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Communication for Change (C4C)


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Contact details

Sara Stuart
423 Atlantic Avenue, #3L
Brooklyn, NY 11217
Email: sbs@c4c.org

Development organization

Center for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA)
Email: pmccloud@cedpa.org.eg

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 USAID.

'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.

Target audience

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.

Wider beneficiaries

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 behaviour.

• 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 solutions.


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.

Lessons learned

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 to 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 about it."

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."

Good ideas

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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