In celebration of UN-recognized International Human Rights Day on December 10th, nonprofit organizations Tostan and Venice Arts, together with the Sundance Institute and The Skoll Foundation, premiere a series of participant-produced films from community members in Senegal.

Through the three short films, which have been produced following training in participant-led media techniques and documentary filmmaking, community members share their own stories about how their lives are changing.

Earlier this year, Tostan was awarded a $20,000 grant by Stories of Change, a project of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Fund (DFP), supported by the Skoll Foundation, to train community members in participant-led filmmaking, which gives the power of the storytelling back to communities, providing them with the opportunity to share stories that are the most meaningful to them.

The training and technical support was undertaken by renowned filmmakers and trainers Venice Arts and additional funding for the project was received from Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

The films were shot in Kolda, near Senegal’s border with Guinea Bissau, with communities identifying three stories to tell in a short-short (3–5 minute) format.

Film 1 – Peace Come In takes place in the Pulaar village of Tankanto Maoundé, Senegal. Through short interviews with community members, the film tells of the importance of developing a community vision, protecting children and increasing environmental safety.

Film 2 – Waylowaylo also takes place in the community of Tankanto Maoundé. Waylowaylo means ‘change’ in Pulaar, and the film shows the changes in attitude in the community towards girls’ education through the story of a girl named Maoundé Baldé and her father, Mamadou Baldé, the Village Chief.

Film 3 – The Crossing takes place in the Mandinka village of Karcia, Senegal. This film addresses a common source of conflict between families and ethnic groups in West Africa – inter-ethnic marriage – and shows how conflict can be resolved through positive communication.

The short films show the impact of human rights education through stories from the communities themselves, revealing what is important to them.