As a facilitator on the ground, you learn that each community has unique dynamics that impact the lives of children and young people. But issues such as poverty, bullying and teenage pregnancy and other health concerns are a common factor.
UNICEF South Africa, together with Sunshine Cinema, the Zwakala campaign and Right to Care are hosting community film screenings for young people across the country. The film viewings are followed by facilitated discussions to explore key issues that affect children and young people in their communities.
Films cover topics based on the most pressing challenges that young people face, from violence at home and teenage pregnancy to fear and misunderstanding about COVID-19 vaccinations.
Through the screening of films, along with information clips and testimonials created by Eh!Woza and the UNICEF South Africa supported Zwakala Campaign, Sunshine Cinema Facilitators lead discussions with young people as they reflect on some of the challenges they face. This includes ongoing work to help dispel some of the misconceptions around COVID-19 vaccinations and to encourage immunisation uptake.
In Chiawelo, Soweto, many teenagers raised the issue of negligence at healthcare facilities as being a major concern. They reported that nurses can be judgemental when they seek healthcare. As a result, some youth end up avoiding consultations due to the mistreatment they may encounter. The tragic impact is that they can and do end up resorting to unsafe alternatives.
So, at one of the screenings, which told stories about the importance of looking after and having agency over your own body, we worked with the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute to provide HIV testing and counselling. Health experts spoke to young women about sexual and reproductive health and shared relevant information, such as about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) that many were not aware of. What is common is that many young people do not have enough accurate information about health issues that affect them.
This became particularly clear during COVID-19, as the misrepresentation or lack of information led to confusion and misunderstanding around COVID-19 vaccinations. Infertility and potential death after taking the vaccine were rumours and concerns regularly raised by youth.
That’s why educational programmes through film screenings and related discussions following the viewings are so important. They help to spark discussions that impact facilitators like myself help to manage, guiding the conversation and providing factual inputs from partners when needed. These events are important in sharing knowledge and at the same time bringing communities together.
The mistreatment of people living with disabilities and substance abuse problems has also been raised. The impact on children and young people is terrible and it is an issue that needs to be tackled urgently.
The Sunshine Cinema partnership with UNICEF South Africa, Right to Care, the Zwakala campaign, Love Life and other community-based organizations continues to not only help communities diagnose these grave issues that impact their lives, but also strengthens communities to develop their own solutions.
There is growing demand on filmmakers to provide content that can tackle all of the current crises and challenges that young people face, many of which were made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Trained facilitators are key to support these discussions and I’m proud to be able to play a role in supporting young people directly in coming up with solutions in their communities.
Sunshine Cinema has also partnered with the University of Cape Town to develop and share an online “Film Impact Screening Facilitator Course” and UNICEF South Africa has sponsored 10 bursaries for selected students. Through this course, we can broaden the base of facilitators who have the skills to hold difficult conversations and support the development of solutions with more vulnerable youth across the country.
This work has been enabled and supported by the Government of Germany through UNICEF South Africa in its response to the broad ranging impact of COVID-19 on young lives.
Lerato is a graduate of the Spark Impact Apprenticeship Programme.
The Zwakala campaign advocates for and promotes vaccination as the best way to save lives, including COVID-19 and routine childhood immunisations.
Right to Care is a leading healthcare organization that began in response to the public healthcare emergency of HIV and AIDS in South Africa, and the pressing need to make medicine and care available to public sector HIV/AIDS patients.