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CHAPTER 2

Envisioning the Return: Participatory Video for Voluntary Repatriation and Sustainable Reintegration
Melissa Brough and Charles Otieno-Hongo

In 2005, following the much-awaited signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for South Sudan, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its partners began ramping up for the repatriation of refugees from Africa’s longest-running civil war. If successful, this movement, entailing up to half a million refugees in six surrounding countries, could serve as an example for future repatriation efforts in the region and other parts of the world. Yet despite the renewed sense of hope brought about by the peace agreement, refugees waiting just below the border in the Kakuma Camp in Kenya expressed sentiments ranging from distrust of UNHCR, partner agencies and the fledgling government of South Sudan, to pessimism about the likelihood of a sustained peace, to fear of returning to an unrecognisable country that many had left as children. Indeed, the repatriation process itself was just one part of the equation; anxieties about successfully reintegrating in the war-torn country were high. Refugees expressed a need for information about the support they would receive in the repatriation process, the conditions they would be returning to in South Sudan, and how to overcome challenges to reintegrating and rebuilding their communities.

1 Youth participants in FilmAid’s programmes range in age from fifteen to thirty.

In an effort to support the process, as well as to involve Sudanese refugee youth in mobilising the refugee community, FilmAid International turned to participatory video, a methodology for promoting social change through individual and community empowerment. Through video-based activities, youths were engaged in dialogue and awareness-raising about repatriation and concerns critical to reintegration.1 Drawing also on youth development and “media for development” methodologies, the programme enabled the youths to produce short videos and newscasts that were shared with the Sudanese community in Kakuma at large. The authors assisted in the development, implementation and monitoring of the project. Here they reflect on innovations, challenges faced, and how lessons learned might be applied to future projects using the power of video to help ensure a voluntary return and a sustainable reintegration. Background
FilmAid International

Founded in 1999, FilmAid International is a non-profit organisation that utilises film and video to “promote health, strengthen communities and enrich the lives of the world’s forcibly

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Refugees gather as FilmAid sets up an evening film screening in Kakuma Camp, Kenya.
Photo courtesy of FilmAid International.

displaced”.2 Using educational and entertaining programming, FilmAid’s aim is to facilitate social change by increasing individuals’ knowledge and confidence, and by providing information and opportunities for people to come together to explore, debate and express ideas. FilmAid has been working with Sudanese refugees in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwestern Kenya since 2001. Partnering with UNHCR and other agencies such as the International Rescue Committee and Handicap International, as well as members of both the refugee and host communities, FilmAid serves as the primary agency for information dissemination in the camp. Its open-air screenings often reach audiences of thousands at once; feature films are preceded by cartoons, a public service announcement and an educational short. In addition to psychosocial relief, FilmAid provides information on critical topics such as conflict prevention, human rights, HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence. Screenings are also held in community centres, schools, hospitals and infant feeding centres on such topics as teenage pregnancy, reproductive health, and education for girls. FilmAid works with local advisory committees to ensure that the content used in its programmes is appropriate and relevant for the intended audience. FilmAid’s Kakuma staff is comprised primarily of refugees from the community, who are directly involved in programme design, implementation and monitoring.

2 www.filmaid.org

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Kakuma Camp

One of the largest in the world, Kakuma Refugee Camp is located in the Turkana District of northern Kenya. It was formed in 1992 when over 10,000 unaccompanied minors known as the“Lost Boys” arrived in Kenya after walking hundreds of miles to flee the violence in Sudan. When news of the peace agreement for South Sudan broke in 2005, the camp was home to over 90,000 refugees from ten countries; nearly 69,000 were Sudanese.3 Of these, approximately 70 per cent were youth.4 The Sudanese community in Kakuma is composed of several different tribes, including Dinka, Nuer, Didinga, Lotuko and Lopit. Fewer than 10 per cent of the Sudanese in Kakuma Camp have more than a primary school education. Many do not share fluency in a common language. Communication barriers (language and illiteracy), compounded by social norms and limited resources, often leave the most vulnerable – women and minorities – isolated from information sources, adding to the challenges faced by this repatriation movement. The possibility of return: working towards a sustainable repatriation and reintegration
Repatriation is a process in which refugees are actively involved, rather than being passive participants.
Khalid Koser 5

