How Plan International UK used video to bring the voices of girls in crisis direct to Parliament
Image: Focus groups in Uganda included participatory art-based activities to reflect on and draw the journey of their lives. Here Alice draws her river of life. © Plan International
Video is a powerful advocacy tool and it’s been at the heart of Plan International UK’s recent Girls in Crisis campaign, as Alex Martin explains.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic was sweeping the globe, millions of girls around the world were living through crisis – due to conflict, disaster and displacement. That’s why, in March 2020, we launched Our Vision: A Call to Action by Girls in Crisis – an eight-point plan for change, co-created with girls and young women living through crisis.
Our experience shows that girls are among the worst affected by any crisis, yet their voices are often the least heard. This is despite that fact that they are the experts in their own lives and know what needs to change.
We needed to understand the change they wanted to see, so that we could bring it to life through their own voices
From the start, we saw this as a multimedia project with voice, video and photography at the heart as a key tool in our advocacy approach. We ran youth-led consultations with over 150 young people – Congolese refugees in Rwanda, South Sudanese refugees in Northern Uganda and girls living in conflict-affected North East Nigeria. Each location represented a different experience of what it is like to be a girl living through crisis, whilst also sharing many commonalities. From this, together, we created a clear blueprint for change for the international community to endorse.
|“It is important for governments to listen to the voice of the girls so they can resolve our issues.”|
Umalisa, 22, Congolese refugee in Rwanda
|middle column||“I wish for the future generations to be deciding for themselves, advocating for others and having a peaceful place to live.”|
Sandrine, 27, Congolese refugee in Rwanda
We knew that, to be effective, this needed to be more than a written document
We wanted these inspirational young women to have the opportunity to tell their stories to leaders and decision makers themselves – to deliver this in their own words and to finally have their voices heard. Therefore, we created a video Call to Action.
Video is a powerful tool to give these young women the platform to directly share their story. But we would only have one opportunity to film with the young women in each country. It meant that consultations, policy analysis and filming were happening at the same time. We took the time to answer questions, explain the campaign and ensure all participants understand where their voices would be heard – in Rwanda, the conversation about consent took over an hour. It was brilliant to see the girls empowered to ask us some tough questions and make an informed decision as to whether to be involved. It was fast-paced and challenging but it was worth it – the result feels truly owned by the young people.
The video is a culmination of this process – each girl’s story and demand spoken directly to camera with a montage of solidarity at the end – and we are so proud of it.
It is a powerful reminder of the resilience and strength of young women and their capacity to change the world
We launched the Call to Action at an event in the UK Houses of Parliament in early March. The video took centre stage and it was so powerful to watch as screens all across the room broadcast the girls’ eight-point plan for change directly to decision makers.
Since then, the context has changed dramatically due to the corona virus pandemic. This has exacerbated the difficult living conditions for those living in humanitarian contexts such as refugee camps, where water is scarce, conditions crowded and social distancing often not an option. And we know from our experiences during the Ebola outbreak that girls face unique challenges during such crises.
We know it is more important than ever to ensure we are listening directly to girls and ensuring their voices are central to our advocacy.
That’s why we are reaching out to the girls involved in developing this Call to Action to hear about the impacts that this pandemic is having on their lives so this can be reflected in the project. Next, we will be calling on the international community to endorse this Call to Action with a focus on ensuring that the rights and needs of girls living in crises are central to world leaders’ agenda at the G7 Summit in the UK in 2021.
Uganda photography by Quinn Neely and Rwanda photography by Rob Beechey – Copyright 2020