Bangladesh in Search of Freedom Documentary
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IREX Europe is working with local counterparts on the Mobile Documentary Cinema on Democracy and Islam in Bangladesh project to produce a documentary video looking at key issues confronting youth in the country. The video will then be circulated to villages to spur discussion. The documentary will address the challenges in society that are driving youth away from democracy and toward extremism. It will also examine viewpoints on the compatibility of democracy and Islam and the values central to both, such as justice and equality. The documentary will be shown in villages nationwide and trained Bangladeshi facilitators will encourage discussion of the themes. This project is funded by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s Global Opportunities Fund.
A portion of Bangladeshi youth is at risk of becoming effectively disenfranchised without opportunities to play their fullest part in society or fulfil their potential. Opportunities in education and employment are limited, as is practical access to democratic processes and media space. Some Bangladeshi youth (particularly in more remote, rural and socially conservative areas) therefore do not have the means to participate in the kinds of public debates which will shape their future and that of their country. Frustration at being placed outside of the system put these youths at risk of exploitation by those who urge extremism as a response.
IREX Europe is using mobile documentary cinema as a vehicle by which youth can explore and articulate for themselves and a wider audience alternatives to the extremist narrative. Film is a very popular medium in Bangladesh and a mobile cinema promises not only large audiences, but also the ability to reach more remote communities and to involve youth most at risk of disenfranchisement.
With this project, funded by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s Global Opportunities Fund through the British embassy in Dhaka, a documentary is being developed through local youth discussion groups. The film, including youth opinions as well as those of respected local figures, intends to convey messages regarding Muslim views on the compatibility of democracy and Islam and the values central to both (for example, justice and equality.).
IREX Europe uses a participatory process of topic selection through discussion groups with Bangladeshi youth. IREX media and civil society experts work in cooperation with a Bangladeshi civil society partner organisation to co-ordinate the project on the ground, to organise discussion groups, and to identify the most appropriate subjects, thus ensuring the subject matter is relevant to the youth in question and that there is local ownership of the final product.
The documentary is intended to be linguistically apt and filmed in the local dialect to the extent possible. To further enhance local credibility, IREX plans on hiring two youth presenters, one male and one female, who are professional Bangladeshi TV or media figures with whom the youth have an existing relationship. The resulting documentary will be brought to villages for showings, followed by group conversations facilitated by trained discussion leaders.
The Fostering a Culture of Human Rights in Central Asia project, funded by European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) funds, aims at advancing the rights of women in Central Asia by equipping journalists with the skills necessary to raise awareness of their situation and hold policy-makers to account. Concurrently, the project, which focuses on Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, builds the capacity of civil society organizations to develop and disseminate key messages to vulnerable groups. IREX Europe is implementing the project as part of a consortium led by the BBC World Service Trust.
The Central Asian republics have witnessed a major decline in living standards over the past decade. On a range of indicators, the status of women has declined during the recent economic and political transitions. A 2002 World Bank report commented, “The relative feminisation of poverty, gender-based job discrimination, loss of state support for child care, deteriorating maternal health care, poor political representation, gender-based violence, and the dramatic increase in trafficking of women have emerged as serious issues that impact gender relations and warrant immediate attention.”
Despite these pressing concerns, media coverage of women’s and children’s issues is often insensitive and judgmental, with commentators resorting to stereotypes and clichés. Basic journalistic principles, for example of privacy and dignity for victims of child abuse and trafficking, are too often ignored. Furthermore, local media run increasingly explicit advertisements for the sex industry and agencies promising lucrative work overseas. The media’s ability to play an effective role in raising awareness of key issues affecting women and children in Central Asia is undermined further by the poor quality of information provided by the civil society sector.
- Training workshops for journalists, focused on the challenges of presenting women’s and children’s issues to a broad audience.
- Onsite consultancy visits to media outlets to institutionalise improved coverage of key issues, with particular emphasis on programme formats.
- Media outreach training to enhance the ability of human rights defenders to get key messages to target groups, both through mainstream media and through informal networks.
- Co-production of media outputs focusing on women’s and children’s issues.
- Development of dissemination network to tap into a network of informal “media” outlets such as PA systems in public places and street theatre groups.
- Development of online resources to support the wider training programme.
Through the Making Waves: A Community Radio Project in Georgia, which IREX Europe is implementing as part of a consortium led by the BBC World Service Trust and in partnership with the Tbilisi-based Association Studio Re, the country’s first two independent community radio stations were established. The stations, in the ethnic enclaves of Ninotsminda (Javakheti) and Marneuli (Kvemo Kartli), broadcast predominantly in minority languages (Armenian, Georgian, and Russian) and are run by a core team of local journalists with significant input from volunteers both on the programming and managerial side. In addition to support from the European Union, co-funding has been provided by the Global Conflict Prevention Pool through the British Embassy in Tbilisi, the Open Society Institute in Georgia, and the Eurasia Foundation in Georgia. Currently broadcasting is via loudspeakers within the local community as the community radios and the project team are still working with the Georgian government to legalise broadcasting the stations’ content.
The two largest minority groups in Georgia are the Azeris, numbering around 500,000, and the Armenians, totalling 300,000.
Around a third of the Armenian minority live in Javakheti, about 250 kilometres from Tbilisi and close to the border with Armenia and Turkey. Ninotsminda is a small town locked in this alpine zone of the mountains of southwest Georgia. The majority of its 3,000 residents are ethnic Armenians, with a tiny share of the population comprising ethnic Georgians and Dukhobors, a Russian Christian group. Frequently cut off from the rest of the country by severe weather, the townspeople live an isolated life with only one local TV station, almost no entertainment, widespread unemployment, no gas, poor water supply, and practically no knowledge of the Georgian language.
