Speaking For Themselves: Video of the Teens, By the Teens, For the Teens

A young woman wearing a crisp, white blouse and a brightly colored skirt stands attentive; microphone in hand, she looks to the camera. At her side is a lanky man, ready and waiting. After a few moments, she begins the interview.

"Yes, my name is Ijeoma Okereke and we are talking today about unwanted pregnancy," she says, borrowing the style of a news anchorwoman. "What is your name, sir?"
"My name is Ibrahim Mustafa," he says.
"What is your age?"
"Twenty-two years...."

So begins one of several videotapes on sex education topics produced by Action Health Incorporated (AHI), a C4C partner organization in Lagos, Nigeria. AHI provides Nigerian youth with reproductive health information and life planning skills. Through collaboration with C4C, AHI's teen peer educators acquired the technical and interpersonal skills basic to participatory video, which has now become an integral part of their work.

"The video program has engendered in us teens on the team a lot of confidence, solidarity and greater ability to communicate effectively with others our needs as teenagers," says Ijeoma, a coordinator of the AHI Video Production Team. Teen-to-teen communication fosters openness on sensitive topics of adolescent health, notes her co-coordinator Emmanuel Ehinmero. While talking with adults is difficult because of taboos surrounding sexuality, and even information in schools is sparse, young people can learn from one another.

Video activities have attracted many teens to AHI's Youth Centre; they come seeking additional health information after seeing a tape, or to view a particular video they have heard about "through the grapevine." Because the videotapes feature young people whose experiences are similar to their own - because, as one group of students put it, the videos are "of the teens, by the teens, and for the teens" - viewers feel encouraged to discuss issues important to their wellbeing. These include such critical topics as rape, sexually-transmitted disease and HIV/AIDS, assertiveness, and barriers to communicating with parents.

"...Are you a father, sir?" asks the young woman.
"Yes," responds the man.
"How do you feel about that?"
"I regret being a father at age 22. I hope that others can learn from my experience that it is better to wait until you are ready to have a family," he says over the crowing of a nearby rooster.
"Thank you, sir," says the young woman.
"My pleasure," the man replies.