Madagascar, 2 September: On International Youth Day, film screening gives young people a forum
By Christina Corbett
ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar, 2 September 2010 – A film set in Madagascar’s arid south is helping young people develop life skills by sparking a debate on what it means to succeed in life.
The film, ‘Dzaomalaza and the Blue Sapphire,’ was officially launched in Antananarivo on 29 July and was later shown to an audience of more than 500 young people on International Youth Day. A debate followed the screening, which took place before the film began a tour of the island nation.
Set in southern Madagascar, ‘Dzaomalaza and the Blue Sapphire’ highlights the chronic difficulties faced by children and adolescents in the region – including food insecurity, a lack of access to basic health care and adequate sanitation, poor education and early pregnancy.
Foundations for development
In Madagascar today, out of a total population of 19 million – almost 70 per cent of whom live in poverty – there are 5.7 million children and young people between 10 and 24 years of age, and their number is expected to double by 2025. Despite efforts to meet their needs, Malagasy children and youth continue to face huge challenges.
“The laws and legal frameworks protecting the rights of adolescents are often weak or insufficient,” said UNICEF Representative in Madagascar Bruno Maes. “Young people have limited access to social services and are unable to participate in making decisions that affect them. In some areas, customs that are unfavourable to adolescent development, such as early marriages that lead to early pregnancies, are still practiced.”
Mr. Maes continued: “The film ‘Dzaomalaza’ encourages young people to reflect on what skills they need in today’s society, encouraging them to discuss the issues that they face and so helping them develop the strength to advocate for change in their favour. A country that invests in its young people is laying the foundations for future development.”
Peer educators teach life skills
‘Dzaomalaza and the Blue Sapphire’ is part of a series of productions designed to help adolescents and young people develop life skills to help them deal effectively with the demands of everyday life. Within this context, the film “calls on young people to consider the type of society they want to live in and how they can help create this society,” said Mr. Maes.
UNICEF is supporting initiatives across Madagascar to help develop platforms through which young people can express themselves. Across the country, a network of thousands of peer educators has been put in place to help teach life skills. To facilitate this process, life-skills kits adapted to the Malagasy context have been revised and distributed in schools and youth clubs.
UNICEF is also supporting a free telephone help line for young people to talk in confidence on sexual health issues. In 2009, more than 25,000 young people used the service.
Reaching young people
‘Dzaomalaza and the Blue Sapphire’ – produced by UNICEF with its partner, Digital Development Communications – will now be shown across Madagascar in schools, youth clubs and other venues targeting young people, with screenings followed by audience debates.
“This film is a great way of reaching young people, because it truly shows the society in which we live as young Malagasies,” said peer educator Ravo Randriantsoavina. “Often, young people cannot talk to their parents. It is difficult for us to change our culture and to find ways to advocate. But if enough people are convinced, we can take action.”
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