth, and the allotted time was not enough because more and more people wanted to share and give feedback.”
The Advocacy and Power of Story workshop had a very powerful impact on both the survivors and their community, as seen in the following testimonials about the workshop. Christiana, a young mother who participated in the training, affirmed that she now knows that she has a voice, and she can use it to stop children from being trafficked to the lake in Ghana. Sammy, who said the workshop helped him to realize that he has an important head, heart and hands which can be put to good use for God and his country.
The Advocacy and Power of Story workshop is a step in the right direction towards ending human trafficking and violence of all types in Ghana. It is through initiatives like these that survivors are empowered to speak up, and communities are sensitized to the dangers of violence against the poor. The fight against this requires a collective effort, and the GSN Chapter in Senya is playing its part in creating a safer and better Ghana through the empowerment of survivors in the Advocacy and Power of Story workshop.
I explained that the participants might be considering themselves as ordinary people, but they were worthy of deliberately using their powerful voices to share they unique stories in meaningful ways that could bring about any change they wished for.JACQUELINE OYIMER
Even though I never went to school, I felt that I belonged in this classroom, and I could see that I am not “dumb” but can learn and make use of the knowledge that I have gained.KAMIL