Empowering girls to advocate for their rights

Empowering girls to have their voices heard and to foster understanding about the challenges they face

By Lalaina Fatratra Andriamasinoro & Federico Varrasso
Empowering girls to advocate for their rights
UNICEF/2019/Federico Varrasso
27 November 2019

UNICEF and its partners brought together 14 adolescent girls in a participatory video workshop to exchange experiences, direct and produce a series of video on the way they see their world, tell their own stories and shed light on challenges they face.

Led by Federico Varrasso, Filmmaker and Anthropologist from Visual Exchange, the participatory video workshop focuses on empowering youth from different backgrounds to have their voices heard, to drive them to act as agents of change within their communities, to foster understanding about the challenges they face and to bring new insights to gender roles, norms and issues. 

“How to protect ourselves from abuse? Do not get married at an early age!”

Hassana, 17
UNICEF Niger/2019/Federico Varrasso

Building child rights leaders 

Designed by Visual Exchange, the workshop is a set of creative and participatory techniques designed to involve them in exploring their own history through the making of their own film. It uses video to enable individuals, groups and communities to explore issues that concern themselves while experimenting with other individual and social postures and thus stimulate a dynamic of change that emanates from within.

“Providing young people with the opportunities to learn new skills and gain access to safe spaces encourages them to become agents of change in their own communities” 

Salmey Bebert, UNICEF Child protection Specialist
UNICEF Niger/2019/Federico Varrasso

It can be very powerful because it creates an opportunity for participants, and for the entire community, to express themselves internally on needs and expectations that probably would not have been expressed, while allowing them to experience other postures within the group. 

Through the co-creation of a common purpose and capacity building using the video tool, they develop their self-confidence and their ability to express and share their views.

The process takes place in successive participatory workshops, structured around different interlocking phases in a loop that combine fun, cooperation and feedback to the community through community filming, projections, reflections, actions and debates that lead to a virtuous dynamic that promotes self-help in problem solving and change.

UNICEF Niger/2019/Federico Varrasso

Shedding light on child marriage 

The participants identified themselves the factors that negatively affect their well-being, including harmful traditional practices and norms, and structured their video around the issue of child marriage. Because for thousands of children in the country, childhood is cut short by marriage.

UNICEF Niger/2019

UNICEF estimates that around 3 in 4 young girls were married before the age of 18, and 1 in 4 before the age of 15. In Niger, UNICEF works across sectors to support strategies that address child marriage, supports the development of laws and policies and works to strengthen systems which offer a protective environment for children. UNICEF works with grassroots community organizations and religious and traditional leaders to address the social norms that allow child marriage to perpetuate in the country

“I want to do stories that will bring children’s issues, especially girls, to the attention of decision makers at all level” 

Bassira, 20
UNICEF Niger/2019/Federico Varrasso

The Participatory Video exercise was conducted with the financial support the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage. The Global Programme promotes the rights of adolescent girls to avert marriage and pregnancy and enables them to achieve their aspirations through education and alternative pathways. It supports households in demonstrating positive attitudes, empowers girls to direct their own futures, and strengthens the services that allow them to do so. It also addresses the underlying conditions that sustain child marriage, advocating for laws and policies that protect girls' rights while highlighting the importance of using robust data to inform such policies.

The Global Programme is generously supported by the Governments of Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom and the European Union, as well as Zonta International.