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Youth Empowerment in Kyrgyzstan

Our participatory video project 'Cameras in Hand' in Kyrgyzstan empowers Kyrgyzstani youth to become agents of change, and bridge social, gender, and ethnic divides.

The GPPAC Foundation based in the Hague, together with Foundation for Tolerance International (FTI), Central Asian Regional Secretariat of GPPAC network based in Kyrgyzstan, were awarded a grant from the UN Peacebuilding Fund for youth empowerment.

From this grant, the ‘Cameras in Hand’ project was created; it began on 1st January, 2018, and will last for a period of 18 months. GPPAC member, Middle East Non-Violence and Democracy, collaborates with FTI and GPPAC to provide training on the innovative methodology of participatory video (PV), which it successfully used in Palestine (see below). The FTI staff is trained in the PV methodology by one of its creators, Clive Robertson from the Real Time Video (UK) and GPPAC member Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy (MEND) from Palestine.

The project began in February 2018 and focuses on empowering Kyrgyzstani youth from different ethnic, gender, and social backgrounds in the regions of Osh, Jalal-Abad, Chui, and Batken to have their voices heard at local, national, and international policy levels. It drives them to act as agents of change within their communities, to foster understanding about the ‘other’, and to bring new insights to gender roles, norms, and issues.

To achieve these objectives and results, the PV methodology is the foundation of the project. It involves small groups of diverse preselected students that steer a process of video production and screening sessions to capture the reaction of their communities/other communities and youth from other regions.

This process is very empowering as it requires youth to make decisions through democratic discussions within a strong group dynamic, where participants have to build trust and take turns in a variety of different roles (actor, cinematographer, editor etc.). This structure requires them to listen and become more aware of others, while also building their own self-awareness.

This methodology can be a highly effective tool to bridge social, gender, and ethnic divides, as well as to engage and mobilise marginalised people. It also provides a space to reflect on gender stereotypes and issues affecting women in Kyrgyzstan (early marriage, bride abduction etc.).

The participatory part of the methodology requires students to show their films to elicit and incorporate feedback by engaging with key stakeholders, thereby creating a space for dialogue for them. Key stakeholders are:

  1. Their peers;

  2. Their community;

  3. Local leaders and decision-makers.

This contributes to fostering mutual understanding by communicating across divides, thus bringing competing narratives together into a shared story. Ultimately, PV helps communities understand their social reality and gain new insights, particularly on the ‘other' and on gender.

Local communities and politicians will vote on the films they can relate to the most. FTI and GPPAC will disseminate the selected films during policy events at the local (schools and communities); national (policy-makers in Bishkek linked to youth policy); and international levels (UNSCR 1325 and/or UNSCR 2250 and sharing lessons learnt with PBF and other UN actors). The objective of these engagements is for youth to feel included and heard in policy-making processes that affect them.

In 2017, interest in the Gender Youth Promotion Initiative (GYPI) fund was especially high and only the strongest 17 UN and CSO projects out of 245 applications were selected, allocating a total of $27.5 million to innovative gender-responsive and youth-inclusive peacebuilding projects in 13 countries. Of this, $16 million went to gender projects and $11 million to youth projects. Read more about this year's GYPI here.

An example of Participatory Video by our member in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy (MEND):

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