In July of 2013 Malala Yousafzai presented her renowned speech at the UN Youth Takeover in which she stated:
We realize the importance of light when we see darkness. We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced. We believe in the power and the strength of our words. Today is the day of every woman, every boy, and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights. Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.
UN statistics show that approximately 62 million girls are currently out of school and out of all of the world’s illiterate population, two-thirds are women. While many civil society organizations are currently working to tackle this issue, there is a firm belief that new and innovative methods are needed to help address some of these challenges. One of these ways is through the power of art and creativity. As Forest Whitaker, actor and UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace, recently stated, “the arts have the power to destroy gender stereotypes and biases that make all of us less free”.
Understanding the importance of harnessing art and creativity to help tackle social issues, TakingITGlobal partnered with Adobe to promote the #withMalala Challenge as a part of their new Project 1324 initiative. The #withMalala Challenge is a global digital art project encouraging young people to speak out about why every girl should have the right to an education. The challenge has given youth from Pakistan, to Ghana, to the USA the opportunity to produce pieces of artwork that speak to their perspective on the issue. .
To celebrate the power of youth voice and promote the importance of art and creativity in bringing awareness to the global issue of girls’ access to education, I along with two young media makers, Gabriela de Carvalho from Mexico and Maymunah Stroud from the USA, attended the first-ever Youth Forum at the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.
At the Youth Forum, young people from all over the world came together to learn, discuss, and commit to action on issues surrounding women and girls’ rights. Of course, one of these very pressing issues is that of girls’ access to education.
During the Forum, TakingITGlobal and Adobe held the #withMalala workshop which was developed as a tool for learning about everyone’s right to a quality education and about developing a dedication to ensuring human rights are respected around the globe through the power of media.
Facilitated with the help of the two Adobe Program Alumni, both young women were able to stress the value in using media through their own experience. With the creation of a project aimed at challenging negative depictions of women in the media by Gabriela, and a documentary emphasizing the power of education in allowing girls to reach their dreams by Maymunah, both facilitators were able to showcase how media and creativity can be used as a positive tool for social change.
At the end of the workshop, participants were encouraged to create a poster or visual representation of a result they would like to see come out of CSW. In such a short time, many of the participants were able to clearly depict through their visual representations, a change that they would like to see happen and it made for an incredible discussion.
This is the power of creativity.
Gabriela was also invited to speak at the City University of New York as a part of a panel discussion on the new Security Council Resolution 2250. During the panel she emphasized the importance of media and youth voice in contributing to the peacebuilding process. Through sharing her experience as a young media maker, Gabriela stressed that youth media can be used as a powerful tool for creating change.
In her talk she mentioned her experience working with another youth media maker in Kenya who has created a project that addresses the issue of youth radicalization through the provision of deeper media skills and information literacy. Through utilizing the power of the media, both youth believe we can draw people together to promote conflict management and resolution, and to encourage people to change their attitudes and behaviours.
It is also not just the end product that helps bring awareness to issues such as the ones we discussed at CSW, engaging in the creative process also helps build connections amongst communities and community members-- bringing people together and giving them a space to exchange and collaborate on new and innovative ideas.
Gabriela and Maymunah’s closest connection came from sharing their creations. It sparked conversations which allowed them to recognize that the issues women are facing in reaching gender parity are not just local, they are global.
In this way, I can say for sure that a picture is not worth a thousand words… it is worth much more than that. I sincerely believe that one photo can become an instrument through which we can change the world-- even if just one person at a time.