Using data to tell LGBTQ+ stories in Uganda | Global Journalism Seminar with Caleb Okereke, Founder, Minority Africa
12:30PM Feb 1, 2023
Welcome to the Global journalism seminars. This is the briefing 90% of Africans on the direct or indirect European route between 1880 and 9040. Immigrant subjugated local populations through religion and violence under the guise of extending supremacy and civilization. This left a legacy of human rights violations that continues to occur today in politics and culture, and past and maintenance of, in part a reaction against Western norms and ideals of the 54 countries in Africa, it is illegal to practice homosexuality in 33. protection against discrimination is available aid and only one country recognizes same sex marriage in four countries it is punishable by death in five by life imprisonment we polled our donor fellows to ask which word comes to mind when thinking about LGBTQ rights in Africa. They said words like discrimination, stigma and non existent as to how many countries in Africa it was illegal to be homosexual in 28% Kasturba 33 and 32% guessed under 33. On average, they thought it was illegal invest in parts of Africa. That's the briefing so let's begin.
Welcome to the Global journalism seminars. I'm Caitlin Mercer and today we're talking to Caleb AKA AKA. Caleb is the managing editor of minority Africa, which he founded in 2019. He's a Nigerian journalist and filmmaker who works out of Kampala, Uganda when he isn't studying for his master's. in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he joins us from today. Before starting minority Africa, Caleb produced features for BBC CNN, Al Jazeera, NPR and Deutsche Avella amongst others, and today we're talking about how he thinks we can approach stories about the marginalized. Welcome, Caleb. Thank you so much. It's good to have you. So a couple of caveats before we get going. We're going to be talking about Africa today, which is a complex continent with very different countries and cultures and norms. But to have this conversation, we might have to make some generalizations, talking about it as a monolith. And we're also talking about a lot of different minority groups and we're going to be doing it through the lens of LGBTQ plus minorities and Africa, but all of that said, we're going to try and have a nuanced conversation about these two very broad fields. So Caleb, I wanted to kick off by asking you you very. You're very specific when you describe minority Africa that it's a platform for minority stories are not a voice for them. What's the difference? Why Why are you so strict on that wording?
So I think that when we talk about minority Africa being a platform, it's essentially to sort of underscore something that we believe is a very crucial distinction to make the fact that voices are constantly speaking, right. And sometimes we don't hear those voices. They are deliberately muted or ignored or just don't have enough ways to express themselves. And so sort of like that distinction between like a platform, and a voice allows us to situate ourselves like in a place in which people can understand that it's not really about us, but about the voices that we platform. And I think there's a door side to this. The other side of it is, especially in a continent where there's always been anti LGBTQ plus propaganda, but it's growing even more. I think, sort of like, just generally as it is backed by us evangelical groups, so that that becomes an even greater like imperative, especially with stories of sexual and gender minorities to even further asserted ourselves in this place where we're not the voice because women were not the voice. It means that we effectively resisting what I call like countering as a method. So the problem with what I conceptualize as countering is the fact that every single time that you say, Let's counter propaganda, you are being forced into a playing field with propaganda in which we cannot win. Right? Because we don't detect the rules, we don't set the parameters of the game. However, what we sort of do on the flip side through the platform is narrative building and narrative units is essentially centered on populating the media landscape but as much narratives as possible about marginalized groups, not as a response to propaganda, but just complicating the narrative, which is sort of how solutions journalism comes into it. And the hope is that people can see, you know, see stories see nuanced and complex stories as much as they see the pushback.
Yeah, yeah. That's interesting. What is it? How do you take a minority story and make it appealing to a mass audience?
That's a great question. And I think for me, I sort of think of the answer in two parts, right? And I think first of all, that we do care that a story performs. But sort of like the the intention for that desire is a bit distinct from how perhaps others or perhaps just like mainstream media would regard it, right. So our, our desire for engagement or is is not virality. Right. It's not for us to go viral. It's more for us to create community. And I think that something changes when you approach your storytelling from a community perspective from from a perspective of I'm trying to make people scared themselves to see themselves living the stories we tell. I suppose that we're trying to get the stories to try and or be read write a wide audience. And I don't think that we have weekly editorial meetings, and I don't think that we've ever received a pitch and said in like, in the last three, four years, we've never actually said, Oh, this is a great pitch because it will they will try and not because people are going to read it. You know, it's always just a great story because it's a story that has to be told. And I think on on the flip side of that, the second part of it is we are fundamentally not trying to serve a mass audience or a wide audience, quote, unquote. And it's not to say that we don't care who read the stories we do, you know, we want people to read them as widely as possible. But sort of if you look at any of our even from like our earliest decks that we created about minority Africa, we kind of had this audience distinction or segmentation between the core consider a primary audience and our secondary audience. And the whole time I permanently audience has been people who, first of all are from marginalized communities, right? As we imagine these audiences to be these people, we sort of cater our storytelling to them fundamentally, first of all, and it kind of then walks out that people, others can come with the story, but essentially, think about the marginalized groups that we cover and everything that we do so in terms of how the times that like in which we don't explain certain things, because we know that our audience gets it, you know, I think constantly adding layers of context can be distracting even for groups who actually get the context of that and so we will make certain language choices that that reflect that we actually know who our audiences we're trying to cater to. It's kind of like I think of this Toni Morrison quote, where she talks about, just like standing like at the border, like on the margins and and sort of claiming her central. I think that's what we kind of tried to do, like in the sense that we want to let the rest of the world you know, move over to where we are, right, and we just sort of we're where we are is mainstream. So yes, we do want it to get to a mass audience. But we're not trying to cater to a mass audience. And that sort of affects the way in which we approach our storytelling.
