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Communication for Change (C4C)
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of the project's work
423 Atlantic Avenue, #3L
Brooklyn, NY 11217
Center for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA)
Title of project
Video and the Community Dreams
Egypt: the project was based in three villages in Minya state and
Zenhom, a low- income, urban community in Cairo. Within 18 months,
the first trainees had trained teams in four more communities as
well as young girls in their own communities. CEOSS's head office
is in Cairo.
The project was conceived as a way to enhance and strengthen the
capacity of young women and girls to advocate for their concerns
in their own communities and in wider circles. It was a chance for
the knowledge and experience of the 'New Horizons' project to reach
further into the communities and to other communities.
'New Horizons' is a curriculum developed through participatory
methods by a coalition of Egyptian organizations with the Center
for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA) and funded by
'New Horizons' classes benefit adolescent girls - both those attending
school and those not attending school. In 1997 it was implemented
in over 300 communities.
The curriculum covers a wide range of issues from personal hygiene
to human rights, from how to open a bank account to the basics of
reproductive biology and sexually transmitted diseases, from breastfeeding
to the harmful traditional practices of female genital mutilation
and the virginity proof. It involves active learning, singing, role
play, creating projects and demonstrations on health and other topics.
C4C conducted a needs assessment for the video project with several
Egyptian NGOs and presented the experience of C4C partners who were
working with women and youth in South Asia and Nigeria. There was
consensus in many of the CEOSS communities that 'New Horizons' could
better achieve its objectives if the voices of young women and girls
were strengthened. Young women and girls were not present in the
local leadership and they were rarely consulted. Video could be
a new tool for community communication and could draw attention
to women and girls if they learned to operate this equipment. The
planning team felt that the status of women and girls would be elevated
by access to and experience with these tools.
Advisors expressed their concern about the possibility of a negative
reaction from certain conservative factions in the communities.
The project began by focusing communication activities on programmes
that would benefit the community as a whole (such as sanitation
and public health issues) in order to demonstrate the value of the
project to the community and win support for the women's video project.
There was also concern about videos being shown outside Egypt. It
became apparent that this was rooted in a fear of losing face. The
planning team emphasized that the video programmes were by
the community and for the community and that video programmes
would not leave the community without permission.
Aims and objectives
1. To equip, train and support community-based video teams staffed
by 'New Horizons' teachers, graduates and participants.
2. To produce programmes on community issues and conduct playbacks
to promote dialogue and discussion.
Adolescent girls and young women who were 'New Horizons' teachers,
graduates or participants.
Grassroots audiences in the villages and urban areas where CEOSS
works. Secondary audiences are officials and leaders in local government,
NGO staff and possibly general audiences.
The project benefited girls and young women outside the communities
that have video teams because they were visited by the teams and
screened their tapes. Also, local level advocacy linked with specific
issues addressed in the project benefited whole communities and
sometimes clusters of communities.
In one community the project helped gain readmission to
primary school for girls who had dropped out.
Several teams produced programmes that advocated against
the practices of female genital mutilation and the virginity proof.
These programmes stimulated wider discussion and supported changes
In Cairo, the team produced, 'Where is My Childhood?', a
tape that emphasizes the rights of children to education and the
detrimental effects of putting children to work at an early age.
A programme contrasting the resources available to children
who live in urban areas with the lack of facilities available to
village children helped mobilize villagers to press local government
to support libraries and technology centres for village children.
Involvement of children
Children were variously the subjects, participants and audiences
for many of the video programmes. Adolescent girls did on-camera
interviews, facilitated post- screening discussions and grew as
leaders during the process. By involving girls, young women and
mothers, children's concerns figure prominently in the teams' work.
Summary of project
In February 1998, groups of three or four women from four Egyptian
communities learned to use a home video camcorder to make simple
tapes (edited in-camera) about issues in their communities. In addition
to the initial 11-day training provided by Communication for Change,
there were three or four follow-up visits to the four communities
and one four-day training and self-evaluation session.
The Cairo-based team was equipped with a VHS camcorder, microphone,
headphones, television, VCR and accessories. The Minya teams shared
two sets of equipment among three village-based teams. As the project
expanded additional equipment was acquired.
At first, the groups were afraid to be seen carrying the camera
in the streets and filming in their communities. Although the community
leaders agreed to the video project and the trainees were eager
to learn, the support of their parents, husbands, fiancés
and in-laws had to be reconfirmed on many occasions. As trainees
began to gain confidence in operating the camcorder and interviewing,
they progressed from recording inside CEOSS' office and people's
homes to shooting in the streets. With each step they overcame fear,
and the capacity of the team grew.
Within 10 days they began showing their first tapes to members
of their communities. These tapes were about the importance of literacy,
good nutrition and a local woman who is doing exemplary service
as a teacher of disabled children. These screenings allowed the
team members to facilitate and lead discussions about the issues
presented in the tapes. Various audiences included friends and family
members, girls in the 'New Horizons' classes, the project committee
and groups that were more intimidating to the team members such
as men and community leaders. They were able to lead lively discussions
with audiences of fathers, community leaders and people from many
walks of life. For many participants this was a great accomplishment.
Members of the community, including girls, came to the teams with
suggestions for tapes that would be helpful to the community. The
women approached their video work with pride and seriousness. They
have become professionals in their attitude.
After the first training, the teams chose to produce a tape about
sanitation, public health and waste disposal issues which affect
their communities. These tapes were widely screened and demonstrated
the value of the community video team's work to many people. One
CEOSS fieldworker reported, "The community trusts the video team
because they are from the community."
