Untold Stories emerged as a project with a mission to give voice to people with experiences of abuses against press freedom. It evolved into a project sharing stories of different kinds of human rights abuses – in three different countries. Today marks the one year anniversary of Untold Stories!
When I launched the site one year ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had no experience of being a project manager and had only made one interview in my life (Untold Stories first interview!). But I had a dream in my heart to do everything in my power for human rights. Today, I am happy that I followed that dream.
One year has passed as volunteering project manager for Untold Stories. Guiding and inspiring people to become great writers have been amazing, and sharing their stories to the world has been a honor. But nothing beats the experience of meeting someone who earlier was jailed for journalism – and to hear him telling me about the difference Untold Stories makes for people whose worst fear is to be forgotten.
Creating and developing Untold Stories has far from always been easy. I remember what it was like to interview whistleblower Abdullahi Hussein, and to hear him telling about the horrifying crimes against humanity carried out in the Ogaden region. I remember how it felt like meeting Caalaa Hayiluu Abaataa, a man who ended up in jail for writing poems about the repressed Oromo people. And I can still picture the sorrow in Jomanex’ eyes as he described how much he missed his friends who was jailed for blogging about human rights. Hearing their experiences made me sleepless for nights – and too well do I know the helplessness of knowing many others trapped in difficult situations.
I quickly realized that I could not stand alone. And luckily, I did not have to. I could never have imagine the response I would get when I started looking for volunteering proofreaders, translators and illustrators. My inbox quickly filled up with replies from people across Sweden, many of them saying that they had always longed for doing something for humanity. Untold Stories gave them the opportunity of using their creativity and knowledge to make a change. That is beyond words amazing! And most of all, I am deeply touched and impressed thinking about all the brave writers who has contacted us wanting to write about their personal experiences. Together, we work hard to fulfill our mission of making the world aware of what is going on in dictatorial countries.
I had a clear vision of what I wanted the site to be: An online platform giving voice to people who have personal experiences of abuses against press freedom. But today, the site has evolved into so much more than that. During this first year, more than 30 article writers, interviewees, poets, illustrators, proofreaders and translators have contributed to Untold Stories. Together, we have published 33 articles and interviews about a wide verity of topics. We have also published poems, amazing artwork, videos and translated articles to Afaan Oromo, Amharic and Swedish.
Untold Stories is nothing more, and nothing less, than its writers and readers. The platform will always be what the writers and readers want it to be. Human rights matters are not constant. The needs will always change, and flexibility is essential in order to adapt the site to the needs. The requests from the contributors has evolved the site to what it is today, and it will continue evolving.
One of the first changes made was to widen the area of focus. Press freedom is connected to so many human rights issues, and to fully understand why some countries restrict freedom of expression, one have to understand what the journalists are trying to expose. I was contacted by many people who requested to write about issues such as corruption and repression against ethnic groups. Untold Stories started by focusing on Ethiopia, but one of the first changes was to allow stories from other countries as well. Journalists, bloggers and human rights activists are often exiled in other countries, and many stories are written from there. Many contributors have shared stories about the challenges of continuing their journalistic work in the new country, and about starting a new life. And during the late summer, we decided to widen the sites’ focus to the two other main jailers of journalists in Africa: Egypt and Eritrea. We recently published the first articles about these countries.
As new articles and stories kept arriving to my inbox, I noticed that experience of torture was a recurring topic. Realizing that a shocking number of people carries difficult experiences of being subjected to torture, we have looked more deeply into the topic, mainly to understand its psychological effects. Recently, an article was published on where and how torture survivors can get help and support to heal.
Art and psychology was cornerstones from start, and today I am happy to see the development. We believe that art is one of the best ways of spreading awareness. It is a language everyone can understand. All articles are illustrated by one of our amazing illustrators. The map of the police investigation center Maekelawi in Ethiopia, where many journalists and other critical voices are jailed, and one of its cells made in 3D, are great examples of how art can be used to spread awareness. Many artists and illustrators have created amazing art during the year, and we have collected their creations in a gallery.
During 2017, Untold Stories aims to:
Lets celebrate this first year by helping spreading our stories! Make sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Share and spread our work on social media and let everyone knows we exist. Your help will make a huge difference!
You can support us by:
1. Linking to our stories in social media
2. Use any of these graphics and link to Untold Stories: http://www.untoldstoriesonline.com/downloadable-images/
3. Link to our site on your blog/site
4. Repost our stories (remember to link back to us!)
5. Become our partner: http://www.untoldstoriesonline.com/partners/
6. Follow us on social media and invite your friends (for example on Facebook) to do the same.
7. Contributing by writing, illustrating or translating. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and request guidelines. Currently, we are looking for writers on human rights issues in Eritrea and Egypt.
8. Is there a lecture, seminar, conference or demonstration coming up that you think we should attend? Please let us know! Contact us at email@example.com .
9. Do you want to help us by increasing our online- and offline visibility? Don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Untold Stories is available on:
For one year, Untold Stories has helped readers understand oppression, inspired compassion and introduced readers to those who have suffered human rights abuses. This is only the beginning. I and the contributors would like to thank you for giving us the confidence to move forward!
Melody Sundberg, Project Manager