An Outside View: Communications Empowering Colombian Youth

Apr 26, 2011 11:31 AM ET

An Outside View

After two years away, I’m visiting Colombia. It is a country very close to my heart not only because of my family background, but also because of the understanding of it I gained through my career in communication for social change.   Here I am, now attending my first E-E training abroad, next to Regional Program Manager, Javier Ampuero, who blushes every time he receives a compliment. “I told my team that we couldn't miss this training because Javier is a famous international E-E expert.”   Colombians have a natural ability to entertain and tell stories. In recent years, most Colombian soap opera productions have been exported and translated into other languages.  Yet, Colombia is also a country where freedom of speech is not guaranteed.  In the Americas, Colombia is in the bottom three (after Mexico and Cuba) for countries where freedom of the press is most at risk, according to Reporters Without Borders.    For me it is clear that the Entertainment-Education (E-E) methodology is a powerful tool for talented groups of people, especially for the young generation that is looking for safe spaces to speak up.  With E-E, a window of opportunities opens to these young people.  They are not only learning about the methodology, but also about its implementation across Latin America.  This gives them more confidence about the success of the program and inspiration about the impact that can be achieved.    Changing Lives   “I’m the first generation in my family to have formal education; my parents are farmers” says Lucho, a 23-year-old workshop participant. Lucho, whose family came from the countryside to the country’s capitol looking for better opportunities, has been drawing comics since he was 5-years-old, a luxury for a person with his family’s history. Lucho has just earned a degree in Environment Administration and his dream is to reach young people by using his talent to promote the value of the environment among adolescents.   In 2003, a quality of life survey led by DANE, the Departamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadística (National Administrative Department of Statistics), showed that in Colombia, 66.27% of the population from 0 to 26 years of age lives in extreme poverty. Youth not only face the consequences of living without the support from the government, but also with the “temptations” offered by drug dealers, guerrilla fighters and gangs.    Lucho was one of 20 participants at a one-week E-E training led by Media Impact and Fundación Social in Chinauta, Colombia, two hours by car from Bogota. The participants came from Cundinamarca (Bogota), Tolima (Ibagué), Nariño (Pasto and Union), and Antioquia (Barbosa). Ten young people (ages17 to 27) came from cultural and communication organizations (Asociación Construyendo Sueños, CORPOGES, XII Tribus, Hikari Yami, Mirada Activa, Red Intercomunal de Jóvenes). Also attending were four community leaders from CORPOMINGA, ASOJUNTAS and Unión TV, and six staff members from Fundación Social.   The four regions – Bogota, Ibagué, Pasto and Union and Barbosa - have been identified by Fundación Social as high priority areas because of the challenges youth face due to a lack of public space for them to engage. All participants agreed on the critical need to respect and create spaces for youth to express their needs.    The Partnership   Fundación Social has, for 100 years, been working to fight the causes of poverty in Colombia, in order to promote a fairer, more humane and thriving society.  Now Media Impact is supporting Fundación Social’s communication campaigns to promote youth participation in their local development plans for each region by training youth-focused community-based organizations and Fundación Social’s staff on how to use E-E as part of their campaigns.  As a result of our involvement, four media campaigns are being developed using the E-E approach, each one with specific objectives and unique media, among them radio, video, and comics.   All projects are aimed toward young people (primary audience) and their family, school and community (secondary audience). Some objectives include: legitimize cultural expressions of youth in their communities, promote youth participation in community development planning, and promote citizen co-existence. The audience directly reached is proximately 97,600 people. Total population in the four locations is 2,220,000.   By the end of the training, the participants had developed four storylines and their characters. Two storylines (Nariño and Ibague) will be broadcast at radio stations and at schools; a short video-fiction (Barbosa) will be screened to create street conversations.    The group from Bogota is creating a comic book led by Lucho’s talent; this will be the trigger to open a comic book competition among three schools, targeting over 15,000 students.  Participants will have the opportunity to create a final episode using the characters and dramatic lines already defined by the group.  This will give the participants the opportunity to express their experience and aspirations related with matters of peace and co-existence inside and outside their schools.   More than these products, the main outcome of the training is the relationship now established with Fundación Social.  Together, we are exploring opportunities to create programs addressing ex-combatants’ reintegration into society, and how to integrate a mobile strategy as part of Ibague’s campaign.  Indeed, I learned a lot about the importance of creating relationships based on common objectives.  This creates a solid platform to seek collaboration.     
PCI-Media Impact empowers communities worldwide to inspire enduring change through creative storytelling. 
For 25 years, we have worked with local partners to produce programs that address the most pressing social and environmental issues. Using our unique My Community methodology, we engage and empower audiences around the world to improve their own lives. Working with local partners, we change the world one story at a time. For more information, please visit: PCI13315