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Voice of Witness (VOW) is an award-winning, San Francisco-based nonprofit that advances human rights by amplifying unheard voices. Through our oral history book series and education program, we center the voices of people impacted by injustice, teach our ethics-driven oral history methodology, and partner with human rights advocates to:
- build agency within marginalized communities,
- foster thoughtful, empathy-based critical inquiry and understanding of the issues faced by marginalized peoples, and
- inform efforts to protect and advance human rights.
For over ten years, VOW has illuminated human rights issues in the U.S. and globally. Our oral history book series amplifies the voices of people impacted by the criminal justice system, migration, and displacement. Our education program serves over 20,000 people annually, and we provide oral history training to other nonprofits as well as to educators, advocates, writers, and journalists.
Voice of Witness was cofounded by author Dave Eggers, writer & educator Mimi Lok, and physician Lola Vollen.
In partnership with the Brigid Alliance, We Testify, and Access Reproductive Care-Southeast (ARC-Southeast), Voice of Witness (VOW) is inviting writers, journalists, and researchers with a proven track record in reproductive justice to submit proposals for the following oral history book fellowship. The deadline has been extended, proposals are now due by Tuesday, March 31, 2020.
We are accepting submissions that offer a unique take on the widely covered issue of abortion access in the United States, with the aim of exposing the stigma and myths surrounding abortion care and of highlighting the effects of restrictive abortion access on our most marginalized, vulnerable communities. We are particularly interested in hearing stories from a diversity of narrators to support a humanized and holistic approach to the subject.
The resulting manuscript will be published as a trade title by Haymarket Books as part of the Voice of Witness book series. The book will also have accompanying curricula (free and downloadable) developed by the VOW education program in partnership with reproductive rights education experts. The VOW education program reaches over 20,000 students and educators each year via site visits, workshops, and curricula.
Despite abortion being technically legal in all 50 states, anti-choice activists and politicians have been working steadily for decades to make access to abortion more difficult, if not nearly impossible. Any person seeking access to an abortion for themselves or a loved one is faced with an intense climate of hostility and fear. Such barriers to abortion do not prevent pregnancy terminations—they simply make these procedures more dangerous, particularly for those who are already from marginalized, under-resourced communities.
We are seeking proposals for an oral history book (containing 12–15 narratives) that will focus on the voices of those who are most directly impacted by restrictive abortion access. Through VOW’s immersive approach to oral history, this project aims to use first-person narratives to illuminate the myriad issues that intersect with and shape access to abortion care. In addition to the main, guiding questions, the Fellow will propose to answer in this project, we hope this oral history collection will also explore the following:
- How do the factors of race, class, gender identity, citizenship status, and sexual orientation affect access to abortion care?
- When local access is severely limited, what hardships do people undertake in order to receive an abortion? (E.g. travel over long distances, high financial costs)
- How does abortion access affect not only the person seeking an abortion, but also their family and larger community?
- What are the experiences of people who are health care and abortion service providers?
This project intends to amplify the stories of a diverse range of people, whose narratives will complement each other in order to reveal the complexity and nuance behind the topic of abortion access. Centering marginalized voices and promoting the agency of narrators (their ability to shape and tell their story in a way that best reflects their truth) is foundational to every Voice of Witness book. The VOW oral history process requires the consent and affirmation of narrators at every stage, from initial interviews to pre-publication. Narrators should be considered collaborators on this project, rather than interview subjects.
As with all titles in the Voice of Witness book series, the project lead will supplement the edited oral histories with an introduction and appendices that provide context for the issues explored in the testimonies.
We are looking to collaborate with a Fellow (or team of 2–3 Fellows) who can lead this project—conducting research, interviews, editing, and fact checking. The Fellow is someone who already has a high degree of understanding of the complexity and intersectionality around abortion access in the US and is rooted in the reproductive justice community. While the Fellow does not necessarily need to have previous experience in oral history and/or interviewing, they should already have connections to potential narrators and the ability to build trusting relationships with new narrators.
The VOW Fellowship provides funding necessary to the Fellow’s project costs, including travel and accommodation, in the range of $25,000–$30,000 ($12,000–$15,000 of which is a stipend for the VOW Fellow), to enable periods of greater dedication to the project. The Fellow is expected to complete the first manuscript of the project (as described in their proposal) within 18 months of the project start date. The first half of this project timeline is designated for interview collection and the second half consists of intensive narrative editing (full-length VOW narratives are typically 4,000–6,000 words each) and follow-up interviews as needed. Longer or shorter project execution timelines may be considered.
The start of the Fellowship period is marked by an incubation phase in the VOW Story Lab, designed to last approximately 3 months. The purpose of this phase is to provide training in VOW oral history methodology and project management, and to develop 3–4 narratives that will serve as the blueprint for the rest of the book. Select narratives developed during this time may be featured on the Voice of Witness website and social media as part of the VOW Story Lab showcase.
HOW TO APPLY:
Please submit the fellowship application and proposal materials (see below) to firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Please include, “Reproductive Justice Fellowship — [YOUR LAST NAME]” in the subject line. Please, no phone calls or follow up emails; we will contact qualified candidates.