3 UNCHR Electronic Data Processing Department, Nairobi Branch Office, May 2005. 4 FilmAid International, 2007. 5 Koser, Khalid (1997) “Information and Repatriation: The Case of Mozambican Refugees in Malawi”, Journal of Refugee Studies, 10(1), p. 15. 6 FilmAid Kakuma Office, 2006, 2007. 7 UNHCR (1996) Voluntary Repatriation: International Protection. Handbook. Geneva: UNHCR. 8 Lee, Katharine (2007) Impact of FilmAid Programs in Kakuma, Kenya: Final Report. New York: FilmAid International. http://www.filmaid.org/where/ bueval.shtml

Over two decades of civil war in South Sudan resulted in more than two million deaths and displaced over four million people from their homes. The signing of the 2005 peace agreement between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army opened the door for UNHCR and its partners to begin assisting over half a million refugees to return from camps like Kakuma and others in neighbouring countries. However, the first two years of the repatriation movement witnessed much lower rates of return than originally projected.6 According to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, refugees are guaranteed protection against refoulement, or involuntary return. Voluntary repatriation requires that refugees have the legal, physical and socio-economic ability – as well as objective and accurate information – to make a free choice about remaining in the host country or returning home. As stated in UNHCR’s handbook on Voluntary Repatriation, “only an informed decision can be a voluntary decision”.7 To assess the level of knowledge about repatriation, an independent researcher affiliated with Boston University’s Center for International Health and Development and hired by FilmAid International surveyed 233 Sudanese refugees in Kakuma Camp in June 2006. The majority reported that they did not understand the process of voluntary repatriation, including their rights and entitlements, and felt they lacked sufficient information to prepare to reintegrate in South Sudan.8 Nearly a year later, graduate student researchers from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) observed that this lack of information was still a likely

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9 Bajoria, J., Keith, A. and Wax, A. (2007) Monitoring the Reach and Impact of Country of Origin Information Dissemination for Sudanese Refugees in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya: Final Report to FilmAid International. New York: Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. Additional factors may include the lack of infrastructure in South Sudan, preferences for resettlement (as opposed to repatriation), and uncertainty about the sustainability of the peace. 10 UNHCR Participatory Assessment in Kakuma, September 2005. Information provided by FilmAid’s Kakuma Office. 11 Koser (1997) op. cit., pp. 15–16, emphasis added. 12 UNHCR (2004) Dialogue on Voluntary Repatriation and Sustainable Reintegration in Africa: “Chairman’s Summing up” and “Conclusions”. Geneva: UNHCR, p. 2. 13 Ibid. 14 UNHCR (2004) In R. Black and S. Gent, Defining, Measuring and Influencing Sustainable Return: The Case of the Balkans. Development Research Centre on Migration, Globalisation and Poverty, p. 12. 15 Black, R., Koser, K. and Munk, K. (2004). In Black and Gent, op. cit.

factor contributing to the low rate of repatriation.9 A UNHCR assessment in September 2005 noted that minority groups and women had particularly limited access to information.10 UNHCR and its partner agencies were therefore responsible not only for assisting the repatriation, but also for providing the information and protection necessary to ensure that the process was voluntary and the return sustainable. This included accurate and objective country of origin information – information about South Sudan such as political, economic and security conditions, availability of jobs, education, health care services, food and other goods, the state of infrastructure (roads, water sources, etc.) and the presence of landmines. In his study of the repatriation of Mozambiquan refugees in Malawi, Koser (1997) found the following: There has been strong criticism of the way that repatriation is promoted by the international community (Harrell-Bond 1989), and one particular focus of that criticism has been a general failure to understand and facilitate refugees’ own strategies for return (Wilson 1993). By confirming the value that many refugees place upon information about their home country, a potentially larger role for the international community can be suggested to be either the direct supply of information, or at least the support of an infrastructure through which refugees can obtain information … <This> case study emphasizes the need for the full participation of refugees in cross-border information programmes as well as in repatriation projects more generally.11 The study also determined that refugees seek information both from “official” institutional sources, perceived as more credible on certain topics, and from personal contacts who are more trusted on other matters, thereby implying that a multi-level approach to providing repatriation information to refugees in the camp would be most effective. Additionally, recent initiatives such as the Dialogue on Voluntary Repatriation and Sustainable Reintegration in Africa and UNHCR’s Convention Plus have called for a “more holistic and integrated” approach to reintegration and rehabilitation,“rooted in community-based programming”.12 During the Dialogue, in which African and other interested governments, UN agencies, international organisations and NGOs participated, the “social and economic reintegration of populations was cited as the most delicate period in any peace process”.13 UNHCR has further noted, “experience shows that if the issue of sustainability or reintegration of refugee and displaced populations is not addressed properly, the countries concerned will almost inevitably slide back into conflict”.14 Numerous variables may influence the sustainability of return and reintegration. Key among them are employment, housing, security, education and public and social services and infrastructure.15 Although meeting even basic needs during repatriation and reintegration is a challenge, researchers and practitioners increasingly acknowledge the importance of cultural and psychosocial factors, i.e. how individuals’ sense of “home” and belonging changes, and how cultural and social practices may have changed in exile, potentially leading to rifts between returnees and those who remained in the country of origin.

