Africa has many challenges and one of those is giving voice to those who need it. Pippa Hetherington is a social and information entrepreneur who is creating a unique platform, Behind the Faces, for encouraging women to let their voices be heard. Using storytelling as a catalyst, she is providing a powerful mechanism for these women to share their own personal stories of strength and inspiration, and to communicate with their compatriots across the African continent.
LoA connected with Pippa Hetherington this month to find out more about the inspirational Behind the Faces concept and her ambitions for the initiative across Africa.
Tell us more about Behind the Faces
Behind the Faces is a storytelling concept designed to highlight the many roles fulfilled by the daughters of Africa – the custodians of this continent’s past, present and future. Through writing, photography, exhibitions and storytelling, Behind the Faces aims to build connections,using contemporary platforms to reach out to the world. To honour African women and girls for the invaluable role they play in society and the economy. And to move away from typecasting woman as lover, mother, craftswoman or beauty queen. African women are all of these and more.
What inspired you to start this wonderful initiative?
In the face of adversity (such as poverty, war, violence, famine, slavery and HIV/Aids) across the African continent, women continue to pull through with strength. They have often witnessed and felt the effect of the transition from rural to urban societies, have had to fight for the most basic of human rights and yet, despite the hardship, have been the backbone of their community. By creating a medium through which women from a diversity of cultural and social economic backgrounds can tell their own personal stories of strength and inspiration, we believe that a significant shift in these women’s self-esteem and self-worth will be realised.
The seeds of this concept were sown against the spirit of xenophobia, racism, violence against women, stereotyped thinking and narrow-mindedness that dominates society. Behind the Faces invites fresh perspectives that can help to spread awareness and aid education; to spark acceptance and understanding and celebration of ‘the other’; to honour our differences and our similarities; to close the relative gaps between people; to invite people to take a look at themselves and to ask what they are doing about their own situation; to touch women who are unaware of their human rights; to help carve a responsible civil society that can inform government; and to facilitate healing.
An important part of this project aims to encourage women to let their voices be heard: for them to share and to communicate with their compatriots across the continent – with storytelling as the catalyst.
Why should women participate in Behind the Faces?
Through interviews and photographs, we communicate how Africa’s daughters have held on to their generosity, integrity and faith. While witnessing suffering and sadness as much as hope, celebration and healing. Women across Africa, and throughout the ages, have played an instrumental role in ensuring that the fabric of all societies has remained strong and prosperous. We believe this needs to be documented and showcased, not only to highlight the role of women, but also to raise the profile of Africa across the continent as well as internationally. And, in so doing, to impact the representation of women in the media in such a way that it will begin to take a definitively more positive stance.
"Behind the Faces is not a company but a concept and a service. My dream is to engage with other women from different African countries on a deep level where together we can shift perception."
Tell us a little about your team
We are a team of writers and photographers with a shared passion for telling meaningful stories. We wish to provide thought-provoking journalistic content, to enable the training of up-and-coming women journalists in African countries, and to raise the profile of Africa in a constructive way. We have, collectively, 45 years of experience with a variety of developmental, corporate and arts and culture brands: ACTIVATE! Change Drivers, Telecom TV, RTL [German TV]), Sea Harvest, Discovery Health, MTN, Nissan, British Airways, Netcare, WWF, German Society for International Cooperation [GIC], SADC, UN, Global Water Partnership, Environmental Agency UK, Keiskamma Trust, Home from Home, Bushfire Festival of the Arts in Swaziland, Africa!Ignite, NICRO, Lifeline, Prison Care and Support Network, 1 Giant Leap DVD series, Freedthinkers (insight, strategy, impact), Lake of Stars music festival Malawi, Association for Savings and Investment SA, MidasEarthcote, Namibian Dept of Environmental Affairs. We have worked and travelled across the African continent: Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Angola, Malawi, Mauritius, Morocco, Swaziland and Lesotho. We have been published in and employed by various print media: Independent Online (IOL), The Cape Times, Marie Claire (SA and international editions), Leadership, The Cape Argus, The Weekend Argus, The Star, The Sunday Independent, Mail & Guardian, The Times Cape Town, Discovery, The Media Online, Oprah Magazine, The Media Magazine, The Wits Business Journal, Fair Lady, House and Leisure, Real Simple, Shape, Conde Nast House & Garden, Plascon Spaces, Women’s Health, Netcare Health, Edgars Club and The Big Issue magazine.
Pippa Hetherington holds a driving passion for the development of women’s issues in Africa and, in particular, giving women a voice to communicate their own stories in a safe and uplifting environment. As a stills photographer, Pippa has documented women from Africa for many years, resulting in numerous exhibitions, books and other communication materials. Behind the Faces is a collaborative culmination of Pippa’s work to authentically represent African women in their own words and images.
Features writer, magazine editor and storyteller, Kim Chaloner, has a passion for uncovering the unique stories that lie behind the façade, and for seeking to create an outlet for these tales to be told. She has worked as a researcher and scriptwriter for documentary and promotional videos for the NGO and development sector in southern Africa; as an investigative and lifestyle journalist and features editor for magazines and web-based publications, including Marie Claire South Africa, Women’s Health and The Big Issue; and as a community-based counsellor. All of which have highlighted to her the importance of listening, and listening well. By shining a light on women’s triumphs over life’s seemingly insurmountable challenges, Kim yearns to help spread an enduring message of hope.
"By creating a medium through which women from a diversity of cultural and social economic backgrounds can tell their own personal stories of strength and inspiration, we believe that a significant shift in these women’s self-esteem and self-worth will be realised."
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
For me, being an entrepreneur isn't about the money. It's about being an information entrepreneur and connecting people. I think there is huge power in networking and sharing stories. My two start ups have been Behind the Faces featured here, and another venture called Earthstock Media which is a Sustainable Development photographic archive - www.earthstockmedia.co.za . Although at times challenging, the work has been rewarding. To think with an entrepreneurial mind, one has to embrace creativity, innovation and constantly find solutions to problems. I am an independent visual communications specialist based in Cape Town with training and experience in photography, documentary video production, project management, marketing and writing. My work is now heavily influenced by travels through Africa and breaking down barriers between different communities and countries.
"Being an entrepreneur means I can be an individual. And I celebrate that."
- Pippa Hetherington, founder @behindthefaces #MakeMyVoiceMatter
What are your future plans and aspirations for Behind the Faces?
Behind the Faces is not a company but a concept and a service. My dream is to engage with other women from different African countries on a deep level where together we can shift perception.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur means I can be an individual. And I celebrate that.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Keep focused, realistic and be brave. Identify mentors early on for advice and work on the skill of networking.
Fearlessness is a good thing to balance with humility.
Contact Pippa or find out more about Behind the Faces
Why LoA loves it….
The Behind the Faces concept is an initiative whose time has come, and the fact that the power of storytelling is at its heart, means it is tapping into one of the most influential and powerful trends of the decade. By providing a mechanism to encourage women to let their voices be heard, and for them to share and to communicate with their compatriots across the continent, using storytelling as the catalyst, will help to make positive change happen. Pippa Hetherington and her team are documenting these stories in the most inspirational way using media that connects at a deeply emotional level. As a result, the world will look at Africa’s women through a different and more positive lens. At LoA, we salute you! --- Melanie Hawken, founder and editor-in-chief of Lionesses of Africa