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One minute, please
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 11 - 03 - 2010

Egyptian youth celebrated International Children's Day of Broadcasting by making their voices heard in one-minute videos. Nashwa Abdel-Tawab reports on participation in front of and behind the camera
"I want my voice to be heard," said 13-year-old Walaa. "Participation in society is one of our rights and to express ourselves in our own way is still our right. But we needed someone to give us the chance and the tools to do so and this is what we found in the opportunity given to us by UNICEF. And during this media workshop, where we were supposed to come up with one minute videos, we came to know ourselves and our abilities. I hope all kids have the same chance."
On the occasion of the International Children's Day of Broadcasting (ICDB) and within the Cairo International Children Film Festival, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) held a seminar, "Youth Express Themselves", at the small theatre of Cairo Opera House last week.
The seminar commenced by screening five one-minute videos produced by juniors and adolescents during the Youth Media Workshop organised by UNICEF and the Youth Association for Population and Development (YAPD), last month during school break. The workshop was attended by 30 trainees from Cairo, Qena, Port Said, Damietta and Assiut. Participants were trained on the basics of script writing, one-minute filmmaking and photography.
All films sent a positive message. They varied from the good and bad done by people in daily life to the use of limbs in "Hands Language"; a persevering poor child studying in the streets while selling handkerchiefs in "Yes I Can"; a comparison of lives and dreams of street children and those better off in "Children/Children"; a child discarding all the depressing casualties of society highlighting only the good achievements in "Tomorrow is Always Better"; and a variety of current Cairo youth fashion and attitudes in "Cairology".
"Theoneminutesjr" is a video that celebrates the diversity among youth around the world. Workshop participants produced videos of 60 seconds that are positive and powerful examples of the way visual arts work as a communication tool across cultural, geographic and national borders.
It gives 12- to 20-year-old youngsters, especially those underprivileged or marginalised, the opportunity to share their ideas, dreams, fascinations, anxieties, and viewpoints with the world. The process equips young filmmakers with the fundamental skill of self-expression that is needed to participate fully in society. More than 1,000 youngsters from 70 countries took part in the programme.
"Theoneminutesjr" was initiated in 2002 by the European Cultural Foundation, The One Minute Foundation and UNICEF in order to develop new tools for youth empowerment and social change. The success of the programme has been from the start based on tailor-made collaborations with European public broadcasters and national youth and media organisations. UNICEF has been working hard to expand the project globally.
In 2007, UNICEF sponsored workshops in over 15 countries, including Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Jordan, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, the UAE and the Ukraine.
"I liked the experience a lot," said 17-year-old Amr from Upper Egypt. "It was the happiest week in my life where I had a good time, gained friends from all over the country, learned professional methods that I never dreamt of in my surroundings. I felt I was important and naturally I started to gain self-confidence."
A photography exhibition was also organised during the event. The photos displayed were taken by adolescents and children during the workshop.
"During the mid-year break, we held a media workshop for a week," explained 19-year-old Zahraa from Qena in Upper Egypt who is a team leader and responsible for the youngsters. "The workshop lasted from 10am to 4pm every day during which young directors and photographers taught us how to make one- minute films, how to edit, and how to take photographs in a friendly way without imposing their ideas. They taught us the basics and left us to do joint work in groups."
The ICDB is celebrated every year on the first Sunday of March when broadcasters around the world are supposed to tune in to children under one theme chosen by UNICEF. They air quality programming for and about children. But most of all, they allow children to be part of the programming process, to talk about their hopes and dreams and share information with their peers. Every year, thousands of broadcasters in more than 100 countries take part in celebrating the day in ways that are as unique and special as the children themselves.
ICDB awards will be presented to television and radio broadcasters for the best programme on this year's ICDB theme "All Right All Children". Deadline for entries is 15 June 2010. An animation by Egyptian kids, "The Rebellion of The Cranes" won the award in 2007.
"If we want to change our society for the better for our children, we have to make them share and participate in the process," said media and advocacy UNICEF chief Hala Abu Khatwa. "And the best thing for them is the media. So UNICEF urges broadcasters to put kids on their agenda. It encourages broadcasters to open airwaves to youths not just on the first Sunday in March but throughout the year, as ICDB becomes an overarching initiative involving more young people in the media process. They can make programmes for them or about them or by them. They can also invite young people and children into the studios and on the air to share their opinions about issues of their concern.
"Today, media is one of the most widely recognised ways to reach young people," Abu Khatwa said. "Television and radio play a vital role in raising awareness of global issues and shaping children's lives. UNICEF urges broadcasters to advance overall child development in their countries by producing documentaries that detail the plight of children, and dramas that help break down gender stereotypes and reduce discrimination and animation that both teaches and entertains. Television and radio can become meaningful, positive media experiences for children and young people."
ICDB was created to highlight the issue of children's rights. For over 15 years it has celebrated the role of children in shaping the world around them, and has shown how young people can take a leading role in radio and television broadcasting all over the globe. The day has won the support of over 2,500 TV and radio stations in 170 countries, from satellite networks covering continents to tiny community radio stations in war-torn countries.
"Now 40 per cent of Egyptians are below the age of 18," said UNICEF Adolescence Officer Salma Wahba. "And it's ridiculous to ignore them. As the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) marks its 20th anniversary, UNICEF highlights the rights that all children deserve. Whether it is quality education or a safe home, adequate food and drinking water or the ability to participate in society, children should get what they need to become strong members of society. The right to participation and expression are an integral part of adolescent development. Broadcasters have the chance to empower young people by giving them media skills and putting their voices on the air. Kids are not only the future that we target; they are the present that we live."
UNICEF works to increase public awareness of children's issues through its relationships with the media, celebrities, the private sector and other influential organisations. UNICEF goodwill ambassador, actor Khaled Abul-Naga, dedicatedly sat with the youngsters at the beginning of the workshop and inspired them to imagine their end product. He was proud of their production.
"The five one-minute films were great," said Abul-Naga. "If all children were given the same chance they would create outstanding productions."
Abul-Naga summarised to them the steps of innovation in his opinion: closing one's eyes to imagine, without any obstacles; giving them the tools and training; getting them involved in the film shooting game; performing leading roles; having the ability to participate physically in one's environment; doing things yourself; and finally, working in a team are the steps needed to create something.
YAPD Chairman Hisham El-Roubi added to Abul-Naga's innovation process that "inspiration comes when there is human interaction. Grownups should open up to youngster's creations to learn from them and vice versa. I worked in development for years and trained children to better explore issues of concern to them and to influence child rights-based policies through good use of evidence and data-based information.
"I learnt that to achieve real development among youth, you have to make them first aware of the problem, and then make them work in projects to test their awareness. Such work will then make them brave, daring and confident. And thus there will be development. They will no longer depend on someone else to solve their problems; they will be proactive."

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