So the traditional kind of mainstream media success metric would be loads and loads of PVS and the story appeals to lots and lots of people. That is a secondary metric for you. The primary metric is somebody's read the story and they felt seen. Yes. Okay. That makes sense. So what is the role of data journalism, specifically, in telling LGBTQ plus stories?
Yeah, I think I'm, I mean, there's, there's it's sort of an interesting conundrum, right? Because this is data and then there's LGBT people with like a similar like one sentence, which is basically contrary to everything that we know about sexuality in America, particularly in Africa, right? And for a demographic that's not often, you know, mentioned in data, even data count. And even when they're counted, you know, you're not sure if it's data that's going to be weaponized against them. You know, this sort of like requires us to, you know, at a certain point reconceptualize when we think of data, I think of this particularly in like the anecdotal evidence, sort of, like instance. But I do think that there's a subjective corresponding like implication like allows us, I think, just just generate the fact that I want you to define we use a lot when we talk about data or just storytelling, or journalism at all is like it's the word rigor right? And sort of, like rigorous and I really hate that word. Because I think that it's, it's trying to, you know, it's, it's what people dish out all the time to sort of push people and alike perspectives to the to the margins, right? So for us every single thing that we do and the general like, approach to data is how much rigor can remove from the process as much as possible. And this will translate into or sometimes considering what people might view as questionable sources, right. But what people bought, again, you know, because of the position right is that people don't like an unusual people actually know by experience and so because you know, we've experienced it makes a lot more sense to you, this source that might be non reputable and or questionable.
I can literally hear the pearl clutching happening. This is an example of what you mean by removing rigor, like, what's an example of how you did that in a data journalism story? Yeah, I think
the very like similar one that comes to mind is more like how we do it with like case studies, and like, anecdotal evidence, right. So in terms of I know that we we've covered the story that we did on the particular like, on this courthouse, where people were being targeted like in Nigeria on apps like Grindr and Tinder and things like that, right. And we kind of had we cited a source that was from a blog that had for a long time been sort of like cataloging these experiences, right. And I think that if I was to take that into a more traditional journalism space, people would ask, or if we were to take that into a more traditional space, people would ask, Oh, like, how do you know this block is actually real or it's factual or the events mentioned the hair kind of true, but we kind of knew was true, because we just knew it was real. Right. And so that's sort of the ways in which we we constantly and people in our newsroom do that like all the time and the journalists we work with, like we trust them to sort of use their personalities to make sense of the situation. And I think that's actually like a very crucially like important thing because people know best what they're experiencing. And a lot of times the ways in which we export, we can actually do more to sort of like entrench them like on their stories than what we intend to achieve.
Tell me more about how people were being targeted on Tinder and Grindr when they've been targeted by police for prosecution or by the public for violence.
It was by the public. Yeah, and it's it's, I think it's been going on for like a long time. And I know the granddaddy put like an advisory saying, oh, XYZ Be careful of the certain areas like in Nigeria. So we will say it's people who go on these apps and then massacre to be gay men or otherwise, and then sort of target people and then just metal violence on them.
And then what do you what do you how do you counter I hear what you're saying. That rigor can be used to kind of silence voices, intentionally or unintentionally. But how do you what do you put in place to ensure accuracy when you're lowering the rigor to allow stories to be told? So for example, let's use that that blog as an example. What? How did you let your readers know that where that information was coming from that's a great question. I
think sort of I don't think that we conflate rigor on like accuracy. We kind of still do have to be accurate with strive to be the whole time. But I do think that again, going back to what I said about who our audiences are, is, first of all, our audiences actually know that blog, right? Well, the people who are sort of reading the story in that category, not everybody, but a couple of them will know it, right? Because it's been there for for a very long time. But I think, like again, the the metric for ensuring that we're we've been very accurate is sometimes we just ask people who we feel like have my experience and we say Oh, do you want to look at the story? Because we want especially for countries and places where we feel like we don't have enough experience and to talk about and for such personalities. We also take the people and we ask them and say oh do you have and actually now we're just putting together like our first like advisory board for similar questions like that because we want to go to people and say we have this question about this story. When no tradition traditional data, but what do you think about it? Do you think actually, it makes sense from what you know? So yeah, so I don't think that we sacrifice, sort of like rigor for or accuracy to sort of remove recall, ya know, what is it similar? It's still the same process. We're just I think the problem is many people don't even consider the sources in the first place.
