maxresdefaultThe Population Council–an international non-profit organization–is dedicated to conducting research around the globe to assist critical health and development issues, establishing programs and campaigns in over 50 countries. One such scheme is the Adolescent Girls Empowerment Program, or AGEP, committed to providing financial independence, sexual health awareness and safe spaces for Zambian girls at their most vulnerable age.

A twenty minute video, My Dreams Cannot Be Broken, details the initiatives and purpose of AGEP and includes snippets of interviews with some of the girls and mentors involved, as well as workers from local clinics and banks discussing their involvement in assisting the interventions.

For a relatively short film, it goes into a fair amount of detail as to the program’s initiatives; these being safe spaces, health cards and private savings accounts. Each one is explained by a voice-over while the accompanying video demonstrates what is being talked about. We see the girls going into their local clinics for check ups, starting up their own bank accounts and how they interact in the safe spaces groups; all these interspersed with interviews with the girls themselves, one mentor, the head of office at DFID (a key sponsor of AGEP), a head of a local clinic and the manager of a local bank. In total, you get a fairly comprehensive view of the program and their methods for assisting those girls they deem most vulnerable.

My one criticism would perhaps be that there are not enough of these interviews, and that the film does not offer a view into the girls’ lives that is as in depth as one would hope. They are the ones the program is dedicated to helping and it‚Äôs them that we would want to see‚Äìtheir lives, their hardships and their characters make for the most arresting aspect of the film; there‚Äôs only so much we can engage with facts and figures and it is perhaps in the emphasis on the latter that the video falls somewhat short. When we finish watching we certainly understand the organisation itself and its ideas, yet the girls perhaps remain slightly removed. The girls we see in the interviews are strikingly strong-minded and determined, expressing views that are perhaps surprising considering the communities they live in and the expectations that surround them. To show more of what these girls have to say would benefit the video in that it would make it more akin to watching a discussion rather than a lecture, and lend it a slightly more personal air, offering us more of an insight into the girls voices and experiences.

Perhaps it’s simply that twenty minutes is too short to encompass the scope of the girls’ lives, yet longer than twenty minutes would be too much for our increasingly short attention spans–thus striking a balance between conveying facts and maintaining the viewer’s attention is difficult. The video certainly succeeds in imparting a lot of information succinctly, and we clearly see the program’s process and progress. However it only touches the surface of the girls’ lives and characters; an area that would make for a much more engaging film and would allow the viewer to hear more of the voices that AGEP is so dedicated to nurturing.

-Scarlett Evans
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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