The Zenhom team in Cairo feels that its greatest achievement has
been making a programme on female genital mutilation. It is significant
that the team took up this issue only after honing their production
abilities and gaining general community approval for their work.
Careful planning preceded shooting. There was consensus among team
members that the perspective of a religious leader was absolutely
necessary, as well as that of a doctor, so that religious views
would complement the scientific arguments against the practice.
Certain obstacles proved unavoidable: one 12-year-old girl in the
community, who had expressed her strong wish to appear in the video
and speak of her experience of being excised, was not permitted
by her mother to do so. Team members persisted. The final programme
includes interviews with one young girl who recalls undergoing the
procedure, and another who successfully convinced her mother not
to subject her to it. The tape concludes with words from team member
Neama, a Muslim woman and respected community volunteer who has
rejected the practice for her daughters.
The Zenhom team members were anxious about the first showing of
the tape, which was held among community women. Although there were
those among the audience who expressed continued support for the
practice, the majority recognized its detrimental effects; a few
women indeed announced their intention to discontinue the practice.
The tape has since been shown to diverse groups, including young
girls, men and local leaders. Among the comments made by audience
members is that upbringing and education govern girls' behaviour,
not female genital mutilation. Girls who had never before discussed
their experience of excision have spoken out following screenings.
Both video team members and community members have expressed the
feeling that the programme has helped to break the silence that
once surrounded this topic.
In the 18 months following the first training, levels of participation
in the video project have remained high. Team members have grown
increasingly confident in using their technical skills, addressing
challenging or sensitive topics, and presenting their work for discussion.
The team members have a new visibility in their communities as spokespeople
and leaders. They have helped to break down stereotyped concepts
of what women can and cannot do. Community members, the local council
and officials are expressing support for the team's work, often
suggesting ideas for video programmes. The video teams' tapes are
being used to spark discussion and promote the search for local
CEDPA was the funding partner for the video project and the funder
and creator of the 'New Horizons' non-formal education project that
the video project was supporting. The local Egyptian NGO (non-governmental
organization) partner was the Coptic Evangelical Organization for
Social Services (CEOSS).
Communication for Change.
Center for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA).
Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS).
The eight Egyptian Community Development Associations.
Center for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA) funded
this project as a part of a larger USAID project.
The cost of the needs assessment, multiple training workshops,
follow-up visits, technical support, extensive training materials
and a large public presentation was US$187,000.
CEOSS received separate funding for staff time, video equipment
and various local expenses.
The local communities contributed the training space and other
support for local activities.
CEDPA provided considerable technical advice, logistical support
and funding for the evaluation.
Strengths of project
This experience demonstrates the power of media that is not 'mediated'
by outside forces, but rather conceived and produced by individuals
determined to depict their own reality and effect change. Self-representation
is profoundly linked with self-determination. As individuals and
communities become self- determining, they gain a greater capacity
to obtain social and economic justice. They develop the strength
to demand that their governments and other authorities be responsive
and responsible in their policies and decision-making. The experience
of Communication for Change's collaborating organizations suggests
that participatory communication approaches can be powerful assets
in achieving peaceful social change and participatory democracy.
There were many challenges that the partners faced in this project.
The 'Evaluation' and 'Lessons learned' sections mention several.
In addition, the first training began shortly after a series of
violent attacks, culminating in the Luxor shootings in late 1997.
Security was a particular concern. In Minya the trainers were required
to stay in a hotel, distant from the training venues, and not allowed
to leave without a security escort. They were followed by tanks
to the villages for several days and it was not possible to work
into the evening. This kind of attention and limitation on movement
hampered the trainers' activities.
A formal study was undertaken to establish a baseline prior to
the start of the project. It consumed considerable time of the CEOSS
staff involved, which might have been better allocated to the project
start-up phase. In the end, the formal evaluation was not completed
due to problems with the evaluation consultants' capacity to undertake
the research and an over-ambitious scope of work.
Sharing equipment between communities is to be avoided. It always
leads to problems and friction. Communication for Change has found
that local ownership, responsibility and accountability for video
tools cannot be established when the equipment is moving from community
The project is sustainable in terms of on-going community-based
production. However, equipment failure has caused interruptions.
CEDPA's support to CEOSS has ended. Although some team members reported
diminished support from CEOSS, it is likely that CEOSS would continue
to support the video teams as they enjoy strong community support.
This may eventually lead to communities purchasing their own equipment.
The women's leadership building benefits are sustained and continue
with or without frequent access to the video tools. With young women
playing more leadership roles, it is hoped that this will set an
example and pave the way for more young women and girls to lead.
While participating in a local conference on health, Neama, a mother,
respected community volunteer and member of a video team, readily
addressed the issue of female genital mutilation. She was approached
subsequently to be interviewed for Spanish television on the subject
and agreed to speak. When asked what it was like to be interviewed
by the foreign TV crew, Neama said, "Prior to the video project
I had been quite shy and would have found it difficult; now, though,
I have a lot of confidence, and since I feel that FGM is a wrong
practice that must be ended, I don't hesitate to talk to anyone
A high point for the participants in one community came when Hillary
Clinton visited the youth centre in Zenhom. The fact that they had
been sitting at the same table as Hillary Clinton while she watched
one of their video programmes was a marvel to them. They felt that
she had found their work to be 'important'. Her interest, "gave
them the motivation to keep working strongly into the future."
Supporting young women and girls to take on communication and documentation
roles in their communities helps to build them up both as communicators
and leaders. They gain access to leaders and influence in community-wide
discussion. This initiative can help to improve the status of women
and girls at the village/community level.
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