March 6, 2024

In conversation with: Audrey Pascale Nisabwe, filmmaker and Founder of MARK IT

On International Women’s Day, filmmaker and director, Audrey, discusses the making of SPARK’s Follow the Fish film, being a woman entrepreneur in Burundi and what it means to be a finalist of the Smiley Charity Film Awards.

Localisation is the process of shifting power, resources and funding – often held by international or Western organisations – into the hands of national stakeholders who have a deeper understanding of the local culture and society, and are often better positioned to support their community’s humanitarian and development needs.

Throughout SPARK’s programmes, we work with local and national partner organisations to co-design and implement job creation programmes for youth, women and refugees. SPARK’s Communications Department takes a similar approach to developing much of its content, including photography, videography, graphic design and more.

In light of International Women’s Day, we interviewed Audrey Pascale Nisabwe, the Founder and CEO of MARK IT, a creative communications agency based in Burundi. For several years, MARK IT has supported SPARK Burundi’s communications and, in conversation with Audrey, we explore why locally-led communication is essential and what entrepreneurship means to her.

Tell us what inspired you to start your company, MARK IT.

I had previously worked within several different communications agencies in Burundi. We had worked with some of the many non-governmental organisations working throughout my country and I saw an opportunity to support the communications of international humanitarian and development organisations with better filmmaking, promotion materials and communication services.

I founded MARK IT in 2021 and we are now a full service printing and communications company, offering high quality, advertising, graphic design and content-creation services that are tailored to the needs of each client.

Aware of the challenges and economic potential of women, one of my main missions with the agency is to promote the economic development of women and young professionals by providing opportunities for them to learn and grow within this industry. MARK IT currently employs seven full time staff members, all under the age of 40, with many more freelancers on our roster.

Why is it important for NGOs to work with local creatives?

It’s so important to promote local creatives and companies. NGOs attract investment, communications departments can generate employment opportunities for the local population by working with creatives in the countries they are operating in. They enable individuals to earn a stable income and break free from the cycle of poverty. Plus, because we are from the communities, we know how to tell the stories of the people they support in the best way.   

What does entrepreneurship mean to you?

Being an entrepreneur for me does not only start in our minds but in our character, especially in our mindset. You find out what you are passionate about and transform it into your career. Through entrepreneurship you can find yourself a purpose, stay disciplined and work very hard, it will definitely end up paying off.

Have you faced any challenges as a woman business-owner?

Like all business-owners, the most common challenges I face are mostly related to the mental and financial barriers. However, being a woman entrepreneur in Burundi, I sometimes face the stigma from others for not conforming to traditional gender roles. Many men and women in our society are not accustomed to seeing a woman owning a business. Many people see women’s role as being within the home.

My way to overcome this barrier is to focus on the work and let the results speak for themselves. I am not phased by what others think as I know the positive impact my business is having – both for our clients and for the young men and women working with me.

MARK IT created SPARK’s Follow the Fish film, talk us through your process.

Our experience working with SPARK has been great. The Follow the Fish film dives into the fishing industry in Burundi, SPARK’s Akazi Keza programme and the socio-economic opportunities here in our country.

The value that MARK IT adds is that we are all from the community, we know the languages, we know the context and this gives us access to people and places that international agencies or filmmakers wouldn’t be able to get.

While filming, you have to be willing to become a participant in the lives of the people you’re trying to capture. It’s about their lived experience. The most memorable moment of filming SPARK’s Follow the Fish film was when the young videographers had to spend the night in a small boat in the middle of Lake Tanganyika to be able to capture the full fishing process. For me, it was a bit scary but such an amazing experience in general.

Collaboration between us, SPARK, the National Fish Federation, the local administration and very cooperative subjects of our film, we achieved a very positive result with a small budget.

The film is currently a finalist in the Smiley Charity Film Awards. What does that mean for you?

It feels good when you have given yourself to a project with determination and clear objectives, that this work is recognised, appreciated or even awarded with a prize.

SPARK has entered the Follow the Fish film into the Smiley Charity Film Awards within the International Impact category and I can’t think of a better cause to win. SPARK’s work is impacting the lives of so many in Burundi. Plus, for me and my whole team, it would be a dream come true to be recognised among so many other great films!

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