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In Kiribati, youth use video to show climate change is reality

By Chris Schuepp and Karen Cirillo

The OneMinutesJr. is a youth arts initiative that teaches young people how to capture their viewpoints on video. The project, run by UNICEF and its partner, The One Minutes Foundation, has been producing one-minute videos since 2002. Click here for more information about the project.

NEW YORK, USA, and TARAWA, Kiribati, 19 June 2012 – Nineteen-year-old Bwenateuea Iona thinks a lot about climate change and the future of her country, the Republic of Kiribati.

VIDEO: Watch Bwenateuea Iona's film 'Welcome to Kiribati', about how climate change is affecting her beautiful island home.


Kiribati’s total land mass is only about 717 square kilometres, with a population of around 100,000. The island faces further overcrowding because of shrinking coastlines due to climate change. Bwena knows that many people outside the Pacific region are not aware of Kiribati at all, but thanks to a recent OneMinutesJr. workshop held on Tarawa Island, she was able to craft a short film about her country’s beauty and its future.

Filming in a media-free environment

Bwena and 14 other youth, aged 12-20, from the Republic of Kiribati, came together on Tarawa for a five-day video workshop on issues concerning them and their future. The workshop, held in early June, was part of the international UNICEF-supported OneMinutesJr. project. The teenagers participating in the workshop were selected by the Department of Youth, under the Ministry of Internal and Social Affairs of the Republic of Kiribati, and had to write essays about issues concerning youth. At the workshop, those ideas were transformed into 60-second-films on topics ranging from climate change to domestic violence, teenage pregnancy and education. The workshop participants were all very concerned with their future and the future of the country.

Teenagers in Kiribati grow up in an almost media-free environment – there are very few print publications and limited TV and radio station broadcasts, and Internet access, which is available only for a few people and through Internet cafes, is very slow and unreliable.

These circumstances have had two effects: On the one hand, the young people were quite shy when taking to the cameras and doing the practical work. On the other hand, they soaked up the new information and formed their own visions and film ideas. The Pacific tradition of storytelling through drama also played a role in their creativity.

© UNICEF Kiribati/2012/Schuepp
Nineteen-year-old Bwena Iona behind the camera during the OneMinutesJr. workshop in Kiribati.

Sharing concerns for the future

Bwena chose to have her film, ‘Welcome to Kiritbati,’ ask tough questions such as what will become of her beautiful home, her future and the future of the other people of Kiribati. “People have to live so close together, and the overcrowding means people have little privacy, a lot of rubbish and poor sanitary conditions, which affect people’s health, especially young children,” Bwena said. “The line between above water and below water, between life and death, is very thin here. It’s a pity to see these beautiful islands might, or actually will, sink in the not so distant future. I hope we can do something about it.”

Bwena used the first few workshop days to do extensive location scouting while the other groups were filming, then took the camera and did all the shooting by herself or, when she was on camera, with the support of others.

Others had similar stories, such as 14-year-old Kirita Moote, whose film ‘My Sinking House’ looks at the visible impact climate change has on her life. Kirita’s house in Betio is by the coast, and over the last few years, the rising sea level has eroded the shoreline, causing the house’s foundation to crack and nearby trees to fall. The water is moving closer to the house, but as Tarawa only measures 300 meters, her family cannot move further inland. “Maybe a few years from now, my family might have to move somewhere else,” Kirita said. “But where will we move? Kiribati is such a small island that is already shrinking.”

In Kiribati, climate change is a fact of life – and often a scary one for young people wondering what the future will bring. But the process of making films gave these young people a voice and a chance to share their concerns with the world.

The finished films were presented at a local meeting house in Bairiki on the final day of the workshop. They are currently available online.



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