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In fact, the material and psycho-social difficulties that accompany reintegration are extremely intertwined and should not be separated; landlessness, joblessness, homelessness, food insecurity etc. all impact on the psychological well-being of the returnee. Nonetheless, the meaning of returning “home” and its psychosocial implications are persistently overlooked by the international refugee regime which assumes that, apart from the obvious material difficulties accompanying reintegration, returnees will naturally “re-connect” with their homeland and recover the feeling of well-being they enjoyed before the events leading to their flight. The problem is not only that this belief is wrong, but that it is shared by the returnees themselves.16 These are some of the complex factors involved in ensuring refugees a safe, informed and voluntary repatriation and sustainable reintegration. Recent innovations have been made with regard to information dissemination in the repatriation process, such as Search for Common Ground’s mass information campaigns using radio news broadcasts and serial dramas in West Africa.17 However, the extent to which refugees (with the possible exception of refugee community leaders) are being directly engaged in the process of meeting repatriation and reintegration informational needs is still limited. And while theatre has been used in reintegration settings to address conflict transformation, the use of video to support reintegration has been minimal. Furthermore, a model for using participatory video in this context does not exist. Participatory video methodologies could ensure that the refugee community participates in the dissemination of repatriation information as well as encourage discussions about anticipated challenges and possible solutions to reintegration, engaging the lesser-heard voices of women and youth. Involving refugee youth in the voluntary repatriation and reintegration process
If the youth are not coming home, then the country will not be developed … all the youth must unite for the better future in our country.
Lokot Paul, a Sudanese refugee youth, in the participatory video production The Storm Is Over

16 Ghanem, Tania (2005). In A. Bolesta, Refugee Crises and International Response: Towards Permanent Solutions? Warsaw: Leon Kozminski Academy of Entrepreneurship and Management, pp. 124–25. 17 Search for Common Ground is a non-profit organisation that focuses on conflict resolution and conflict prevention. See: http://www.sfcg.org/program mes/liberia/liberia_successrefu gee.html 18 FilmAid International’s Proposal to the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM), 2005. The majority of FilmAid’s repatriation-related activities were funded by BPRM, an office of the U.S. State Department. 19 Topics included repatriation rights, entitlements and procedures, prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse as well as other protection concerns, HIV/AIDS awareness, conflict resolution and mine risk education. These topics were identified as priority issue areas through discussions with the refugee community. 20 Co-ordinating a country of origin information campaign would have been challenging any sooner, given that procedures and resources for gathering the information in South Sudan were still being established by partner agencies.

The overarching goal of FilmAid’s repatriation project was “to contribute to a safe, informed and voluntary repatriation of Sudanese refugees residing in Kenya and to help facilitate the rehabilitation process in southern Sudan by equipping refugees with knowledge of issues critical to reintegration”. The desired outcome was that beneficiaries would “have a greater understanding of assisted repatriation procedures, their rights and entitlements, and issues relevant to reintegration so that they are better prepared for repatriation and a healthy reintegration in Southern Sudan”.18 In the autumn of 2005, FilmAid’s Kakuma staff began a mass public information campaign on repatriation and issues relevant to reintegration through large, open-air screenings and smaller, video-based workshops.19 In the autumn of 2006, a country of origin information campaign was piloted in addition to these activities, in response to calls from the refugee community for information about the specific conditions in their home regions.20 To further address the multidimensional nature of the

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Sudanese refugees record voice-overs for a locally produced video about the repatriation.
Photo courtesy of FilmAid International.