Right. Right. Do you have other examples of of data journalism stories that you guys have undertaken? Yeah, I think
there's a there was a time that we did a story on though, one of the very first quarter for Pride marches on the continent, which was in South Africa, and then kind of just sort of like ran through a timeline of that and that was very interesting cuz I think before that story, I didn't even know that it wasn't in South Africa, right? However, we've also done some stories on last. Flickr was last year, but from last year anymore. Last year is 2022 was last year, we covered sort of like this app that was helping queer people like in Uganda access, sort of discreet and like affirming health care, it was the descriptor upon which they could actually like assess health care, like in a country where of course they can walk into any hospital and say I want you know, yeah, so yeah.
Okay, that's fascinating. Can you tell us are there other unique ways that you use to tell minority stories what it's what else is different about minority Africa's approach?
So many things. I think that the the one that comes to my note is of course, one thing that I'm I'm a passionate champion about and I couldn't have done in my own personal journalism carrier, which is solutions journalism, sort of constructive journalism. So I think a lot of stories that I have personally covered even in my independent journalism, and even when I was a correspondent was kind of like around solutions journalism, which simply put is kind of covering responses to social problems in the most simple way possible, right. I think that I found it very, very particularly fascinating when I when I sort of started to conceptualize minority Africa and nobody disagree with me. So for context, I started my narrative in 2019. I have two incredible co founders now was one of them is showing me around in the other is if she could parasol Shamea is incredible intrapreneur who was quote a whole talk about the project she's doing like a little later, but then they also like the idea of submission journalism, so we just kind of carried on with it right? And the point of like, Canada, I think are whiter like makes sense to all of us. Is that every single time that was there, sort of see the news about sexual and gender minorities on the continent. It's always constantly if not, mostly from the lens of the problem, right? And I think this this kind of goes to every other minority group that we cover, whether it's refugees that woman, or persons with disabilities of migrants and asylum seekers, they should have like this. This underline, you know, sort of like framing that makes them look like the like the passive victims who have no agency and will be we don't get to hear stuff I think so like what the polls showed us. Like at the start. Now, all of this is true, right? There's stigma, there's discrimination. There's, you know, violence, but I do think that sort of like what solutions journalism allows us to do is to reframe that coverage, right. And so now we sort of look at the problem but not from the lens of the solution. So we talked about the problem. It's not positive stories. This is not good news stories. We do sort of like, talk about the problem is like in a similar way as we do the solution, but there's a kind of a there's an acknowledgement of agency in how we do it, right. So in terms of that, we are constantly we're constantly seeing with with the stories that we tell that queer folks or disabled folks do have agency to actually respond to problems. And I think it just makes us feel good that we actually do have that we because we can talk about problems all day long. And I think about one of the stories that we did in 2021 Now, which was a story on a queer church in Uganda, that was sort of run by an open MS DOS to queer people, and people were just so wish I think we should have like on a Sunday morning, and I just love the feedback. People were so happy. They were like, oh, there's a church for five people fun, you know. And so I think there's this kind of responses, you know, there's still the popular people can find space in like traditional religious spaces. But that's sort of like that's a it's a it's a, it's a hopeful lens. And it's also not dismissive of the problem. The other thing that it allows us to do is and which I think is very caught in into the question of the journalism institution, so it should be constructive, even how we do the storytelling. Because I think a lot of times we focus on sort of like what the output is, but we don't really think through how we're actually going about gathering the stories that we tell. So throughout our guidelines for coverage and reporting, is we kind of play around with a very constructive approach that allows us to acknowledge the agency of sources as we sort of like tell their stories at the same time.
Yeah, I heard about you candidate because I was listening to an interview with you about that. Church story. On the podcast, this whole story, stopped me quitting journalism. And in that interview, there's a researcher I want to say University of Wisconsin who says that her research shows that minority communities respond more positively to solutions journalism. Has that been your experience?
That's a great question. Well, I can't say that recent my research because I have because I haven't done research but I do know like, personal experience that yes, that's the answer. And I think it's it's just people just love it. You know, people just love it. And I think there's because the the fundamental thing is people who are from marginalized communities are not like oblivious to challenges that they primarily face right because they they live it every day. They they breed it every day, right? So if it can do some level of reward of the food for them to read about or sort of watch how other folks are responding. So I can say categorically that from like, my personal interactions from like the feedback that we receive on Instagram on Twitter, and an email people will tell us people actually do like the kind of stories that we tell.
Yeah. He has a weird weird question for you. What is what is solutions? What's so Joe? data journalism looks like to you? Like how would you approach a data, a data driven story with a solutions lens?
That's a great question. I think that when when soldier is done, right. When when surgery is kind of done, the wizardry is meant to be done, even though there's no like, wizards. I mean, there's a way but there's no strong way it's meant to be done. It's kind of open to interpretation, but when it's done, how it's meant to be done, data is already a huge part of it. Right?
