Storytelling for social justice, dialogue and inclusion
Humans have been telling stories since as early as we could communicate. It’s how we express our emotions, share parts of our lives with others, and pass on traditions. And the way in which we tell stories is perhaps even more important than the story itself.
A major part of storytelling is developing the narrative—the way we present the story. This angle dictates the details we include, the parts we emphasize most, and the way we describe certain characters. The rise of the Internet over the past 40 years and the wealth of information that has come with it have led to a boom in storytelling.
Some of this storytelling has been beneficial. With social media networks, we can now follow the stories of our friends and family who we may not get to see often. We can hear people talk about their life experiences through autobiographies or documentaries.
But some of it has been damaging to many groups and communities. In several countries around the world, including Bulgaria and the United States, conservative groups have used storytelling to create a narrative that LGBTQ+ couples are unsuitable parents and are a threat to children’s safety.
The stories we create, and the way we present them, dictate what we value or do not value in our societies. Selective storytelling promotes the voices and experiences of some but hides the voices of others. This perpetuates harmful stereotypes that connect to racism, sexism, and other
forms of oppression.
In our Erasums+ funded Youth Exchange, “Storytelling for Social Justice, Dialogue, and Inclusion,” we concentrated on the power of storytelling and how to use it in a positive way. The exchange is made up of 22 participants from Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, and Portugal. Through group discussions, writing activities, roleplay situations, interactive presentations, and more, we develop participants’ capacities for critical thinking and critical analysis of media, while also building their multicultural perspectives.
Having a diverse range of ideas, traditions, and lifestyles is crucial to creating a just and fair society. Our youth exchange presented participants with an opportunity to engage directly with these aspects and to work on creating their own stories to shape their communities. Upon the project’s completion, the participants returned to their home countries and shared the information they have learned, encouraging others to take a closer look at the stories around
them because they are more important than they may appear at first glance.