End the Cycle is a poverty campaign with a difference. At first glance, it might not seem like it – isn’t it just using people’s stories from Cambodia and the Solomon Islands to highlight issues of poverty in relation to disability? That might seem fairly standard, but it is the story behind the stories that makes this campaign so distinctive – because it has been developed using a human rights-based approach.
End the Cycle aims to achieve empowerment and increased awareness of the cycle of poverty and disability by practising inclusion. So people with disabilities and their organisations have had genuine participation in every stage of resource development, retaining control over the use of their own words and images – local ownership was very important to us.
The decision to develop this campaign came when we realised that most people don’t know about the links between poverty and disability. We asked ourselves who should tell them – and felt strongly that it should be people with disabilities themselves. As an organisation, CBM also wanted to explore and learn from new ways of collecting resources.
We started gathering resources for this campaign about a year ago. We spent two weeks gathering footage, interviews and photographs in Cambodia, and another two weeks doing the same thing in the Solomon Islands. Our resource collection team included people with disabilities from the local community through grassroots organisations – the Cambodia Disabled People’s Organisation and People with Disability Solomon Islands. Interestingly, these local partners were not existing partners of CBM, which was a deliberate strategy to increase the objectivity of stories – we didn’t want people to feel they had to tell a certain story to “the donor”.
After several weeks of editing video, compiling the interviews and creating factsheets around various issues related to poverty and disability, we sent the materials back to Cambodia and the Solomon Islands to be shared with the people who had first shared their stories with us. Using a translator, participants were able to see the videos, the photos we had taken and the stories. They checked that they were being represented just as they had wanted to be – as active, contributing members of their families and communities, with the same rights, hopes and challenges as everyone else. This process in itself contributes to the empowerment of people with disabilities - who are so often ignored. Of course, it also slowed down the process of completing our resources – but we think it was worth it. The Disabled People’s Organisations also appreciated it and have plans to use the campaign materials in their own advocacy and training of other organisations.
Source/CBM Australia: http://www.endthecycle.org.au/content/the-cycle
We believe this campaign brings a balanced and thoughtful approach to storytelling and is aligned with the slogan of the disability-rights movement: “Nothing about Us without Us”. People with disabilities are speaking for themselves rather than being spoken about by others, recognised appropriately as the ones who know best about their lived experience of disability.
How we represent people we work with - especially in this age of limited privacy and the scope of the internet - is something CBM is exploring through this campaign. We share this methodology both to hold ourselves accountable, and to share with other organizations who might be wrestling with how to communicate about complex and multi-dimensional people as well as building understanding amongst our followers. We believe this approach is not only helpful for accountability, but allows our campaign to be more authentic and compelling.
We would like to continue and extend our work with this human rights-based approach. It was definitely positive to work with Disabled People’s Organisations in the story collection – it felt like a respectful partnership, where people could say what they thought. This also meant that sometimes we didn’t get exactly the quotes we were hoping for and couldn’t reinterpret people’s stories. This was challenging at times but a reality of working with the methodology of the campaign. When we are next gathering stories, we would also build more time into the feedback process – so we weren’t rushing people in Cambodia and the Solomon Islands to give us their feedback.
What do you think about the campaign? Is this different to the way you’ve seen disability portrayed before? Do you think it is feasible for more stories of people in the majority world to be collected in this way? We’d love to see your comments below.
We invite you to read more about our approach, sign the “End the Cycle” pledge, and follow @EndTheCycleAUS on Twitter and Facebook.
By Anna Gaskill, CBM Australia.