Youth Films Open Corridor for Community Dialogue in Yemen

Abdul wakes up early every morning to buy fresh eggs. He then boils them before going out selling the eggs to shop keepers and passersby, offering a tasty and healthy breakfast snack at a low price. 10 year old Abdul Rahman is one of many young Yemenis who have improvised a living through selling goods on the streets.

Abdul’s father disappeared one night without a trace, leaving his family of three brothers and mother to fend for themselves. The two older brothers soon disappeared as well, preferring a life of odd jobs and qat chewing to helping support the big family. That left only young Abdul to support himself and his mother.

The money Abdul makes from selling eggs is the family’s sole source of income. Sometimes he and his mother still go hungry. However, unlike many others, that has not prevented Abdul from continuing to study at school.

Many young Yemenis face pressures to leave school early for work. With high rates of unemployment, low practical skills, and endemic corruption, many young Yemenis have little choice but to take any job they can. A country with a young population that is set to triple by 2050, it is estimated that more than 40 percent of young Yemenis will face unemployment in the next ten years. While a large youth population can be a force for stimulating economic growth and fostering stability, youth face serious frustration due to limited education and employment opportunities.

They are further challenged by perceptions that their families and their communities do not value and appreciate them. They speak about their parents’ lack of understanding of their needs and reluctance to communicate with their children over taboo issues such as tribalism, girls’ education, corruption, or extremism. The economic and social frustration of youth in Yemen is aggravated by this absence of channels through which they can voice their needs and frustrations.

These issues were tackled in IREX Europe’s Camera as Voice project, a 12 month initiative funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which sought to give young people around Yemen the opportunity to express themselves and the issues of concern to them through production of youth films. Through the project, over 300 youth in Sana’a, Mukalla, Aden, Taiz, and Ibb produced 27 youth films that discussed topics as diverse as drug addiction, class discrimination, the links between education and radicalism, school exclusion, AIDS, youth in prison, lack of employment options for university graduates, and child labour. After completing their film projects, youth shared their productions with the wider community, in universities, and other NGOs, promoting a wider community discussion on the issues.

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