21 Bannon, I., Holland, P. and Rahim, A. (2005) “Youth in Post-Conflict Settings”, Youth Development Notes, 1(1). Children & Youth Unit, Human Development Network, World Bank, p. 4. [http://siteresources.worldban k.org/INTCY/Publications/2084 5374/YDN1conflict.pdf ] 22 World Bank (2005) Children and Youth: A Framework for Action. Washington, DC: The World Bank; Park, K., Shiffer, E. and Sung, E. (2007) Tracking the Progress of Refugee Youth: Development of a Monitoring and Evaluation System for FilmAid International’s Youth Participatory Video Project. New York: Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

information needs and increase the community’s involvement, FilmAid engaged refugee youth in the repatriation project through participatory video activities. In post-conflict settings, the most common experience for youth is “one of alienation and exclusion”.21 Having a way to contribute directly to their communities can greatly affect youths’ self-esteem and helps them become actors who are able to address a range of community needs in the future.22 Creating a space for youth to express themselves and develop their voices was of utmost importance in this case, given the particular nature of this repatriation, which entailed the return of the Lost Boys of Sudan and thousands of other youth upon whom the future stability of the country will depend. In 2001, FilmAid launched a participatory video programme (PVP) in Kakuma Camp to help meet the need for stimulating activities that encourage creativity, communication and productive collaboration among the refugee youth. As part of FilmAid’s involvement in the South Sudan voluntary repatriation process, FilmAid began focusing its PVP activities in 2005 on training Sudanese refugee youth in video production in order to help them reflect upon, record and share

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Youth discuss HIV/AIDS during a FilmAid repatriation workshop.
Photo courtesy of FilmAid International.

23 Freire, P. (1986) Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968), trans. Myra Bergman Ramos. New York: Continuum. See also Gumucio-Dagron, A. and Tufte, T. (eds) (2006) Communication for Social Change Anthology: Historical and Contemporary Readings. Communication for Social Change Consortium, Inc. 24 Given its burgeoning popularity in the last two decades, several case studies of participatory media projects exist from which practitioners can draw ideas and models. See the Chiapas Media Project (www.chiapasmediaproject.or g)and Communication for Change, http://www.c4c.org. See also Gumucio-Dagron and Tufte (2006), op. cit.; Kinkade, S. and Macy, C. (2003) What Works in Youth Media: Case Studies from Around the World. Baltimore, MD: International Youth Foundation. (http://www.iyfnet.org/upload s/WW%20Youth%20Led%20Media.pdf ); Goodsmith, L., Konie, Z. and Malony, T. (2007) Through our Eyes: Participatory Video in West Africa, ARC News; Odutola, K.A. (2003) “Participatory Use of Video: a Case Study of Community Involvement in Story Construction”, Global Media Journal, 2, pp. 1–24; and Shaw, J. and Robertson, C. (1997) Participatory Video: a Practical Guide to Using Video Creatively in Group Development Work. London and New York: Routledge.

their own views on their potential repatriation, including their fears, hopes, concerns and questions – as well as the challenges they perceived to reintegrating in South Sudan. The goal was to provide these youth with a forum for dialogue, access to a communication channel, and engagement in raising awareness in their community about issues critical to reintegration, including country of origin information. Among the reintegration-related concerns identified and subsequently addressed by the youth were conflict resolution, gender biases and the spread of HIV/AIDS. Participatory video grew out of the paradigm of development communication based on Paolo Freire’s theorisations linking dialogue, reflection and critical awareness about social realities to the empowerment of the poor and disenfranchised.23 Participatory projects have made use of theatre, radio, video and other media to accomplish goals set by the participants themselves, often in consultation with their communities. With the rapid growth of affordable digital technology, participatory video methodologies have become a popular tool for community and individual empowerment and for addressing local problems in an equitable manner. A wide range of issues, such as gender equity, human rights, environmental conservation, HIV/AIDS awareness and health messaging, have been addressed through participatory media practices at the community level. 24 Recent innovations in mobile phone technology are expanding the possibilities for such projects. Participatory video methodology is designed to enable marginalised voices to be heard, deprivileging hierarchical systems of communication and knowledge, and transcending boundaries

