I recently traveled to Egypt to train youth human rights activists on how to effectively use video as a strategic tool for advocacy. I have traveled to many countries in Africa and the Middle East, the program region I oversee for WITNESS, but this was my first trip to Egypt.
After the recent revolution, the country now finds itself in a transitional period that is accompanied by a new set of challenges. The transitional government, led by military leadership, is still struggling to set up a concrete plan for real democracy, human rights and the well-being of all citizens. With the elections scheduled for later this year, Egyptians believe that they have a long journey ahead.
Partnering with EDA: Working to Create Effective Change
At WITNESS, we work to empower people to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools for justice. Video advocacy plays a pivotal role in prompting public engagement and policy change.
With Egypt undergoing major social change, we decided to lend our support by launching a Video Advocacy project through a partnership with the Egyptian Democratic Academy (EDA). EDA works to promote values of democracy, human rights and political participation, especially among marginalized groups such as women, children, minorities and the disabled. You can read more about EDA on our website. What better way to support social change than to collaborate with a leading organization in the recent movement for change?
Our training took place from June 18-26, 2011. We had 25 participants from all different backgrounds. I thought most of the participants wouldn’t have video-making experience. But I was happily surprised to see that many of them did. All they needed was the WITNESS methodology, to strengthen their experience in making video.
We provided an introduction to video advocacy and production. We went on to focus on objectives, audience, message, story and distribution and impact. The participants were then asked to apply what they learned to a Video Action Plan (VAP), a planning tool we use in all of our trainings. We went over the importance of safety, security, and informed consent and then started with production. As we entered into the last days of our training we had the participants partake in an advanced training exercise. Finally, we went over the editing process of the video and methods of exporting and online distribution. Watch a short video of our experience at the training:
Ensuring Human Rights Are Upheld in Egypt’s Transition
The purpose of the training was to equip our participants with essential skills and tools to expose rights violations and to ensure the readiness for the upcoming political transition including full protection of human rights for all Egyptians.
Specifically, the project’s objectives are threefold: 1) to expose and strengthen the voices of victims of rights abuses; 2) to mobilize youth and citizens to participate and be engaged in democratic processes; and 3) to influence the deliberations of the constitutional commission in order to ensure that human rights and justice are protected.
“Video advocacy for different problems, violations and other issues, will be raised and be visible for everyone, this can make the future of Egypt and maybe the whole region better,” said Bassem Samir, executive director of EDA stated, speaking about the crucial role of video during Egypt’s political transition.
Project Implementation and Next Steps
In the upcoming months, the videos produced by our participants will be posted online at Elma7rosa.org. Elma7rosa is an online radio website that works to disseminate the values of democracy, human rights, public and political participation, tolerance, acceptance, and coexistence through news and entertainment programming which are available in multiple languages.
The participants have developed video advocacy plans that aim to mobilize youth to participate in the next elections; to include human rights and justice provisions in the new Constitution; to hold accountable perpetrators of violence and rights abuses before, during and after the revolution; and to provide space for voices of discriminated and marginalized people in Egypt.
Our next steps include holding a press conference for Egyptian media, meeting with mid-level government officials, conducting offline screening in six provinces, and working with other non-profit organizations to ensure the efficiency of distribution and advocacy. Check back here and on our website for future updates.