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At a glance: Japan

Ethiopian short film wins UNICEF Prize at international contest in Japan

Documenting the challenges faced by Yemeserach, 14

By Naoko Iwasaki

TOKYO, Japan, 3 November 2010 – An Ethiopian TV series that featured a short film about a young woman who challenges harmful practices has won the UNICEF Prize at an international film contest in Japan. The Whiz Kids Workshop film, entitled ‘Involve Me – Yemeserach,’ highlights children’s work in addressing issues such as exploitation and early marriage.

VIDEO: Watch 'Involve Me - Yemeserach,' a short film about a 14-year-old Ethiopian girl and her courage in the face of significant challenges.


The film’s subject, Yemeserach, 14, fled her village to escape a marriage arranged by her father. “In my village, by age 12 girls will be engaged and by 14 they will be married. Young girls who marry like that, they have children but themselves are children, so you see them looking very despondent,” she said.

Today, Yemeserach lives in a shelter for abused children in Addis Ababa. She hopes to finish her education and help others. “When I get money I want to build a big house and support people in difficult situations, especially children with fistula,” she says, referring to the physically and psychologically devastating condition that can result from girls giving birth at a young age.

Supporting marginalized children

The Japan Prize International Contest for Educational Media, where UNICEF recognized ‘Involve Me – Yemeserach,’ has been organized annually since 1965. It honours organizations producing outstanding work that helps viewers to understand the lives or circumstances of children in difficult situations.

© NHK 2010
UNICEF Tokyo Director Dr. Kunihiko Hirabayashi awards the UNICEF Prize to the co-founder of Whiz Kids Workshop, Bruktawit Tigabu, at the Japan Prize International Contest for Educational Media in Tokyo.

UNICEF Tokyo Director Dr. Kunihiko Chris Hirabayashi presented the UNICEF Prize at the contest in the presence of His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince Naruhito and other distinguished guests.

“Marginalized children have a great potential to make positive changes in their society. We should support them and encourage their participation to build together a world fit for children with equity,” said Dr. Hirabayashi.

Youth self-expression

As it happens, the subject of the award-winning film – Yemeserach herself – received video production training in Ethiopia as part of the global One Minutes Junior project, which was initiated by the European Cultural Foundation, the One Minutes Foundation and UNICEF to encourage youth self-expression and participation.

Whiz Kids Workshop took an active role at the training, with financial support from Save the Children Denmark. The workshop is a non-governmental organization based in Ethiopia that believes mass media can be the most cost-effective and immediate way to make an impact on large educational gaps in the developing world.

This year, 14 juries from 11 countries and territories judged 409 entries in the Japan Prize contest, the highest number ever. The Grand Prix was awarded to Japan Broadcasting Corporation for its programme, ‘Cosmic Code Breakers: The Secrets of Prime Numbers.’




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