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25 Park, K., Shiffer, E. and Sung, E. (2007) Tracking the Progress of Refugee Youth: Development of a Monitoring and Evaluation System for FilmAid International’s Youth Participatory Video Project. New York: Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, p. 9. 26 Pabari, Dipesh (2007) Repatriation Assistance to Sudanese Refugees in Kenya: Evaluation of Project Implementation and Impact. Kenya: FilmAid International, p. 8. 27 Some of the Sudanese youth in the PVP are themselves orphaned. 28 In UNHCR’s Dialogue on Voluntary Repatriation and Sustainable Reintegration in Africa, stakeholders also noted the potential negative impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the reintegration process. (UNHCR (2004). Dialogue on Voluntary Repatriation and Sustainable Reintegration in Africa: Chairman’s Summing Up and Conclusions. Geneva: UNHCR, p. 2.) In Kakuma, there have been reports that the Sudanese who remained in country are concerned that returning refugees will bring the disease with them.

of illiteracy and language. With the support of a participatory video facilitator, learning to use the power of the camera to reach group or community goals boosts confidence, encourages selfexpression and fosters collaboration. Such projects can promote individual growth and leadership, conflict resolution, community mobilisation and self-determination. Furthermore, “Popular participation has been proven to increase the quality of decision-making, multiplies the chances of a successful outcome, and has been a catalyst for the mobilization of participants”25 While radio has the potential to reach a mass audience at very low cost, video is unique in offering a visual dimension that enhances the learning experience, particularly across language barriers. In focus group discussions with the Sudanese refugee community, an independent evaluator of FilmAid’s repatriation activities found that “film was stated to be one of the most effective modes as it also serves to bring large groups together and visual impact is considered much more effective than any other”.26 From the outset of the repatriation project, participatory video activities were developed with Sudanese youth to help them to reflect upon, record and share their own views on repatriation and to encourage discussion of the issues that may arise when reintegrating in South Sudan. The youth had control over this creative process, with the goal of helping them increase their confidence, selfesteem, critical thinking, and an independent understanding of the choices they would face. Their videos were then shared with the broader Sudanese community through daytime and evening screenings, becoming a vehicle to stimulate dialogue on a larger scale. According to FilmAid’s refugee staff in Kakuma, previous PVP videos had become some of the most popular videos in FilmAid’s evening screenings in the camp, so the youth-produced videos on repatriation seemed a promising way to share information and ideas and to stimulate dialogue in the community. Seventy youth were targeted; seventy-nine ultimately participated in some or all of the PVP activities. The youth first engaged in repatriation-related activities through the production of several short videos in which they articulated their concerns about repatriation and reintegration, such as HIV/AIDS, conflict resolution and the fate of orphaned children.27 In addition, some of the youth were involved in the production of two video newscasts (“Kakuma News”) containing country of origin information from partner agencies’ bulletins and village assessment forms. Lastly, the youth helped lead workshops for other members of the community on HIV/AIDS, one of the issues they had identified as an important but controversial topic relevant to reintegration.28 As part of this project, FilmAid staff, external volunteers and consultants provided training sessions for the youth, ranging from technical video production skills (camerawork, editing etc.) to storytelling skills. The primary goal of this training was to help the youth improve interpersonal communication and leadership skills, self-confidence, and creative and critical thinking. Cultivating these strengths is fundamental to most participatory media projects; the technical training is secondary. However, it is noteworthy that some of the youth who have received technical training in the PVP have found employment putting these skills to use elsewhere.

