I am a Moth Storyteller

In late Spring 2019, I applied for a competitive storytelling opportunity. The Moth, a NYC based global storytelling catalyst was funded via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to amplify stories about women, girls and gender equality, and this was the last round of the applications. As a gender equality advocate (#31 on Onalytica’s 2019 International Women’s Day recognition), I had to connect with fellow gender equality activist-storytellers and get to work on the story of my larger-than-life late grandmother and her simple advice that shaped my inner strength and work. I was incredibly fortunate that the Moth workshop was in my home city of Nairobi and focused on efforts by girls and women advocates there.

We laughed, we told great stories, we cried and we sang.

At the Moth, my lifelong passion for storytelling, creative writing, non-fiction and the craft of short but impactful stories was refuelled many times over. As someone who has worked to share the stories of others for most of my advocacy work, it was a welcome change to tell stories from a first-person perspective. Seated in a room filled with fellow gender equality workers representing every part of Kenya and the Global South, I was humbled to hear stories of triumph over unimaginable obstacles. We each started with a seed of a story, and through a couple of days of hard work with experienced coaching, we were surprised how ready we were to tell the stories so skilfully by the end.

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What does it feel like to tell stories that are designed for impact? We sat in the rooms and each spoke of our own backgrounds, motivations and zoomed in on the moments that had shaped us. We did not know each other but at the end of the workshop, we could say we were privileged to hear one another out, and to change the way that we saw each other for the better. Without much background – I walked in late to my first session, eager to learn, but sad to be starting later than I had intended. My flight had arrived late the night before and I missed the group dinner for those who were arriving. It was just as well. I was even more in awe of my new co-participants as their stories and strong delivery energized me.

We laughed, we told great stories, we cried and we sang. Amid excellent food, and rich sit-downs, it was clear that we were going to co-create a terrific session. No phones featured in the sessions, no topics were out of bounds. We told one story and then another, and another, until our tea breaks and meal times seemed to punctuate the time together which we hoped would just not stop. It was chilly outside, even raining at times. We moved forward. At the end, watching my fellow participants share the final versions of their stories, I could not help but marvel at the short time that allowed us to go so deep. Thank you to the Moth for allowing me to be part of this experience.

If you are reading this, and in Nairobi this November 2019, make a point of going for the upcoming Moth Mainstage in on November 12th at the Kenya National Theatre, hosted by Adelle Onyango, one of Kenya’s most versatile media personalities.

To my fellow participants, thank you. I hope and plan for our paths to cross again. I do hope more of us get to hear one another tell these stories all over the world.

I know I cannot wait to share mine once again.

Josephine

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