Right. Right, those
talks about things like sort of like showing evidence of impact. So for instance, when we're covering story about the affirming app that was helping people like access discounted services, we knew about the story for a long time. I think we knew about it when they started, but we couldn't cover it until there was sort of like a track record of impact on the fact that actually people want the solution and it actually works, right. So whereas positive news would just sort of cover things as they start or just say, Oh, this is a great name like intervention. It's not hero worship. It's not. It's not. This is the best thing in the world. It's kind of looking at data looking at what people are saying about sort of like consumption workplaces, have they been able to like impact, and then making conclusions based on that was surgery. So it's kind of it's difficult to remove it from data journalism.
intertwined. And unhand. Yeah. So when you're looking for people to write for minority Africa, what are the qualities you're looking for? I'm assuming not traditional journalism. No, I
mean, I think it's, yeah, I don't think so. I think that, you know, when I see freelance more often, you know, you sort of when you're pitching an editor, you kind of want to send you know all of your clips and say, oh, like I've written here, hey, I've covered here and I have this experience and that experience, but I think that actually never factored in like how we consider So the model that we generally use is a freelancer. And thankfully, now we have a fellowship, but it was generally a freelance model. Let me start so we only had freelancers and then we had in house editors because this will, this will could afford to do. And so every single time that we were sitting down, or like thinking about a pitch, I don't think that we've ever ever actually said this person hasn't experienced never, ever ever in the history. I think some of the folks I hear and they know but like we've never we've never actually said this person has no experience, right? I mean, consider the experience. We just look at the story and say, Is this a good story or how do we make it a good story? So I think the fundamental thing that we look for is a story to tell and the lived experience because I do think that we can teach you how to do journalism, you know, we can teach you the who, what the way when how, how to call, how to interview, how to start interviews, particularly mentoring, but we actually can teach you your story. Or to teach you will need to experience and so we kind of fundamentally for people who have a story to tell who haven't humility it's sort of learn how to tell stories as well. Right? And I guess that's not always clear from a pitch but you know, we we know that we I think the people that we've worked with a very like receptive to add some something artistic a very long time, you know, sometimes they take months, sometimes they take weeks, depending on the experience, we've had pieces take a whole year. And there's a little long pieces sometimes. But I think it just goes to show that we're very intentional about language, and we kind of want people to, we can just say anything, you know, at any time. So I'll say fundamentally that we're looking for folks who have a story to tell.
Gotcha. I wanted to we discussed this question before the seminar and it's a big one. But I think we need to address it. Before we go to questions, lots of questions in the q&a and some questions coming in from the room downstairs. But before we go there, can we talk about there's there's a certain group of people in Africa who would say how do I phrase this that the whole concept of catering for minorities is an African that we where a continent where cultures prioritize the collective and representation of minority rights as a Western ideal How do you respond to those people? Yeah, that's a
great question. And, and I think, sort of like my, my, my response to them would be for them to read, you know, and it's such a simple response, but it's honestly really true. And because I think that when they read, they do sort of find out that it's not individualism if it concerns a group in the collective right. And so a lot of times we will say that I feel like people kind of try to use things like that to sort of justify or legitimize their hate, you know, and then they say, oh, it's, it's a western idea, or it's a western concept, but in the thing that we must hear very often, for instance, like, let's say queerness, right. It's, it's definitely not a western concept. I think there's there's so many examples of queerness back in Africa that they would find if they just actually sort of read about it. And I think that we tried to do a good job of also like, sort of covering the colonial history of, of all, sort of like how colonialism, distorted outcomes, things like gender, and queerness. And I know it's, it's a it's a huge thing, you know, but I do think that the, the fundamental thing is is religion, I think that generally the, this collectiveness that we sort of platform is assumes the sameness that is not always true, right. It was I had to sort of enforce that sameness and I do have a problem with that because I think that it's how we got here, like in the first place because blanket approach is all like assuming that everybody in the collective have the same setting group of people whether or not we intend for that to be the case and I and there's a way in which it can be useful, right? So things like trans continental solidarity, there's a way that it can be useful, but I think we're often simplifying what is often a sort of complex and nuanced collective. By insisting that what is color and under you will determine what is collective good, right by asking the collective which again, is counterproductive.
If we ever if I were to play the devil's advocate here, or the devil's avocado as I joke with my friends downstairs. I'm going to speak from a South African perspective of and even then I'm going to speak from like easy closer perspective of Ubuntu come on to Gabon. To like people are people through other people and push this notion of Yeah, but if you're catering for the minorities and not the the majority, you're not prioritizing the good of the masses. How do you respond to that specifically? And let me just say, this is not me saying this. This is Devil's Advocate, because I think we need to address it for those who feel that way. If
you don't agree, devil's advocate job, I will wait. And it's similar to the way that I respond to some of the criticisms of like, objectivity, quote, unquote, as well, right? Only it will say, we're not being objective in our storytelling. And I often say that why we platforming subject tivity right, we kind of, we're not gonna give a platform to transphobic rhetoric just so we can be objective because we feel like it has the whole world to express itself. So similar thing, right? There's no way that that we kind of catering to just the minority and then ignoring the majority, the majority has the rest of the world to cater to it. You know, we just have a very small chunk of the internet that we kind of use instead of tell the stories. That's not dismissing the collective the collective still had the rest of the world truly, and literally, they do.