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Outcomes By November 2007, the PVP youth had produced over twenty short films tackling repatriation and other topics they felt were relevant to a safe and sustainable reintegration. These videos were developed collectively by the youth, who had full creative control over the productions, including the perspectives presented. The majority address social and health-related concerns including conflict resolution, forced and early marriage, HIV/AIDS, infidelity, abstinence, teen pregnancy and child abuse, as well as sexual exploitation and abuse. Of the videos that focused on the repatriation process itself, one is a documentary-style film in which young people discuss their fears and hopes about repatriating; another uses drama to illustrate the frustrations of life in the camp, depicting repatriation as a possible way out of the despair. “People have to go back because this is their homeland; this is where their life must be. If they don’t go back who will develop that place? If they remain here, no one will develop it,” argued one Sudanese man in the PVP. A smaller sub-group of the PVP worked with FilmAid repatriation project staff to develop and pilot Kakuma News, two video news clips on country of origin information. The youth recorded themselves in the role of news anchors, reporting information gathered from FilmAid’s partner agencies in Sudan, including the International Rescue Committee, the Lutheran World Federation, UNHCR and the Sudan Radio Service. Topics addressed included the current status of the education system, the upcoming government census, and the status of health concerns in South Sudan. Kakuma News was not strictly a participatory production, as the content was largely chosen and contextualised by FilmAid staff

PVP participants being trained to present country of origin information in Kakuma News.
Photo courtesy of FilmAid International.

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29 Park, Shiffer and Sung (2007) op. cit., p. 27.

(including refugee staff ) and partner agencies. Furthermore, the youth were offered material incentives for working on the news clips, which had tight deadlines due to the time-bound nature of the country of origin information. The sensitive nature of the information (both in terms of timeliness and content) required the involvement and direction of more senior-level staff. As of December 2007, nearly 10,500 refugees in Kakuma had seen Kakuma News, while PVP’s videos had reached a cumulative audience of nearly 60,000. In addition, the youth’s videos were shown on a television in the back of FilmAid’s Mobile Information Van. The van was used to go further into the camp with detailed written and visual country of origin information materials that refugees could browse through as needed, with staff on hand to answer questions.

As of December 2007, nearly 10,500 refugees in Kakuma had seen Kakuma News, while the PVP’s videos had reached a cumulative audience of nearly 60,000.

Successes

One immediate success of the PVP activities in Kakuma was that a space was created for Sudanese youth to become actively involved in discussions about repatriation and reintegration. The Kakuma refugee community remains structured by traditional Sudanese social hierarchies in which young people, particularly girls, rarely get the opportunity to articulate their concerns and ideas publicly. The PVP activities have offered the space for this demographic – who will play a critical role in ensuring a sustainable future for South Sudan – to articulate their concerns, fears, hopes and aspirations. Another success was identified by SIPA graduate student researchers, who reported that PVP members expressed a strengthened ability to communicate, as well as greater confidence in groups. Some of their findings from evaluative focus group discussions (FGDs) are worth quoting at length: <One PVP member said> his favorite experience was directing because he now feels more confident in leading people under other circumstances in the community. For example, completing the hectic shooting schedule for a recent film festival <in the camp> gave him confidence that he can accomplish “something more than the usual.” Another PVP member said that before PVP he was afraid to speak to groups, but that now he is more comfortable expressing himself. Three others replied that they are more confident presenting themselves in front of people. One said, “It has helped me speak my thoughts without any fear.” Most male PVP members within one FGD mentioned that they value the ability to share information with the community. One added this was important to “enable them to change.” … Along with developing their confidence, they have begun to realize that their status in the community is growing. One said he now knows how to find and share information about important issues like HIV/AIDS. Another said that acting in PVP films has given him some fame – people in the community recognize him now – he laughed as he said this.29