The Azeri population is largely concentrated in the Kvemo Kartli region in southern Georgia near the border with Azerbaijan and Armenia. Marneuli is a small city of 30,000 inhabitants, and the majority are Azeri. As many of the local people do not speak Georgian, they are unable to get the information they need from centrally produced newspapers, radio stations and TV channels. Despite their geographical proximity to the capital just 30 to 60 kilometres away, the Azeri population of Kvemo Kartli feels itself marginalised and this frustration is aggravated by the lack of local media.
The community radio approach allows the raising of awareness of diversity issues, the rights of ethnic minorities, and the responsibilities of journalists and journalism. At the same time, the project sees to foster more and better issue-based reporting and improved relations between nongovernmental organizations and the media.
“If this radio had existed when I was young, I would have been famous by now.”
So said the grandfather of Karine Arutyunyan, a girl whose singing talent had been aired. Where once her grandfather’s voice could only be heard at a local church, now the loudspeaker carries Armenian folk songs sung by Karine and her grandfather.
- Establishment of two minority-community-focused radio stations.
- Training of up to 20 staff and volunteers for the two stations, in basic journalism skills, editing techniques, management and reporting on diversity issues.
- Co-productions of relevant programmes by the two stations in collaboration with BBC trainers.
- Training of at least 120 journalists and media managers from outside Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli in diversity reporting especially with a view to tackling stereotypical representations of minority groups.
- Training of up to 32 NGO workers in the skills necessary to promote key issues through the media.
The Ninotsminda station gives accounts of news in town and around the country, including press reviews, discussions of topics of the day, interviews with studio guests on diverse issues, and entertainment. The one-hour news show is broadcast on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while on Saturday the station offers its own produced programming and summarizes the major events of the week. Other days, music is aired.
Currently broadcasting is via loudspeakers within the local community as the community radio and project teams are still working with the Georgian government to legalize broadcasting the stations’ content.
The Promoting Tolerance and Dialogue through Interactive Theatre in Eastern Indonesia project was designed to bring youth from conflict and post-conflict areas into productive dialogue through an innovative use of theatre, and to build local capacity for ongoing work in conflict prevention and mitigation. IREX Europe worked with an Indonesian counterpart, the Center for Civic Education-Indonesia (CCEI), to implement the project, which is funded by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s Strategic Programme Fund.
The project aimed at improving tolerance and countering radicalization by targeting its root causes, primarily the extremist dialogue that is leading youth in areas such as Eastern Indonesia toward violence and radicalism. This one-year program introduced a powerful method for helping young people to address and work through conflict, combining theatre, debate and reflection to create a “safe space” for exploring incendiary issues. This approach draws on Brazilian director Augusto Boal’s methodology, which has been used successfully around the world.
Two Theatre Exploration Camps drew young participants, ages 14-16, from four areas of Eastern Indonesia that had experienced significant conflict: Ambon, Lombok, Pasuruan, and Poso in Central Sulawesi. Approximately 100 in-school and out-of-school youth and teachers attended each 18-day camp, facilitated by specialists in interactive theatre methodology. A key component of the project was building local capacity in interactive theatre methodology by including training for teachers and local theatre professionals. Micro-grants were available to the teachers and theatre professionals to conduct follow-on interactive theatre initiatives after the camps.
- Training local theatre professionals and teachers to use interactive theatre techniques for conflict prevention and mitigation, enabling them to address conflict drivers with young people in their home regions and combat the voices of extremism and intolerance.
- Conducting camps for young Indonesians in East Java to engage them in interactive theatre and dialogue, with facilitation by specialists in theatre as a conflict mitigation tool. Through interactive plays they develop, youth will have a “safe space” to explore conflict triggers, address differences, and build tolerance of diversity.
- Supporting theatre professionals and teachers to implement interactive theatre activities in their home communities and schools to build tolerance and respect for diversity, and to prevent and mitigate conflict.
“Human Rights, Civil Society, Governance, Justice and Home Affairs”
EuropeAid Multiple Framework Contract Lot 7
In the mid-nineties, the European Commission introduced a fast track system to enable rapid implementation of smaller PHARE projects. In 2004, this became known as the Multiple Framework Contracts (FWC), operating worldwide across many development sectors, for assignments of up to € 200.000. The FWC exists for 13 Sectors known as Lots.
Framework Contract – Lot 7
IREX Europe is currently involved in the EC’s Framework Contract Lot 7 which focuses on Culture, Governance and Home Affairs, through Human Rights, Democracy and Institutional Strengthening. This includes :
- Promotion and defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms
- Democratization processes including elections and good governance of public affairs
- Conflicts prevention and dealing with the consequences of conflicts including landmine clearance
- State, Justice and Parliament reform processes
- Police and security
The procedure: The European Commission Delegations (ECD) in beneficiary countries around the world can launch Requests for Services (RfS) to the consortia within the Lot 7 Framework agreement. The consortia then compete against each other to provide the best team and methodology for each RfS.
Examples of specific Lot 7 projects:
- Ghana – Feasibility study for support to independent Governance institutions involved in the electoral process
- Serbia – Preparation of the Media Study for the National Media Strategy of Ministry of Culture of Serbia
- Nigeria – Study on Identification of Support to State and Local Governance Reform Programme in 6 EU Focal states