Yeah, and I guess you could argue, looking after the least represented amongst the community ensures the entire community is looked after. So man, I catch it. I have a question for you. Firstly, honest, very angry because I didn't say Africa as a continent. I am sorry on it. I will say again that I said as I said at the start, we have to speak in some very uncomfortable generalizations to have this conversation. Africa is not a country and has very diverse countries cultures and norms. But we're going to use some generalizations In order to have a try to have a nuanced conversation. Gosh, Kara, this is I've been doing these. I've been doing these seminars for two years. This is the first time I've gotten hate mail in the questions but this is what you have to deal with on a daily basis though. I'm gonna put on my big girl panties and move on. Steven moolah says laws in most African countries out to outlaw LGBT rights. What are you doing to ensure that such countries repeal such laws? And they're usually embedded in the Constitution? I mean, that's a big question. What are you doing to change the law? Caleb? That's a great question.
I cannot change the law. I mean, I hope that the law will change. I mean, I think this the several people who are doing like a lot of work that's like intersecting with like policymaking and, you know, changing the law quote unquote. But I do think what what I envision our approach to be is that what we know to be law, you know, is is inherently tied to a lot of times society, right people make laws right? And so our kind of secondary and used to be very lofty mission, even though we kind of now know that we can sort of change people. And we don't know that people will change, but we hope that people will change and we hope that when they change it and correspondingly change its laws. So I'd say we have a much more storytelling and narrative building like approach to laws, everything kind of, you know, if if the reason why it's criminalized or illegal is because people think it's wrong, you know? And so if you kind of change that mindset, hopefully, if not, we did our best. But if we can you know, then dispose of the chain. So that's sort of our approach to it.
I'm gonna go downstairs for a second. We have one of your countrymen in the room. Fisayo Do you want to ask your question?
Hi, Dylan. Good to see you again.
See you too. Yeah. So
I was going to ask if you've ever considered getting into the mind of your audience through the backdoor, you know, writing on minority issues through social issues that you know that they're originally always interested in. And I gave the example of how I wanted to write about LGBT plus rights. And I knew that in Nigeria, it's not a topic people want to hear. I have to get into the mind of people writing about fake prophets who take money from, you know, people who are gay and promised that they can back into the streets. And when you go to and they feed them with fake prophecies or take their money. You know, people read that story. Without really seeing this guy is talking about LGBT plus rights. They saw pastors oppressing LGBT plus people. So is that a strategy? you've ever tried to get Windows to sneak into the minds of people without really saying that that we are trying to do just so that they are more conversant with the issues that I'm discussing? Is that an approach that is right.
That's a great question. So first of all, I read your story, and I liked it. And I shared it, of course. But I think that's just just like talking about the strategy. I do think that a huge part of our model is also doing what you kind of suggested even though in a much more subtle way, right so that the fact that we do stories about minorities, people have said it's such a broad category, you know, it's not, it's not centered on one leg on one group. So that can be a challenge. But I do think that, in a sense, that is part of the model, right? We want to sort of come to our website and read the story about the woman's rights or the rights of persons with disabilities. Or migrants, you know, and then sort of get the algorithm on the site. Oh, but you might also be interested in the story about queer people in Uganda, right? And so the subtle message in there is the fact that our oppression is intersectional. You know, and it's kind of it's, it's in your best interest for you to realize that as much as you're oppressed as, let's say a woman or a person with disability, you can also be oppressing queer people, right. So I think that's one way that that we do do it. I don't think that we're going to try the sort of writing about social issues angle just simply because fundamentally, as I said earlier, our audience is kind of first of all, minorities, but we're thinking of ways to kind of take our take our stories outside of our own newsroom, right. So when I was talking about my co founder, Shamia, he's been leading a project that we're working on with Google News initiative, which is allowing us to build a story agency, right. And the idea of the story agency is that people can kind of, it's called, like, advanced so you essentially meant to like advance minority stories. That's the one we have around 10 users now that who has signed up, and who sort of read and then share our code because we we do publish under a Creative Commons license, so we weren't forced to share, but we also kind of taking very small number of like exclusive commissions from his organizations to work on stories. So I think that there's ways in which we can force it into like the mainstream and, you know, maneuvering into people's like, where they get their news every single day. But I think it's a bit harder for us sort of sneaking because we're fundamentally trying to cater to marginalized groups first before others. I hope that answers your question.
Yeah, that's really interesting. Let's talk a bit more about that story agency. So who would you be hoping to purchase and run those stories?
Yeah, so I think
that we, we, we kind of want everybody on it. Everybody who has a platform that's distinct from us anywhere in the world, where we're focusing now first of all on like, African newsrooms, so I think the newsrooms that we have now are from Nigeria and Uganda, but we kind of want everybody to be on it. You know, we the concept is it's been more of a resource and like a technology implemented groups because it's, it's a very manual process for us right now. So what we're doing was we're kind of uploading stories on Google Drive, and then folks are going to get the stories off of there. But what we're doing now with Google is we're building an application and that's what Shimer is working on. We're a team of incredible engineers and researchers. We're working on a web application, that will sort of newsrooms to get the stories in a two to three click process into the back ends. And so when that happens, and when we kind of launch it, we can then onboard as many people as we can even
onto brilliant and have you managed to start syndicating to some some of our sheets already. Since celebrating what have you managed to get some of those stories placed in mainstream media already, but the people that you've already partnered
with? We do have Yes, we have. That's fantastic.
