Kissa Kahani Unveils Digital Stories

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In commemoration of International Women’s Day on March 8, Ci3’s Transmedia Story Lab (TSL) presented digital stories from the Kissa Kahani project at a reception hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. TSL is part of the University of Chicago’s Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health (Ci3).

Kissa Kahani is a research project that uses narrative as a primary research methodology to explore gender and adolescent reproductive health in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India. Since August 2015, Ci3, in partnership with the University of Chicago Center in Delhi and a number of community partners in India, has been working with adolescents in Lucknow to generate new understandings around gender and sexual and reproductive health. Dr. Melissa Gilliam, Ellen H. Block Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Pediatrics; Vice Provost, Academic Leadership, Advancement, and Diversity; founder of Ci3; and Dr. Alicia Menendez, Associate Professor at the Harris School of Public Policy are co-principle investigators for Kissa Kahani.

This project is anchored by the digital stories, profiling young people’s experiences around gender and sexual and reproductive health. The project began by engaging young people and community partners in making short, first-person documentaries set to music. The 28 resulting narratives describe a range of youth experiences. Major themes in the narratives include: lack of comprehensive sexual education, lack of mobility within their community, limited educational opportunities, and daily harassment and violence.
“Traditional research methodologies are, and always will be, an important means of collecting data,” said Dr. Gilliam. “But for this project, we also used novel methodologies through art, storytelling, and games that provided new information about young people’s lives.”

In addition to producing the digital stories, Ci3 employed a variety of narrative based research tools to further build out the ecological framework of a young person in this area. Over the next year, the Kissa Kahani team will analyze data, disseminate research findings, and continue to screen stories both nationally and internationally. Last November, twelve of the digital stories were entered into the 10th International Chinh Kids Film Festival. As the films toured schools, the digital stories were viewed by many children throughout India as part of a jury screening process. Four TSL stories were selected by the jury as finalists, with one receiving an award at the film festival.

The Kissa Kahani project is in its last phase and is currently working with seven partners in Lucknow to test solutions that address issues identified in the digital stories and research. Ci3 is leading the evaluation of the small grants projects, with direction from Dr. Menendez, a development economist at the Harris School of Public Policy and Principal Research Scientist in the International Projects department at NORC.

“We are very much looking forward to what the data will reveal and learning more about the effectiveness of human centered design in creating youth led interventions,” said Dr. Menendez.

Kissa Kahani has benefited immensely from the University of Chicago Delhi Center, which has hosted several events over the last 1.5 years.

Click here to watch the Kissa Kahani digital stories.