The True Stories Project: Oakland, California and Kathmandu, Nepal

The True Stories Project: Oakland, California and Kathmandu, Nepal

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The True Stories Project: Oakland, California and Kathmandu, Nepal

When 23-year-old Jyoti Singh Pandey was beaten and gang-raped on a bus in India, and dumped on the side of the road to die, the leader of the attack urged the others on with “Not to worry, nothing will happen.”

Ram Singh was wrong in this particular case: the accused were arrested, they were charged, and they were found guilty of rape and—because, in the end, Jyoti Pandey did not survive the attack—murder.

But this is unusual. All too often, the rapists do go free.  And although Jyoti Pandey’s murderers were held accountable for their crimes, her life was notreturned to her. Nor has the publicity around her rape and death changed much for those who live in cultures where violence against women is routine and all too often overlooked.

Not yet.

We need more stories. We need for women, for girls and for boys too, to feel safe to come forward with their stories. Only when the exploitation and abuse of one gender by another—of those who are powerless by those who are powerful—remains hidden can it continue unabated. Exposed to the light, it is exposed for the vicious and ugly thing that it is. It is no longer normalized, no longer simply “the way things are done.”

In The True Stories Project, we give voice both to those at risk for, and those already victims of, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and gender-based violence.  We give voice to the victims and, here’s where it may get a little surprising, to the burgeoning victimizers as well. For it is not only the girls who are affected growing up in such communities of violence normalized, it is the boys also.  Violence begets violence.

In this storytelling project, adolescent girls and boys discover ways to transform their personal narratives of victim and victimizer into the narratives instead of advocates joined for a brighter future. And in so doing they will change their identifies, and their destinies. Only by encouraging young people on both sides of the divide to examine the dynamic woven into their lives, and to move beyond it, can we hope ever to bring about real and lasting change.

While she lay in the hospital fighting for her life, Jyoti Singh Pandey was known to the world only as “Damini” (lightning) for the courage she showed in fighting against her attackers on that last day of her life as she knew it.

When Jyoti called out for help, there was no one to hear her. Let us give voice to the victims, and when they speak, let us hear them.

About the Project

The True Stories Project will implement a set of workshops facilitated by Art Works for Change, Girls’ Inc, our Nepali partners to include Siddhartha Gallery and Foundation, the Patan Museum, and local educational and advocacy groups, to engage the youth in a two-part artistic process: 1) Participants will observe and photographically document their everyday world; and 2) turn real-life experiences into comic-book-style stories and photographic murals that will be shared in museum exhibitions, websites, media, and via community-engaged programming aimed at reaching a broad audience.

Exhibition Venues

Please contact us at: if you are interested in hosting the exhibition

Participating Artists and Organizations

Girls’ Inc, Siddhartha Gallery, Hung Liu, Natalie Nacache, Gabriela Morawetz, Elisabeth Sunday, Squeak Carnwath, Era Farnsworth, Lava Thomas, Tallulah Terryll, Robert L.Kelly, Lisa Kristine, Magnolia Editions, The Aware/Oware Project Senegal and Cape Town, Almagul Menibalayeva, Girls Grassroots Book Club

Give Voice Through a Donation

Your donation will help girls and boys in Oakland and Nepal participate in this cross-cultural project.

Help us match a $25,000 donation to create the workshops and exhibition in Nepal and Oakland:

  • $100 will enable one child to give voice through audio documentation and storytelling
  • $250 will enable one child to give voice through photography
  • $500 will enable one child to give voice through artist mentoring and advocacy workshops
  • $2500 will enable one child to give voice through the traveling exhibition participation
  • $5000 will enable us to recruit a project manager in Nepal
  • $10,000 will enable us to build an online platform to further amplify children’s voices
  • $25,000 will enable us to create the traveling True Stories museum exhibition with youth and their artist mentors

Please contact us at if you would like to donate to this project.