ADVICE PROJECT MEDIA has worked with youth, women, and other people who have been marginalized in four different countries, and we have developed teaching and program development strategies that are replicable, scalable, and adaptable. Our students start by telling their personal stories, and we then teach them how to blend those local stories with global feminist and environmental concerns. Students communicate their stories through blogs, short films, and by delivering talks and sitting on panels at public conferences. We coach our students in writing op-eds and essays, provide training to help them pitch their work to traditional news outlets and journals, and assist with backend social media and communications.
Stories can help change the world, but only when they're supported by science and data. When our students have access to the Internet, we teach them how to check their sources; when they can't connect to the "web," we teach them alternative methods such as survey distribution and community data sourcing. Our students learn not only how to share their personal, local stories, but they are trained as strong citizen journalists with the capabilities of developing data-driven, research-rich stories.
TACKLING TWO ISSUES: GENDER AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Environmental stewardship is fundamentally important, and Advice Project Media believes that climate change is the biggest single threat facing our future. Therefore, our classes focus on the environment, biodiversity, and climate change. In order to effectively tackle environmental problems and to build sustainable solutions, research has demonstrated that women must be included in conservation efforts. Therefore, Advice Project Media has incorporated gender equality into all of our programs, concentrating not only on environmental issues, but the ways that half of our planet remains oppressed. By empowering girls and women (and non-binary-identifying individuals) and sharing their stories, we provide a safe, fertile platform for focusing on the environment. In short, we can't save the planet as long as one gender has power over other genders.
EQUAL REPRESENTATION OF GENDERS
Regardless of the subject matter we're teaching, ADVICE PROJECT MEDIA's multimedia, writing, and journalism programs are feminist in nature and we concentrate on the equal representation of genders in our classrooms, and publish work predominantly by girls, women, and other marginalized voices. Why? Simply because research shows us that this will help to construct a better world for all of us.
Over the last decade, successful organizations, NGOs, and forward-thinking governments have recognized that focusing on programs that support and educate girls and women is the most effective way to fight climate change and global poverty, and it's been shown time and time again that the full participation of women and girls as full partners in decision-making consistently yields strong positive outcomes (“win-win” relationships) for communities. As Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, journalists and authors of the eye-opening book Half the Sky wrote: "Women and girls aren't the problem; they're the solution."
Many youth programs developed by NGO's are disproportionately made up of young men. We've been told repeatedly even by people and organizations that mean well that young women have been left out of their programs because it is "harder" to include them due to child rearing responsibilities, lack of opportunity, or cultural norms, but we're not buyin' it. Advice Project Media believes that these organizations are not only being discriminatory, but, as research demonstrates, they are also not representing the needs of all members of the communities they are trying to serve, which means their work will ultimately be unsustainable.
Advice Project Media's programs equally represent gender among our students (at least 50 percent girls/women/nonbinary-identifying individuals). To date we have led programs for: teen girls; teen girls and non-gender-conforming youth; women and teen girls; and all-gender groups of various age demographics. In all of our programs we carefully and systematically provide safe spaces for all of our students and we encourage each of our participants to share her/his/their ideas. We are also currently working with youth partners in Cameroon to develop a program specifically for boys and men that focuses on peace-building by supporting a diversity of masculinities (estimated completion in 2017).
Many organizations define youth loosely, describing a broad demographic anywhere between pre-adolescence and 30 years. Advice Project Media narrows the definition, focusing on teenagers between 13 to 18. We do this for a couple of reasons: first, adolescence is a critical time for young people around the world. It marks, for example, the vulnerable years between childhood and adulthood when many girls are forced out of school and into early marriages. In a patriarchal world, adolescence can also be a violent time - girls face an increased risk of sexual violence and have greater risks if they become pregnant than women, and they are often used as weapons of war.
Of course, we don't only include girls in our programs, and we believe that adolescent boys are also vulnerable to the dangers of global patriarchal norms. This is why, embedded in our curriculum, we have also placed emphasis on the idea that there isn't just one masculity, but many, and that we must define masculine strength in peaceful terms rather than connecting it to war.
In addition to teaching youth (adolescents), we also lead train-the-trainer programs for young adult leaders (19 to 25) and for adults of all ages. We assist all members of a particular community by building bridges between different age demographics so that the entire community can successfully tackle problems it might be facing. Because of popular demand, we also launched a class called Uppity Witches for pre-teens in New York City in 2014. The class is for students of all genders, and offers a primer in feminism by examining fairytales, witch hunts, and pop culture.
Advice Project Media develops and leads programs in Cameroon, Peru, Guadeloupe, and the U.S.A. We are committed to having our students travel internationally to meet each other and take part in leadership and empowerment summits. These opportunities challenge our students to think outside of the box by considering ideas that aren't a part of their cultural "norm." Our students aren't expected to agree about everything, but they are encouraged to listen, learn, and grow.
Except for our programs in the U.S.A., we've chosen locations for our programs where our students can get a real look at how climate change is affecting the world. In Peru, for example, students see the devastating effects of gold mining, logging, and the destruction of indigenous peoples' land. In Guadeloupe, students get an underwater view of coral reef bleaching. And in Cameroon, students see how oil pipelines have not only ruined huge swaths of forest and grassland, but also crippled local economies.
The price of flying students around the world to meet is incredibly expensive, but the price of not providing a global education to our future leaders is more expensive. A few years ago, our founder, Melissa Banigan, watched a video in which the French economist Esther Duflo said that when people leave their communities and then return, they bring with them more potential for both personal and also economic growth. Then there's the economist Amartya Sen, who said that when girls are educated, they have better command of their lives and their voices, which results in creating more economic and political opportunities.
In short, Advice Project Media believes that providing youth of all genders with travel opportunities is important, and that we have an obligation especially to give opportunities to girls. Seeing the world helps our young students to dream of progressively higher "glass ceilings," which is worth far more than the cost of flights.