“Cameras in Hand”: Filming Empowerment - By Youth, for Peace

From March 20 to 29, the innovative participatory video (PV) methodology was introduced to the staff of the Foundation for Tolerance International (FTI) in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, as the first step in the UN PBF-funded project "Cameras in Hand: transformation and empowerment of Kyrgyzstani girls and boys", in partnership with GPPAC and Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy (MEND). The aim of the project is to teach youths to raise their voice through the interactive use of film; thereby, enabling both their empowerment, increased engagement, and the creation of spaces for dialogue and reconciliation.

FTI has already selected and will train a total of 128 boys and girls, from 16 schools, across 4 regions in Kyrgyzstan. By engaging youths from different social, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, it will provide greater insight perspectives of "the other" and will serve to prevent future conflicts in the region.

By the end of the project, the youth will have produced their own short films on the issues they consider most important. These films will then be shown to local communities and policy makers in Kyrgyzstan, while the best will be presented to international policy-makers in New York.

The training of the FTI staff, which took place from 20 to 29 March , was led by Clive Robertson, a Creative Director of the Real Time Video (UK) and one of the creators of this participatory video methodology, with help from Fadya Salahaldin and Lucy Nusseibeh from MEND, Palestine. Kateryna Gryniuk, the GPPAC project coordinator and the regional coordinator for Central Asia; and Tajyka Shabdanova, the President of FTI, were also active participants of the training.

The training was provided through games, and all learning was accomplished collaboratively. Each person took on different roles, both in-front and behind the camera, and the captured footage was reviewed as a team.

By the end of the second day, the participants had produced their own short drama. They were encouraged to review their films, provide feedback, and collectively expand their skills and knowledge. For example, when placed in small groups, they took turns teaching their peers what they had learned throughout the course.

The participants (mostly young women) were reminded throughout of the importance of focusing on gender, and were shown some films made by Palestinian women via PV as examples of how this method empowers even the most marginalized. 

According to Clive Robertson, the FTI staff showed

"a clear understanding of how the methodology and techniques might be used in the Kyrgyzstan situation and how the participatory video approach can be used to develop confidence and uncover issues of importance to the young people."

After a brief meeting with the GPPAC project coordinator and FTI President, the UN PBF representative in Bishkek, Ulan Shabynov, came to observe the training, which demonstrated the UN PBF's interest in the project.

The trainers and the GPPAC project coordinator went on the field visit to one of the schools (in the rural area) where the project will be taking place. There was a meeting with the administration and the teacher engaged in the project. The empowerment aims of the project were positively received, and the school expressed their keen interest in helping youth to increase their voice in the decision-making process. Overall, the days were a promising start to  the project "Cameras in Hand".