Tajik teenagers produce short films about their lives during COVID-19
Young people miss the old days and eagerly want them back.
Keeping occupied during the current global pandemic can be a challenge. In Tajikistan, students have been out of school for nearly two months and the vast majority of them are staying home, waiting eagerly for their classes to resume.
In response, UNICEF Tajikistan Country Office has invited youth to participate in a series of online workshops aimed at building adolescents’ competencies while making the best use of their energy and ability to generate positive community change. This project is part of the CO’s ‘Adolescent Development and Participation’ programme, which gives young girls and boys a platform to get engaged and have an impact on the development of their community.
The COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity to remotely teach media literacy in the region. With the ever increasing amount of misinformation online, building critical thinking skills of the young generation is essential.
The first workshop taught adolescents the significance of ‘messaging’ through development of short films, where they could express their feelings, thoughts, and discuss issues they faced in a creative way. To inspire young girls and boys, UNICEF Tajikistan invited them to submit a short film on the topic "COVID-19 and its effect on my life”. These short films were expected to capture diverse opinions, offering insights into the minds, feelings, experiences of adolescents who lived during the pandemic, and at the same time develop their filmmaking skills.
“At that time, I was mostly very afraid, - Takhmina, 15, an adolescent girl from Bobojon Gafurov explains, - Afraid of getting sick, of losing my loved ones, of the possibility to no longer see my best friends, my school, my teachers. When I was invited to this webinar and was told about this project, my happiness was endless. While I was planning the shoot and thinking what message to convey, I became so involved in the process that I didn’t even notice that three weeks had passed!”
This initiative provided an opportunity for adolescents to learn about film development and build healthy and positive relationships with their peers, friends and family members, which is an important aspect of maintaining good mental health.
“The most interesting thing was working together to pick an idea,”- says Parvona, 18, a participant from the Devashtich District.
“We collaborated with young people from five different cities and districts. It was challenging because all of us wanted to come up with the best idea and the best video. I can confidently say that the process has had a small but definite positive impact not only on our lives, but also on the lives of many teenagers and young people. On behalf of all the teenagers from Devashtich, we are grateful to UNICEF for this experience.”
The submissions were diverse and creative, with many filmmakers involving their parents, siblings, and other family members as cast and crew in their videos. In his video, Dilkhush shows positive models of siblings supporting each other as well as parents' involvement in their children’s distance learning and skills development.
Another video created by Mehrona, a participant from the Devashtich District, depicts a young boy who hasn’t seen his mother - a doctor - for many days.
“I haven’t seen my mom for days and I miss her badly. Please take this mask and try to stay home, so that these horrible days end sooner and my mom comes home again.”
The clip conveys the message that all people, especially adolescents, have the power to positively influence each other and play a part in keeping the community and healthcare workers safe.
Saodat’s video depicted a girl talking about the virus from a future perspective, highlighting how the community cooperation and support of healthcare workers was pivotal in society’s survival:
“We realised that we can beat the virus when we are together. We started to support each other and take care of each other and our medical workers. Humanity and doctors beat the virus, and the world became like before.”
In total, 22 videos were produced and each of them was unique in their own way, but they all had the same message - the urge to fight the pandemic, stay safe and protect the loves ones.
The prize for the most original video was awarded to Shabman and her short film “Stay at Home and Don’t Get Bored!” featuring two young boys giving advice to other children on how to stay busy doing sport, helping out in the kitchen, drawing, playing chess, and reading.
‘The best film technique’ was displayed by Amir in his film “Caution is the Best Medicine” in which he demonstrates how to make hand sanitiser from everyday household items. The most ‘liked’ video was produced by Sahobakhon in which she showed how adolescents can keep busy during the pandemic in ‘Tajik style’.
“I’m very glad that we were given this opportunity to demonstrate our abilities during these difficult times. I believe that the contest benefited youth and our region,” - Kholis, participant from Isfara.
Adolescents make up about 65% of Tajikistan’s population. To support young people's engagement in their communities, UNICEF Tajikistan is investing in adolescents through ADAP, enabling them to build a brighter future for themselves, their families, and their communities.
This short film contest was the first of a series of creative online initiatives launched by UNICEF as part of the programme to encourage active civic participation among rurally-based Tajik youth during the COVID-19 crisis.