I have a question. For you from Tundle. Malema. She says how do you how do you create psychological safety for LGBTQ plus communities in Africa? That's, again, a huge question. I don't necessarily expect you to have an answer to but what do you think part of the answer might be?
A great question. I think that part of the answer is, I often return to storytelling because I think it's something that I like to do, isn't it I've done for the longest time in my life and I just love it. So I think there's a way in which storytelling does create connections right? And I think I've seen this in in our coverage but in like, generally like in, in the work that I've done, I think that when when you first of all, when you read a story about somebody you are creating community with them. Like you're essentially saying the like I see you are like a response to a lot of trans people who have sort of like been sources to us, quote, unquote, where you consult with resources have actually gone to like work with us on other projects after right because we actually get to know them a bit more especially we cover ourselves all back by our fellows and which aren't covered by freelances. So I think in a way, you know, the the question of psychological safety is larger than minority Africa is larger than us. But I do think that I see. There's something that they feel safe in knowing that someone like respects you like and your story and there's a connection that is formed from that.
Yeah, there's a there's a duality there. There's being able to tell your story, but also being able to see yourself in other people's stories. Yeah, do you think you're part of that answer? Let's go to Tannoy downstairs
make you absolutely riveting. Thank you so much. I could relate to a lot of this because my work is about people with psychosocial disabilities in India but also my question is about the sustainability of platforms such as yours. Because when you when you talk about being right about it for people from I can see you're already nodding so maybe I'll just start that question short. What is your what is your plan to keep going financially? And?
That's a great question. That's just a very good question. I think you like a lot of the things that I've talked about. People sometimes forget that like media costs money, you know, and I think people forget that people work in media and people cost money and then correspond with the media customer and there's also all of this costs. And even when I started it, I always said that instead of my minority. I forgot I didn't know that things cost money and that you had to like do things with money. I'd say that so far. We have entirely relied on grants, you know, so we've we've kind of had a very simple model of just give us money and we'll do XYZ and XYZ and even those grants I still think that we're very not as wonderful as we can be there's people have everybody or most people on the team have to like work two jobs, you know, so there's nobody who's like working MD masters I get a stipend from school but I'm also looking at my art so there's there's all of those things. But I think in the long term and what we're trying to do with our new platform called advance is we're trying to first people can sort of share stories that we publish for free, Creative Commons license, but we're also trying to work on exclusives like story Commission's when user commiserations as a story agency, right so that's one way in which we want to pull some revenue in that we think we'll be able to, at some point, sustain the publication. The other way is still under, like advanced, but we've done some trainings and we kind of want to expand the training. So we've trained some new ideas now not now. We're doing a project in Uganda, that's called the GBV spectrum with the French Embassy where we're training journalists on how to sort of like report on gender based violence within the cause across the spectrum. So the trans people with gay people with refugees, like when there's intersections with GBV How do you cover it right? So we want to take some of the strains that we've done, and sort of make them into online courses, and then be able to sort of sell those courses to some organizations. So that's one way in which we also want to make money. We don't know if it will work. And if it doesn't work, I'll just come back to you and say, oh, like we're still reading for grants and stuff. But that's a really great question. That is honestly it's actually less exhausting to constantly have to fundraise to keep the work going, but it has to be done.
And I can message me to say her question has been answered but I n would you mind asking the question about safety?
Sure. Um, thanks for taking the question. So one of the challenges that we have in South Sudan where I'm from is keeping journalists safe, who report on sensitive issues, and I'm just wondering what your strategy is for yourself. And for your staff?
That's a great question.
So there's, there's a two there's two parts to it. Right? The very first part is our just just knowing that what we have as a strategy can't work for everybody, right? That's the first part that kind of, is also not needed by everybody left at the same time, but I'll say that I know that what we do is a lot of times we sometimes anonymize journalist, so you don't know who's reading the story. But we know them and that's fine. And we're the ones who like we know them and I think that's one way that we've done it. The other way is we sometimes don't look at journalists so they don't have this who we don't tell you where they are, but they do sort of read a story about this general theme. And we also try not to look at ourselves as much as possible to write especially with our team that's based on the continent so we, we you never find an address for us on the internet just because we don't want people to go there and pick up somebody or something. So there's some some intentional choices that we make about certain things like how we present ourselves. And I think one of the things that has worked for us is I don't think people realize that we're in Africa, you know, which sometimes works to our advantage, you know, and I think there's it's it's a very intentional and and even if they do, they don't know where in Africa we are. So it's very intentional and deliberate, because we do have a continental span, like Outlook. So it allows us to say many things about many places, in many ways.
