It’s International Women’s Day today. This year’s theme centres on Empowering Rural Women. So today’s the day I want to talk about a digital storyteller I met in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in December 2011. Premila Gamage works at the Institute of Policy Studies, Colombo; in her spare time she’s taking the tools of digital storytelling to rural areas of Sri Lanka, encouraging people to tell their stories, publishing them online and helping people realise the dreams they outline in their stories.
I’d been was introduced to Premila via email by Sarah Copeland who’d met Premila because they were both studying at Leeds Metropolitan University. So Premila and I made arrangements to meet at her office in Colombo.
I could tell straight away that Premlia was a person with a strong social conscience. She’s been investigating digital inclusion and her speciality is Policy. Bearing in mind the evidence that digital storytelling can bring about policy change via health-related projects such as Patient Voices and Story Works in the UK, using such personal accounts in Sri Lanka sounds like a promising route to ignite social change.
Premila told me that she and her fellow digital storytellers have set up Lanka Community Information Initiative – LCII.org – which works with “marginalized and disadvantaged communities to access new and old communication technologies to enhance their quality of life.”
Here’s an example of one of LCII’s digital stories. Umesha Lakshika gives a glimpse of life for students of the Prabhavi Resources Center, Werankatagoda, Ampara, Sri Lanka. The resource centre consists of a library, Nenasala (ICT centre and digital inclusion project) and classes.
Premila says LCII.org would benefit from more digital storytelling equipment to help their work in rural areas of Sri Lanka. It doesn’t have to be brand new. If you’re able to contribute digital cameras, digital audio recorders, video cameras, laptops to LCII.org, please contact them to make arrangements
I spoke with Premila via email earlier today and she said:
“At the moment we are working with Macaldeniya school and community – a very remote area in a tea estate – the most deprived members (of the Tamil ethnic group in Sri Lanka) are Estate Tamils. With the generous support of CILIP (Charted Institute of Library and Information Professionals) in the UK we built a library for the school and community. We finished with the first phase of the project – and opened the library. The next phase will be introducing DST for these people as we did in the other projects. We are desparately trying to find some support to carry out the second phase – the DST!”
International Women’s Day only comes around once a year, but the work that Premila Gamage and LCII does all year round in the poorest rural areas of Sri Lanka is really inspiring. So if you feel able to help, please do get in touch with LCII.