Siobhan Warrington, Head of Oral Testimony Programme
Panos have been supporting the production of oral testimonies as high quality information outputs for local, national and international audiences. For example, recent work has aimed to amplify the voices of women living with HIV and AIDS into national, regional and international coverage and debates. The processes of capacity building, listening, and of developing, telling and capturing the testimonies, are important in themselves. The outputs are also designed to strengthen the diversity of perspectives on development issues in the media. Underlying the oral testimony work is the issue of what information, perspectives or opinions are valid in national or high-level debates.
Using the voices in the media
Oral testimony work attempts to elevate marginalised voices of people with direct experience of development issues into the media, and to be taken seriously in policy debates. An evaluation of the oral testimony work by partners in Pakistan asked: how do we know that our voices will be taken seriously? There is a level of accountability to influence the way community voices are perceived, so that they can be taken seriously. Panos has been working on this, integrating oral testimony methodologies into the media toolkit they produce, and developing dramas from community discussions, for example. There is growing enthusiasm and appreciation for the importance of gathering and communicating diverse voices. In order to increase the reach of these voices, the external relations department will be using the results of an evaluation of www.mountain.voices.org to develop a plan to increase the academic audience.
Using the voices internally
In recent years the oral testimony programme has become more integrated within the wider organisation, working closely with the media department for example to feed the oral testimonies into features. However, the potential for systematic use of the knowledge contained in Panos’ stock of oral testimonies to inform the organisation’s own planning, outputs and strategies has been largely overlooked. There is the will in the organisation to look at ways of encouraging this to happen. A step towards this will be to make the oral testimony and voices more accessible throughout the organization by mapping them and providing information about their location, the issues covered and partners. This would also enable people throughout the organisation to make use of the relationships generated through the oral testimony work, as well as the outputs.