At PositiveNegatives we produce literary comics, animations and podcasts about contemporary social and humanitarian issues. We combine ethnographic research with illustration and this creative approach allows us to adapt personal testimonies into art, education and advocacy materials.
Through IDEO.org’s Amplify programme, a series of innovation challenges funded by the UK Department of International Development, we sought to provide comprehensive information on sexual and reproductive health services through visual storytelling to young women who have been deeply affected by conflict.
Members of the PositiveNegatives team hosted a series of co-creation workshops in Lebanon with groups of displaced Syrian girls to explore the role of illustration and storytelling in female health education and empowerment.
During the workshops we worked with two groups of young Syrian women (aged 11 to 15 years) and provided a space for them to discuss their dreams, fears and hopes for the future.
Many expressed concern around issues affecting adolescent girls across the world: bullying, loneliness, and understanding rapidly-changing emotions. Within these worries were deeper concerns including fears of losing their right to an education, harassment, sexual assault, and a growing trepidation about arranged marriages.
Informed by user research, we shifted our team’s focus from sexual health to exploring the emotional needs of girls. By developing workshops on mental wellbeing, we aimed to inform both girls and families on the practice of self-care and emotional health.
In adopting a human-centred approach in both research and project development, we created illustrated booklets aligned with refugee girls’ needs that direct both girls, and their relatives, towards resources catering to their emotional development.
Embedded within these booklets are lessons and tools originating from the girls’ cultures and daily practices. During the workshops, many girls talked about carrying around pocket mirrors to speak to their reflection and think through difficult situations and feelings.
Mirrors, inserted within our booklets will allow readers to continue this important practice. In addition, the girls recommended that these visual narratives should have multiple endings. The readers can therefore imagine their own journey through the booklet, choosing different scenarios and outcomes based on their feelings and experiences.
These booklets will be distributed to hundreds of Syrian refugee girls. They will serve as a tool to learn about and process mental wellbeing and simultaneously direct girls towards sexual reproductive health services available in their area.
In combining IDEO.org’s human-centered design approach with PositiveNegatives’ methodologies, our booklets will be used by the same communities who helped design them. The end result is a set of visual stories which empower young women to make informed decisions about their physical and mental wellbeing.
Thank you to our partner organisation the ABAAD Resource Center For Gender Equality, Syrian artist Diala Brisly, IDEO.org, and the UK Department of International Development whose support made this project possible.