As refugee literacies scholar Michael McDonald (2013) writes, “despite the implications refugee experience might have for understanding literacy in global contexts, the perspectives of refugees have been given only cursory attention” (p. 95). We seek to correct this trend through our work amplifying the voices of young refugee women through the “Now You Hear Us” podcast and writing workshop. Created in the late spring of 2020, amidst the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Now You Hear Us podcast has become, over the past year, an important platform for its four female youth participants to speak their minds and be heard around the world. Beginning in January 2021, the Now You Hear Us programming expanded to include a writing workshop, and both initiatives have led to deep — and often, public — conversations about the role of feminism and the intersectionality of gender and forced migration.
We will share our learned wisdom and practical tips for moving programming with forcibly displaced young women to an online format given the challenges and affordances of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, we will share our experiences over the past year as the founder of Youth UnMuted and producer of the Now You Hear Us podcast (Presenter 2), and as a PhD candidate in English Composition and Applied Linguistics and facilitator of the Now You Hear Us writing workshop (Presenter 1). Together, we demonstrate how these two tangible projects — the podcast and writing workshop — have provided platforms for resettled refugee young women to form communities across geographic borders and migration experiences, and have helped to uphold their agency and bolster their resilience via the power of multimodal storytelling. As one participant shared in a recent podcast episode, “I’m talking for a girl who cannot talk for herself” (Youth UnMuted).
Our ideal project format is an interactive presentation, in which we share excerpts of the Now You Hear Us podcast alongside a collaborative conversation about the processes behind the podcast and writing workshop, and anecdotes of participant responses and reported impacts. This presentation would be particularly beneficial to anyone working with refugees, anyone interested in intersectional feminism and young refugee women, and/or anyone looking to gain example prompts, guidelines, and strategies for facilitating creative storytelling with refugee youth. Through our presentation, we seek to provide attendees with practical activities, as well as contemporary frameworks, to incorporate into their own practices at the intersection of gender, forced migration, and vulnerabilities. Ultimately, we hope to share our own experiences in response to a question Kathy Burrell and Kathrin Hörschelmann (2019) pose: “What tools are available to centre the experiences of refugees themselves within public imaginations, and what are the progressive and political possibilities of doing so?” (p. 45).
Burrell, K., & Hörschelmann, K. (2019). Perilous Journeys: Visualising the Racialised “Refugee Crisis.” Antipode, 51(1), 45–65.
McDonald, M. (2013). Keywords: Refugee Literacy. Community Literacy Journal, 7(2), 95–99.
Youth UnMuted. (2021, March 8). Now You Hear Us (Episode 4). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFe6H_B_prE.
Presenter 1 is a doctoral candidate in English Composition and Applied Linguistics at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and is a Writing Fellow with Herstory and the Coalition for Community Writing. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics, and has worked with refugee youth since 2017.
Presenter 2 has engaged creatively with young people for her entire career, believing that, given the opportunity and support, vulnerable people can move forward with confidence and the tools they need to achieve their full potential. She holds a Masters in Human Security and Peacebuilding, and is the co-founder of Youth UnMuted.