Implementation of the EQUITY Photovoice Project with the Youth Academy in Mdantsane, South Africa occurred in two phases over five weeks. Phase 1 was a three-day Photovoice Leadership training conference for four Youth Academy leaders. Phase 2 was a four-week Photovoice Project with the four leaders and 12 participants. Phase 2 resulted in an exhibit of 80 photographs and narratives by the young participants. The Youth Academy mounted the exhibit in four public forums over a period of two months.
There is evidence of increasing awareness of problems, and resources available to address them, in Mdantsane. Project leaders, participants, and policymakers all said that the project made them see things differently in their community. Several commented that they see the problems identified in these photographs and narratives every day but tend to ignore them. They commented that the project opened their eyes for the first time to resources in the community.
The programme also reached policymakers, people in a position of authority and power. The project's dissemination activities have increased awareness of Mdantsane's problems and resources among East London and Mdantsane residents of all ages. Dissemination efforts have produced a newspaper article about the project, four exhibits, and a colourful and informative exhibit invitation distributed to about 300 people including the Deputy Mayor, the Mayor, City Councilors, hospital staff and board members, Department of Health officials, and others.
Over time, the participants increased their level of understanding of problems and local resources in Mdantsane. Early on, the participants often said that the municipality had to do something about the identified problem. However, by the end of the project, the participants did not call on the municipality except to suggest that they work in collaboration with the community to support local efforts.
The proposed project model of training youth leaders who then help to lead the larger project created project ownership among the leaders and built on their strengths, which ranged from good facilitation experience to HIV-positive status. Having youth help lead the project also developed ownership and self-esteem among the participants. Youth involvement also made the project easier to manage and improved the project's cultural relevance.
The participants expressed interest in taking action on issues that concern them most, including HIV/AIDS, security, schools, sports, and economic opportunity. The Youth Academy held meetings in early January and invited participants to lead and join efforts to take action on some of the identified problems and resources. The exhibit also appears to have created increased interest in community activities among young people who did not participate in the project.
The project generated constructive dialogue among the participants, community residents, and policymakers. A school principal, who participated in the second trial exhibit, said, "This project is helping us learn about life, because good discussion comes out of this. This is a good start for future activities. The level of discussions today was very high." At the exhibit opening, participants and visitors had intense conversations about the problems and resources portrayed in the photographs.
To learn more about the project, please contact Laura S. Lorenz at the email address below, including "Re: Mdantsane Township, South Africa Project" in the subject line.
Email from Laura S. Lorenz to the Communication Initiative on February 25 2002; and Laura S. Lorenz website.