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Youth as Agents for Change - Direct Voices Russia and Bosnia Herzegovina (2009-2010)

Location: Europe, Bosnia Herzegovina, Russia

Keywords: Advocacy, Health, HIV/AIDS, Rights, Young People

Project Background

Photography by young people living with HIV in St Petersburg, Russia, and young Roma people in Bosnia Herzegovina

In partnership with World Vision

Project Manager: Matt Daw
Facilitators: Ania Dabrowska (Russia), Jenny Matthews (Bosnia Herzegovina)

In November 2009, PhotoVoice facilitators Ania Dabrowska and Jenny Matthews travelled to Russia and Bosnia Herzegovina respectively, to deliver photography workshops to help young people speak out about their views of the issues surrounding HIV and AIDS. The workshops culminated in local exhibitions of participants’ work in St Petersburg and Sarajevo during the week of World AIDS Day (December 1st). Photographs from both countries were showcased at the International AIDS Conference (IAC) in Vienna in July directly reaching those debating the issues and possible solutions on the international stage.

Project photo gallery

Project Outputs

An exhibition of work from both groups was showcased to the public and to delegates at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna in July. Alongside the exhibition, postcards bearing images and testimonies from the participants were circulated and an e-postcard campaign is running to build up awareness of the project and to prompt consideration of the issues raised by the young people.

E-card campaign now running on World Vision Austria’s website

Photographs and captions from the Russian group were shown in the public exhibition ‘We Are Together’ at the Lutheran Church on Nevzky Prospekt, St Petersburg from the 1st – 3rd December 2009. Ten images were distributed as postcards to the public and relevant organisations in St Petersburg, featuring captions and information in Russian and English allowing the direct voices of those affected by an issue too often overlooked or misunderstood in Russia, to be brought to the attention of the public - thereby challenging prejudices and contributing to a greater understanding of what it means to be HIV positive.

Photographs and captions from both groups were showcased at the National Art Gallery in Sarajevo, for ten days from the 1st December 2009. On the very first day of the exhibition there was a press conference that prompted a lot of local media coverage and public interest. Health Ministers, the National HIV / AIDS Coordinator, and other relevant people attended. The participants were present and spoke about the project and the issues raised by the exhibition. Ten of the images were publicly disseminated as postcards to raise awareness and prompt open discussion about the issues raised by the young people.

Further project info

In Russia, Ania Dabrowska delivered a course of 10 workshops with 10 young people living with HIV in St Petersburg. The group - many of whom had not met previously - embraced the opportunity to discuss difficult and personal experiences and issues around HIV through their photography, including public attitudes in their local society, the difficult decisions they face being HIV+ in relation to families and jobs, and the strengths and shortcomings of the services and preventative campaigns in Russia.

“The project has totally transformed my view of photography.  Before, I saw it only as a way of documenting life’s events.  Now I see it as a way of expressing myself and working out ideas about life.  I’ve been really proud to show my friends what I have been doing.” Maris, Russia

In Bosnia Herzegovina, Jenny Matthews worked with two groups of young women in the Roma communities in Tuzla and Visiko. Four day-long workshops over two weeks, allowed the 10 participants in each group to explore through their photographs, how they perceive and are affected by HIV/AIDS issues. Their photographs provide a valuable perspective on how HIV issues are understood and communicated in communities separate from the mainstream society in Bosnia Herzegovina. As youth spokespeople for World Vision outreach programmes, the skills gained by the young women will help them to communicate important information and messages to and from their communities in the future.