The Nuance of Narrative

The GHW is an effort to contribute a missing piece to the dialogue on accountability in global health. While most existing efforts focus on how money was spent in terms of charts and graphs, or how many employees are on the payroll, we want to feel what it is like to be at an NGO. What does it mean to receive services here? What are the day to day norms of the workplace? Is this a place you would want to volunteer at again? Is this a place that you, as someone living in a village or a slum, can rely upon to deliver on their promises? Are they improving your community? Is life better for you, or no different, than if they weren’t here?

A clear obstacle, however, relates to the nature of storytelling. Stories are human creations. They are not reality completely, nor are they fully fiction. They are one person’s understanding of a situation, and we respect this. We can foresee the challenge of letting stories paint a complete picture of an organization. We recognize that global health is complicated; that what to one person may appear as “corruption” can, to someone else, be a misunderstanding, or a genuine mistake. How do we tease this out?

One way is through pure numbers. One story is an opinion; 2 less so; 30 and we are getting closer to reality. That’s why we need to push for as many stories and voices as we can before we have something actionable. Every story matters.

Creating Voice for the Voiceless

One of the fundamental premises of The Global Health Watch (GHW) is to amplify the voices of those who traditionally are unheard and unrepresented. At the most vulnerable level, we have villagers, slum dwellers, refugees, political prisoners, ethnic minorities, children, women, the elderly, the disabled, LGBTQ communities… the list goes on.

Among them, we have the extreme poor (earning <$1/day); the illiterate; those without education; and as a consequence of these factors, those who have no way to truly share their narrative directly with our project.

One opportunity to address this is through volunteers. Every year, thousands of volunteers from colleges and universities in high-income countries travel to work with NGOs and non-profits in developing economy regions. These student volunteers are often thrown into the mix without a clear role when they could very easily become advocates for the poor and vulnerable through GHW. With proper pre-departure training on responsible reporting and open-ended interviewing techniques, students can help bridge this important communication gap and change the field.

The Importance, and Challenge, of Language

The Global Health Watch requires many working parts that we don’t want to take for granted. First, it requires that people are able to write their narrative, or have someone who is willing to write it for them; thus, it requires literacy, to some level. This is a substantial challenge in many parts of the world that we are most concerned about.

It requires that our form is available in the language of the storyteller. Right now, we have the 5 most prevalent languages in the world which still covers only ~25% of the human population.

loy7zvoIt requires that they or someone they know has access to the internet, and can post their narrative. In effect, there are millions that won’t be able to tell their story as our efforts currently stand.

This is why we need to build a movement. We need to move volunteers, staff, visitors, neighbors and more who interact with the global health public sector to tell the stories of the poor. To tell the stories of villagers; of people in slums; of people in trouble; of people in struggle; of people without hope.

This is at the heart of our work. The challenge is real. It is complicated. It is not impossible.