‘Telling the Real Story’ is a project facilitated by UNHCR that uses storytelling as a tool for refugees to reclaim their narrative, while sharing what it’s really like to cross the sea. In the 13th episode of the podcast, we speak to Amal Jibril about the untapped talent that lies in refugee camps.
By SWB Team
A Passionate about humanitarian issues and technology, Amal Jibril has been tirelessly working to provide refugees living in camps in Ethiopia with opportunities for self-realization, using storytelling as a core tool. As the Associate Project Officer of Telling the Real Story, Amal leveragees on the creative economy help refugees reclaim their story.
In this episode of the Startups Without Borders podcast, we discuss how the creative economy can offer incredible opportunities for refugees, and what it means to try to showcase the ‘real story’ not only about, but by refugees.
The search for the ‘real’ story
Telling the Real Story is a UNHCR-facilitated community-based platform to disseminate stories about the journeys made by Somalis, Eritreans, and nigerians. It runs in Sudan, Nigeria, and Ethiopia, where Jibril is based.
“They’ve been here for 30 years, and they start thinking ‘I cannot do anything by myself unless it is offered by an external party”
The project offers a collection of authentic stories, told by the refugees and asylum seekers themselves. They speak to their own communities and share their experiences, good and bad. Through these testimonies, those who might choose to embark on the journey are informed of the full scope and perils they may encounter in order to help them make an informed decision and prepare them for their future movements.
When refugees internalise an external narrative
Throughout her work across refugee camps in Ethiopia – particularly in Jijiga, where she works – Jibril has noticed a mindset dominated by an aid-dependent mentality, as refugees often internalize narratives created by external parties. “We do a lot of mindset and self-development work to change mindsets. We also try to encourage them to use their talent to make money on the side,” she says.
“The education percentage in the camps where we work is 90 percent; there is a lot of talent”.
“They’ve been here for 30 years, and they start thinking ‘I cannot do anything by myself unless it is offered by an external party’; they don’t have the urgency to do something for themselves in order for them to change their lives. We’re trying to change their mindsets, and it’s going to take some time,” she explains.
What is the real story?
The key purpose of this project’s work is not only the result – a collection of testimonies and stories that help spread information and, with that, their own narrative, but also the untapping of their immense talent to put their experience into words.
“The education percentage in the camps where we work is 90 percent; there is a lot of talent,” says Jibril, pointing out the importance of refugees claiming their own voice.
For Telling the Real Story, the focus falls on going beyond the myth around the journey. “We’re sharing stories of people who have risked their lives and moved from different parts of Africa to Europe. It’s a very dangerous journey, there is human trafficking a horrible stories. So we are encouraging youth who made the journey to share what happened with youth in Africa,” she explains.
By sharing the other side of the story while empowering them to focus on their talents, Jibril and the TRS team hope to shed light on the opportunities uncovered in Africa. “We’re trying to share with them that, if they see a light [in the journey], there can also be light here, in what you can do.”
An advice for a young refugee who wants to start an initiative?
“We’re trying to share with them that, if they see a light [in the journey], there can also be light here, in what you can do.”
“Get out of your comfort zone,” says Jibril. There is an opportunity that doesn’t necessarily exist within the confinement of the camp. Reach out to people who will inspire you, who will have the information, speak to different kinds of government entities and development actors,” she adds, as she mentions Natakallam, where refugees can use their translations skills.