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Dispatches from the Moth · Posted On: Jul 03, 2019

Global Spotlight: Meet our Instructor, Masooma Ranalvi

by The Moth Staff

Screen Shot 2019 06 11 At 5 21 11 Pm

After a vigorous selection process, The Moth’s Global Community Program selected six talented alumni to become potential instructors for its workshop programs in the Global South. This first cohort includes individuals from Africa and Asia who are currently undergoing a robust training process to become teachers of the craft of true personal storytelling.

The newest addition to this remarkable group is Masooma Ranalvi, a social activist who, in addition to her time with The Moth, works as a trainer on issues of gender and sexual harassment. She graduated from a Moth workshop in Naivasha, Kenya in 2018 and worked as a translator for our New Delhi workshops before recently becoming an instructor trainee. Four years ago, Masooma took the bold step of speaking out about her views on the practice on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), including how being a victim of the practice when she was young has impacted her deeply. She mobilized support to start debate and discussion about the taboo issue in her community and founded an organisation called WeSpeakOut, the largest survivor-led platform working against FGM in India and the world. 
We recently interviewed Masooma about her extensive mission-driven work:

What was your experience, when you first participated in a Moth workshop last year?  
It was an exhilarating experience. Nothing of what I expected. The intense process of digging deep into your inner recess and reliving emotions, feelings and moments of the past to craft my story made me look at storytelling in a very different light.

Could you tell us a little bit about your work with WeSpeakOut?  
It is interesting how WeSpeakOut was born because of my story. I put my story of being a scared, angry, and determined survivor of FGM out in the public domain, and this led to several other women reaching out to me, and that’s how it all began. WeSpeakOut was founded by me in 2015 as a very spontaneous platform to voice the concerns, experiences and stories of the survivors. Once we were a solid mass of 50 survivors, we plunged into the whole process of creating and building an organization that would systematically reach out to others in the community, the government and to civil society organizations to actively pursue our goal of elimination of FGM. Now we work at a legal and policy level, and pursue advocacy against FGM in the community and outside as well.

Recently, Masooma’s work with WeSpeakOut was highlighted by WhatsApp, the online messaging app. To watch this short video, and to hear part of her story, click here.

Masooma 2

What is it like to use personal stories in your professional life?  
I discovered the magic of storytelling to connect deeply with an audience. Once I begin with my own story, I let the audience peek into my inner world, my emotions and a sense of empathy bonds us. My story is all about my personal journey. But, at a macro level it [sends] out the message that a practice like FGM is invisible and secret [and yet] it also very much exists in India. In a sense, it put the Indian story of FGM on the world map. I find it a great opening statement for any kind of audience. I have used my story as a starter for my interactions with students, academicians, government officials and community members. And it works beautifully.

We're checking in right after you've returned from Nairobi, and finished your first workshop as an instructor trainee. How do you feel? Did any part of the workshop surprise you?  
My experience as a trainee instructor was tremendous. Moving from a participant to the other side helped me look at the process of crafting a story very differently. I could actually see and sense that revisiting moments of the past does not happen automatically. It has to be very gently culled out and in a sense is a journey into self-discovery and self-reflection.

Masooma 3

What's one thing you experienced recently that’s particularly excited you?  

I was thrilled to see the transformation that happens at the end of two rigorous days of the Moth storytelling ‘boot camp.’ The idea of a story, or just a tiny glimmer, or a mere sentence on the prompt sheet—gets converted into this beautiful, compact story that can bring a loud cheer or even a tear of joy, hope, resilience, and inspiration.  

The Moth’s Global Community Program develops and elevates true, personal stories from extraordinary individuals across Africa and South Asia. By honoring a broad range of experiences, we believe we can challenge dominant narratives, deepen connection, and create a more productive dialogue around the world.

Our workshops focus on the craft of personal storytelling, helping participants turn significant life experiences into compelling, impactful stories. Many participants apply their stories to advocacy and change-making work, addressing issues such as HIV/TB and gender equity.

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