Accepted Paper:

Youth, HIV/AIDS, and media advocacy in South Africa: the 'Steps for the Future' film project  


Christine Singer (School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS))

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores young people's participation in a South African film project aiming to raise awareness about youth and HIV, interrogating the making of these films, the representations of "youth" within them, and the discussions these films provoked in South African public spheres.

Paper long abstract:

This paper investigates a series of short films created by, for, and about young people from the Western and Eastern Cape of South Africa, all of whom are coping with the effects of HIV. These films are part of 'Steps for the Future', a media advocacy project commissioned by Social Transformation and Empowerment Projects (STEPS), one of the first South African nongovernmental organisations seeking to address the country's HIV and AIDS crisis through films that are both educational and emotionally engaging. In 2009, STEPS held a series of filmmaking workshops with local youth groups and so assisted individual young people in producing their own films. These films celebrate the strength of the young people who share their experiences, and they intend to provoke discussions around HIV and related topics such as discrimination, teenage pregnancy, and xenophobia among local youth. To do so, STEPS use mobile cinema units to screen their films in local schools, youth centres, and poor and remote areas. These film viewings are typically followed by a facilitated discussion with young audience members in order to engage them with the issues raised within the films. This paper discusses STEPS' participatory approach to filmmaking with young people, the discourse on South African youth constructed within the STEPS films, as well as these films' public circulation and reception. This discussion is guided by the ultimate question of whether these youth-centred films hold potential for carving out spaces for critical engagements with youth and HIV in South African public spheres.

Panel P165
Novel spaces for African youth: creativity, entrepreneurship and political action