New Media Seminars Encourage Youth in Kyrgyzstan to Mobilize Their Communities for Social Change

Part of InternewsNext, a series highlighting 30 youth-led media initiatives.

Two young people look at a cell phone screen
At Internews’ seminar “Youth Ideas in New and Traditional Media” in Shabdan, Kyrgyzstan, Azamat Saparov and Bekzat Uran kyzy experiment with flip cameras to record their own videos. (credit: Internews)

Through the series of seminars “Youth Ideas in New and Traditional Media,” Internews has been teaching youth in cities and towns throughout Kyrgyzstan to use traditional and online media to help solve local problems.

Each 5-day training attracts 15-23-year-old students and volunteers from local NGOs who want to learn about how to use the internet, social media, and video and audio tools to communicate with each other, share stories from their lives, and organize events and campaigns within their communities. Since November of 2011, Internews has conducted more than 10 such trainings.

There are almost no other venues to learn these kinds of skills outside Kyrgyzstan’s major cities, so many of the young participants have never used e-mail, search engines, and other basic online services. Through Internews’ seminars, they learn how to use the Internet and services like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to mobilize groups of people and find out about the lives of their peers both within Kyrgyzstan and abroad.

At an April seminar in the village of Shabdan in northern Kyrgyzstan, the trainees launched a Community Clean-Up Day to address a serious litter problem. There are no public waste bins in the village, so people throw garbage on the streets and into and along the banks of a local river.

The young people prepared posters and leaflets encouraging people not to litter and posted them at bus stops and shops. They worked with the local radio station Kemin FM to broadcast information about the clean-up effort to the public. Several shop owners even requested that the group place garbage bins next to their stores. “At first, one local merchant refused to install a trash bin near his shop, insisting that local authorities should be responsible for dealing with the problem. But after we explained the social message of our community service event, he agreed to contribute," said Begimai Abakirova, one of the seminar participants.

Local government representatives also heard the appeal of the young activists. The head of Shabdan village, Amanov Tilegen, who heard about the clean-up day on the radio, came to the seminar to speak with the group in person: "I fully support these youth efforts and am really grateful for such ideas. Let’s organize this kind of event on a regular basis, as a tradition," he said. (See video on Facebook)

In their feedback, participants say that these seminars increase their confidence and make them believe that they have the power to change their own lives for the better. They appreciate it when adults are sensitive towards them, listen to their thoughts and ideas, and allow them to share their opinions. "We realized that we can organize various events by ourselves and attract people's attention to socially important issues. Our efforts can help solve problems on a local level," said Gulkayyr Zhakshylykova, who participated in the seminar in Shabdan.

Internews’ work with youth in Kyrgyzstan is supported by the US Embassy in Kyrgyzstan.

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