Feature Writing

Malawi Storytelling Trip

The project:
I spent July 2016 traveling to Malawi, a small country in Southern Africa, to interview women on the ground about their experiences with reproductive health care. PAI had helped pass the first-ever reproductive health budget, and my job was to showcase why the budget was needed, what impact it would have, and how PAI is removing roadblocks from between women and their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Before this trip, PAI had no formal story bank. This meant that every e-appeal, report, newsletter, and social media post often had to be started from scratch. Stories of women on the ground were shared among staff informally, and weren’t directly recorded anywhere. It made telling the story of PAI’s work difficult.

The process: I led a team of five (one American photographer, two Malawian partners, and our driver who doubled as a translator, as well as myself) on a week-long trek through Malawi. We met with policy makers, community leaders, patients, doctors, and everyone in between, to find compelling stories to explain what the health system in Malawi is like, and how PAI can and does fill the gaps. Through interviews, hospital visits, formal and informal meetings, I wrote dozens of stories from a variety of perspectives, with hundreds of photos.

The results: I wrote more than a dozen powerful stories told from the perspectives of young girls, mothers, doctors, policymakers and hospital staff. These stories have appeared in PAI videos, reports, social media posts, emails, and speeches made by the CEO. They will continue to be used for years to come. For example, you can read about Charity Salima in PAI’s 2015 annual report. I met Charity while touring the private clinic she started with her own money. The clinic now sees about 30 to 40 deliveries every month, and has its own ambulance – a rarity in Malawi. You can also check out photos of the Honorable Dr. Jessie Kwabira, a member of the Malawian Parliament and outspoken abortion advocate, on PAI’s website. PAI has also used stories I collected in social media posts and email messages.