This past January, PROOF led an educational workshop designed to inspire action on human rights -- Witnessing: Working with Testimonies for Refugee Advocacy.
Conveners of this five-day workshop held in New York City included:
- Leora Kahn, Executive Director of PROOF: Media for Social Justice, and
- Dr. Anita Fábos, Associate Professor of International Development and Social Change at Clark University
Both Leora and Anita have had considerable experience developing educational programs that incorporate refugee and forced migrant perspectives.
Attracting a mix of global practitioners, researchers, and students who work in the fields of displacement and forced migration, the workshop focused on the critical topic of refugee testimonials and demonstrated how these stories can best be elicited and employed ethically to advance human rights.
When Christine Gosney, a caseworker at a refugee resettlement agency in Kentucky, signed up for PROOF’s ‘Witnessing’ workshop in New York City, she had two very specific goals:
"I came to learn more about the ethics involved with receiving and sharing testimonies of refugees, and also about empowering the refugees to share their own stories."
PROOF’s five-day workshop offered Christine the opportunity to hone her skills in the presence of her peers, who also work with refugees from all parts of the world.
Formal workshop presentations explored the politics, methods, and ethics of testimony-taking and the various techniques of constructing narratives and storytelling for advocacy.
But the real learning for Christine and the other participants took place during small group discussions.
“The smaller group setting provided the time and space for us to ask really important questions of ourselves and of each other,” said Christine. “This will help us to achieve greater success within an ethical context in our individual work with refugee clients, with our peers, and with our organizations.”
Another attendee, Professor Lenni Benson, found benefits in the ‘Witnessing’ workshop that will inform her work as an immigration law expert at New York Law School. The interactive dynamic of the workshop format made for an "integrated learning experience that was also personally engaging," said Benson.
However, the value of PROOF's partnership with Clark University, as represented by the ‘Witnessing’ workshop, was best summed up by Dr. Anita Fabos who thought "the merging of academic insights with practical advocacy tools was fantastic."
Witnessing participants sharing, creating, and listening. Photos by Sid Mishra.