I was initially apprehensive of proposing a Participatory Video project to people with Down Syndrome and their caregivers. How would I ensure that all would participate equally and that the point of view of the caregivers would not dominate?
As it turned out, I was given a very valuable and humbling lesson in solidarity, sharing and empowerment. This group of 18 people showed that “equal” participation does not mean that everyone participates in the same way but that everyone has an opportunity to contribute, and that all contributions are integrated collectively. In this case, the caregivers did take over the reflection about what the main topics of the movie should be, how the scenes should be filmed and how it should be edited. They did bring forward the specific hurdles they face as caregivers. But they also focused on the difficulties the people with Down Syndrome face, the discrimination, and even their own initial prejudices before having to take care of their children. People with Down Syndrome played their own role in the film. They were extremely proactive during the learning-how-to-use-the-camera sessions. They were proud to see themselves on screen and came on stage to share their experience during the two public screenings.
More outstandingly, all the members continuously and without fail, functioned as a real group. Nothing would be done unless all were present. All decisions were taken collectively. They would mutually encourage and motivate each other. The people with Down Syndrome were present at all times. All conversations were held openly. Icebreakers were not needed as they would themselves suddenly stop to dance to local music, or organize birthdays.
In the end, they produced a poignant 30-minute film featuring a wide range of issues related to People with Down Syndrome, their place in the domestic and public spheres, and their abilities. A film that aims at sensitizing a wider public to the disease itself, and to what can be done to include these people in mainstream society.
The Participatory Video process has been incredibly empowering. In the course of two months, the group increased its resources in the four fields that are essential to the empowerment of any marginalized entity:
- The access to new material resources (funding, a place to meet, a camera, etc.)
- The acquisition of non-material resources (knowledge, skills, etc.)
- The capacity to work collectively (isolated, a non-powerful person cannot achieve anything)
- The means to reach out to duty bearers and to hold them accountable (public screening).
Through the project, the group managed to: Increase the capacities of its members; Enhance its coherence and cohesiveness; Nurture the culture of self-help; Tell their stories in their own way; Create a safe place, a platform for exchange and for solidarity.
In the end, the members acquired new skills linked to video making, delivering messages and raising awareness. The process allowed them to increase their self-confidence. They could dig deeper and enrich their own knowledge. Through the public screening, they had the opportunity to effectively advocate for their rights.
I am very proud of what they have achieved and to have had a chance to take part in this journey.
You can watch the video that the group produced here. For more information about the process, you can visit the blog that recounts the daily experiences of the group.
About the author
Alumni of InsightShare trainings
Should you want to exchange more about the project, do not hesitate to contact Luc at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you need guidance to implement participatory video into your work, contact us at email@example.com.