The Voice of the Voiceless

By Angellah Mandoreba

If a tree falls in a forest and no one saw or heard it fall, did the tree fall? What is your response to this teaser? Well it all depends on one’s interpretation. To some the tree fell and to others it didn’t. Now, to a large extent, this can be used to understand what happens to issues affecting communities in and around the globe. A lot of things happen in different communities but because they are not reported, people think that those things do not happen. Gender, environmental and socioeconomic injustices are the order of the day in different localities. However, these community issues are not captured in mainstream media as they are always trivialised, rendering them inappropriate for occupying any space in mainstream media. This has also been exacerbated by the fact that public media in Southern Africa underwent a shift in their normative role of being a watchdog which should work in the interest of the public by exposing the varied injustices and inequalities bedevilling the different communities.
For so long, communities have been living in silos when it comes to fighting socioeconomic injustices with the issues having been isolated where no-one could make noise about the injustices experienced next door. Even if they could, no one would hear them due to unavailability of well organised platforms to share experiences in first person narrative.
One would ask: Can communities speak about their struggles? Yes it is now very possible for communities to tell stories of issues affecting them. How? That’s where the Ubumbano Community Voice comes into picture and one would wonder what this is all about. Ubumbano Voice is a platform for community activists in Southern Africa to share their struggles and build solidarity. The initiative allows activists to speak directly to the general public, without the need for intermediaries or filters.
In cases where community real life issues are captured in mainstream media, they tend to lose substance due to excessive editing and filtering. Stories of struggle are better told by those affected by the injustices. To have voice is to have power, therefore it is critical to give voice to the victims of injustices. The advent of Ubumbano Community Voice App is a story of people and communities striving to speak out since communities face barriers to expressing their concerns in elitist controlled communication platforms. The project is supported by Act Alliance and other organisations in Southern Africa of which the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) is an active supporting and participating member.
Giving communities voices….this was the gist of the ActUbumbano Community Voice App Training Workshop in Johannesburg from the 26th to the 28th of February 2019, where activists from various socioeconomic justice sectors and organisations from Southern Africa convened to learn more about telling community issues through mobile phone technology

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