RV at 5: FOKO – A Reflection by Joan Razafimaharo

Rising Voices note: This post is part of the month-long feature commemorating RV's 5th Anniversary.

FOKO from Madagascar is one of the most successful grantees of Rising Voices which has transformed Malagasy forumists into bloggers. And what a journey it had. Starting from late 2007 It continued to develop a group of citizen journalists as its workshops spread to more and more cities of Madagascar. With their powerful storytelling these bloggers played an important role during the political crisis of the country in 2009-10.

We had requested FOKO co founder Joan Razafimaharo to send her reflections on the journey of FOKO and this is what she wrote:

Joan Razafimaharo. Photo from Flickr by Oso. CC: BY-NC-SA

I remembered our thrill when we read the first publications from the bloggers. Most writers were high-schoolers and students from universities around Madagascar so we had expected lightly written posts. Since our perception of youth was limited to what mainstream media dared to cover, we had no idea of what was coming toward us.

Blog clubs were hang-outs to meet new people, to start some networking and for most of them it was the best opportunity to showcase their hidden talents and creativity. For a fact, I know that most trainers never imposed a topic neither prohibited sensitive ones. When a 17 year-old produced a powerful video where she follows a young beggar around the streets of Antananarivo, she was just sharing what she knew best : the reality she is facing everyday. Slowly but surely her message was echoed by other bloggers from other towns.

Young Foko Bloggers. Image Courtesy Foko

A teen crossed her path with a mother tending to a sick baby, this encounter in Mahabibo Market changed our lives forever. For a while after we went short on funding, we all kept in touch in a way or another. Social Media which was little known to this generation, by then, became the best way to expand their world.

I learnt from Facebook that this boy from Antsirabe just secured a job as a journalist in the capital. He didn't have an email account when we met! (and you know how annoying it can be when you are short on time with little to none connection and power during a workshop then you realize most kids have to create an email account before starting anything on WordPress). We shared many (too many) sad and happy times together. Together we opened a window. What I am sure of is that this window was opened by Malagasy to the world so they could meet the real Madagascar.

Read a detailed interview with her here.

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