That's interesting, like a deliberate play on the cliche for for safety purposes. Yeah, that's interesting. I have a question for you from Shaheen. Who says that transition transitioning towards contextualized evaluation criteria is central to decolonial efforts. So that's where she's coming from. When she asks, how can one measure success? When success is relationality and trust?
That is a great question that we're still asking ourselves and that we continually ask ourselves, but I'd say some of the we've come to so far is in terms of we're thinking, Who do we need to measure success for? Right? And I think that that sets the tone to how we approach the conversation, like in the first place. If we're measuring it for ourselves, I can tell you that we feel we're very successful in terms of the stories that we've told in terms of the people that we've connected with intended. Like we just love, we honestly love them the stories that we do tell. So if you ask anybody in our newsroom, we do feel we're successful, right? But if we're measuring success for maybe a funder, you know, then that becomes like a much different terrain because people want to see metrics such as how many people that we reached, in a way, where's your rage? What's your audience size, things like and we do report on those things. Right. So I think, for us, we've been thinking of the ways we think of sort of like, just redefining what success means to us, you know, and by that standard, we already successful and then now we kind of separate in that from what we need to do to be successful for other people. Right? And we do that so that we do track things like who's written stories from where we we try to like have very like in as and there's also like the fact that because we we don't take as much data from our readers, you know, we only I think have people's emails, we don't even have names there because we feel like that's also a strategic because we don't want to have your names because it becomes Yeah, keep those names right. So we do just take emails, so then that means that we were there's there's there's not so much that we know about our audiences to a tee or or to an item and that's also intentional, right? But that also like impedes how, how much we can how much info we can sort of accomplishments that we can reach about them, right. So I'd say probably the now we're kind of tracking success in the general way in terms of where we're working on speaking to a few people who subscribe to us this year. And we're just sort of hearing from them and saying, oh, like what do you think about and sort of making conclusions from the people that we speak to when we think it would add some nuance to the way that we write our reports, but I do think that we already feel successful based upon the stories that we tell and we feel we should trust because people tell us that they trust us people tell me, people tell other people not just me.
Yeah, maybe you should put a survey on front of your website that says how lonely Do you feel on a scale from one to 10? And then after they finished reading an article How lonely Do you feel? On a scale? Simple reports cry um, there's a question from an anonymous attendee. And anonymous says what has addressing the minority gotten them in South Africa apartheid?
I can see the question.
I, I think, I think yeah, they're saying well in South Africa, which is the country that we mentioned at the beginning, where where same sex marriage is allowed and it probably has the most advanced rights for LGBTQ plus communities. This person is saying that giving minority groups those rights has resulted in apartheid. I'm not sure how, how, how much coverage have you done from South Africa and do you get that impression that giving people rights has caused more oppression?
No, and I don't think that it's true.
No, I mean, it's not true. Apartheid was over before the rights were extended. Just I don't know. I felt the need to ask it. And then the other anonymous question is the LGBT community in Uganda specifically is very hostile. Oh, I see. Okay. They're saying it's very hostile for the community. That makes sense. And so how do you ensure the safety for your journalists what you've what you've answered already? The second part of the question is have journalists been able to report confidently when they're putting their lives on the line?
Yeah, I think there's there's probably one aspect to that that I didn't touch on which is the the aspect of sort of, like disability versus invisibility, like how we like it goes both ways about sources and journalists. But I do think that will be very extreme, like in a place like Uganda, and I've seen this happen in other places that we've worked on, like, people are tired of everybody but some people are tired of being like on the margins and being hidden. Right. So a lot of times we watch stories about sexual and gender minorities previously, you know, just sort of show people's, you know, heads and hands and the backs of like, the back of their heads, and their hair, you know, and they've actually seen the faces, right. And I think when we started we were very surprised to find that people actually just wanted to be sometimes see, like, name me put my big picture. They put my face up there. And it sort of went against everything because I started journalism, and I'm still now still in journalism, but I started recently my undergrad. So it kind of went against everything that I felt that I learned in Journalism School, which was in a project resource Northwest view source. If you like, analyze the source, if they even if, but I do think a lot of times, people who are sort of like in, in sort of insisting on visibility and and for us to kind of, you know, take assume that we know what's best for them. You know, as long as people do understand the risks of what they're doing as long as they know that this is how we reach this is a way can go this what can happen. This people who still confidently want to say that they want to be seen and this applies to journalists as well. And of course, there's measures that we take to kind of ensure that people feel safe. So for instance, if you watched some of our videos, we kind of try to do very close shots so you don't know what people are like, especially when we're covering stories that we feel like, are very sensitive. So you can't tell like the church we covered you couldn't tell the location of the church by watching that video. That was very important for us, right. But everybody in the church wanted to be on camera don't need to be seen to even have more interviews than we're able to actually use in the actual story. Right? So it's the same approach that we have to journalists. So sometimes journalists actually, contrary to what we think doing system safety, when they don't also on visibility when they don't we kind of go the rhetoric, talk about wishes and like we don't press for visibility, and most of the time, we're actually offering it to us.
We have a question from Tyrion from Norway. Downstairs. Hi, I'm gonna summarize it for you if you don't mind. Ty is working on a project where people will be able to request us freedom of information requests to request data from other countries. And so his question is how, how easy is it for you to access data in the countries you're working in? Shall we start with is Is there data in the countries you're working in?
Of course, there is data. I do think that we official official government data. Yes. And I do think there's there's official but But again, there's sort of problems with that right. And I think it's it's it's different as you kind of move across the continent. Right? So in South Africa, you unlike Botswana, you probably have more data, which of course is still not perfect, you know, so we covered the story about the census in South Africa, which didn't allow people identify as trans, you're just like male or female here. So there's all of these nuances. And I think it's about what kind of data you're looking for as well, right? So if you're looking for data on disability rights and submitted justice, that's, that's much more readily available. But if we're looking for data on sexual and gender minorities, it's often just not there. Right. And sometimes people don't feel like you know, counting them is is acknowledging that that they have which they don't want to do, right. So there's, there's there's a lot of concerns like about what data exist. And then there's concerns about how to access the data. So I do think that most of again, because I talked about how we can rely on very non traditional sources of data. You know, we've we've not had sort of direct for me three of them have done good we've not really had like therapy encounters with like, getting like official government data for especially Sacramento elementary district was it often doesn't exist or just doesn't make sense for us to use. It exists.
So a question from Christina she says, I know you're only started in 2019. But do you feel like the situation is easier or worse? Since COVID-19. The situation being reporting on LGBTQ plus issues had that had have an impact. I think the situation is
is worse, you know, and I think that's that's a that's not an easy conclusion for me to reach but I do think just a given what I see every day and I'm just like, oh my god, you know, it does feel worse and I'm talking specifically like about places like, you know, Ghana, for instance, where there is this debate of this draconian Bill, you know, and places like Uganda where there's been heightened propaganda, much more and I think I just wrote a piece that should be published soon, like about it, just sort of talking about how I how a lot of the problem that we see now on the continent beam sort of propped up by us evangelical groups are not new, they're reusing the same arguments. And so like, my hope, with that piece was sort of topical that just sort of wake up like you can't listen to the same narrative every five years being used to sort of like, mobilize you into anger or sort of like some moral panic. Right. So I do think that it is worse. I do think that and I don't think it's unconnected to a lot of what's happening like in the USSR, right? Because when when people sort of talk about you know, sex panics and like moral panic, like in America, you know, let's say things like do like transgender rights. I don't think that I think those sorts of conversations, go ahead to sort of embolden Africans who then think that because I don't know America is talking about it, then we should talk about it. So I think it's it's worse but I don't think it's hopeless at the same time.
I know that this is not the point of your work in any way, shape, or form. But have you ever had people telling you that through interacting with minority Africa content there, they change their minds on the issues? Yes, Mr. Bhutto, Well, personally,
I have and that's why I say if you kind of ask us personally, we feel very successful because we feel like people who have actually changed their minds or learned about something they didn't know previously, you know, or learn about the community in a way they had never seen them previously. So in my own bubble, I can say, Oh, it feels good, you know, people are actually changing their minds, but I I still don't know every single time that we post something or many times associated with the comments and this is not African. This is go away. It's not African. So it's it's people still think like, and I think we kind of and that's why we don't sort of rely on changing minds as the metric for if we're successful we rely on like, how, how come how much are we complicating the narrative? Right? That's, that's what success means to us.
Yeah. What do you recommend people read if they've gone through this entire hour conversation and they still think homosexuality is an African? What what what would you suggest that they read?
Well, first of all, read minority Africa. We do have some really great features to sort of talk about so there's there's two that come to mind and I think that the title of one is how gender how colonialism distort the gender like in Africa. There's another one that is about homosexuality is not on Africa, and it's homophobia that's new. And then there's one of my favorite recent pieces that is also just because then I was it's dangerous. It's like election season like in Nigeria. So now I have this piece and I just love it because like it's a prison. How queer folks are kind of competing for the choice presidential candidate on Grindr and Tinder and sort of putting this intention like oh, like, yeah, they're like, we wouldn't have sex if you don't vote, you know? Like, okay, cool. Love the effort. So that just makes me feel happy. So read that. And then I would also say read a book that I'm currently written again, which is female husbands and boy wives of Africa. It's like this collection of academic essays so you can kind of feel Akron but it has so many examples of especially countries that we don't hear of often looking to discuss about our career ethics. Eau Claire people existed in the continent before it has some examples from South Sudan, you know, and like Angola and somebody and Central African Republic, places that we actually don't hear of as often in that discourse.
Right I cannot thank you so very much for for spending time with us today. As I said it, I found this very unique in the fact that I don't usually get people so angry in the in the comments section. And it's a real eye opener that you're having to deal with that every single day. It's not uplifting. And, and so I really do wish you more power and every success and resilience for your message which is essentially treat people fairly and equally. I should say that, if you were watching today and you really want to be in the room downstairs, you have one week left to apply for the fellowship program. So hurry up and do that. As journalists, I expect everyone will apply in the final 15 minutes before midnight. But yeah, it's been fantastic talking to you Caleb and thank you. Thank you tool.