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The majority of these responses came from male participants, who comprise 66 per cent of the PVP participants in the repatriation project activities. Nonetheless, the SIPA researchers noted similar progress among the young women, such as: “One of the female participants said that PVP had greatly impacted her by giving her public speaking skills.” Overall, their evaluation of the project “showed a trend of increased levels of communication skills. Both males and females reported increased levels of comfort when addressing large groups, expressing opinions in the family, and making statements in the community.” 30 Participatory video can be a potent tool for the empowerment of women, who have traditionally been excluded from the use of technology; women have shown improved communication skills and self-confidence, which in turn helps elevate their status in their communities.31 FilmAid viewed the young women’s participation in the PVP as an important stepping stone towards ensuring that their voices were heard in every stage of the repatriation and reintegration process. This is in keeping with the position put forth in UNHCR’s Dialogue on Voluntary Repatriation and Sustainable Reintegration in Africa that, “All sectors of society, particularly women, youths and vulnerable groups, must be given the opportunity to contribute meaningfully.”32 Recruiting and sustaining the participation of young women in the PVP was an ongoing challenge to which we will return later in this chapter. However, the progress made by the young women who did participate was seen as an important outcome of the project’s activities. Also noteworthy is that adult members of the refugee community observed a positive change in the youth who had participated in the PVP. As reported by the SIPA researchers, Sudanese women in focus group discussions perceived “that PVP members had experienced positive change and that it had brought out their hidden potential … More than one community member noted that the PVP program brought a sense of hope to the community.” They also found that the PVP’s videos were affecting knowledge and awareness among non-participating youth in the broader community.33 There is thus evidence of a collective community benefit of the PVP. Increasing confidence, communication and leadership skills is critical in a community that, due to great dependency on aid agencies, may be more accustomed to ingratiating themselves rather than speaking freely. This is further compounded by feelings of helplessness that lead to a lack of confidence in one’s own abilities to proactively solve problems. The potential for participatory video to counter what Koser calls the “dependency syndrome” is of particular interest given the vastness of this challenge in a protracted refugee setting. The fact that tens of thousands of the Sudanese refugees in Kakuma Camp arrived as children and have grown into young adulthood in the confines of the camp poses an enormous challenge to a sustainable reintegration; countering dependency syndrome is particularly difficult when collective memory of independent, organic community life is scant. As one of the Sudanese youth in the PVP recently said, “People should now forget about dependency … it is you to <sic> sweat to get what you want.” Another noted that creating a culture of independence will help Sudanese refugees to regain their self-esteem.

30 Ibid. 31 See Garthwaite, A. (2000) “Community Documentaries and Participatory Video”, PLA Notes, 38. <http://www.iied.org/NR/agbi oliv/pla_notes/pla_backissues /documents/plan_03815.p df>; Servaes, J., Jacobson, T.L. and White, S.A. (1996) Participatory Communication for Social Change. New Delhi and Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications; Gumucio Dagron, A. (2001) Making Waves: Stories of Participatory Communication for Social Change. New York: The Rockefeller Foundation. 32 UNHCR (2004) “Dialogue on Voluntary Repatriation and Sustainable Reintegration in Africa: Discussion Paper No. 1.” Refugee Survey Quarterly, 23(3), p. 262. 33 Park, Shiffer and Sung (2007) op. cit., pp. 29, 32.

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Although FilmAid has made a concerted effort to promote the autonomy of the PVP project, many participants still believe that they engage in PVP activities primarily on behalf of the organisation. FilmAid continues to experiment with participatory video methodologies in refugee camp settings, but its staff often struggle to articulate the concept of a youth group that is autonomous yet at the same time necessarily dependent on FilmAid’s support.34 It has been a challenge for the youth to internalise “ownership” of the project. The culture of dependency in protracted refugee contexts makes it difficult to unlock creativity and self-motivation. So while the project has met with some success in creating a platform for uninhibited discussion among the PVP members, this has at times been tempered by the youth’s tendency to mimic the pedantic style of communication learned in school and from NGOs in the camp, rather than forging their own creative and critical communication styles.

An independent evaluator of FilmAid’s repatriation project recently reported that “technical training and capacity building through PVP has provided opportunities to refugees that would otherwise not be available.”
34 In an effort to promote the autonomy of the PVP, FilmAid, in collaboration with the youth, has structured the group as a “club”. The youth developed their own club constitution and elected leadership positions. They are directly involved in yearly, participatory, strategic planning activities to determine their own priorities for the club. The youth introduce their videos at FilmAid’s regular outdoor evening screenings, and have also held their own film festival showcasing their videos in the camp. 35 Pabari (2007) op. cit., p. 12. 36 Park, Shiffer and Sung (2007) op. cit., p. 32.

At the same time, however, there are promising signs of capacity and skills building, with unexpected benefits. An independent evaluator of FilmAid’s repatriation project recently reported that “technical training and capacity building through PVP has provided opportunities to refugees that would otherwise not be available. For example, one member is now working with a TV station in Southern Sudan while another is working in a radio station. Another member is working as an editor for a radio station in Nairobi.”35

In their work on reintegration, PVP participants showed an eagerness to help steer their communities away from inter-tribal conflict and towards a lasting peace. Inter-tribal conflict had played an ongoing role in the devastation of South Sudan and tribal tensions periodically surface in Kakuma Camp. The argument expressed by one participant that, “People should forget about tribalism and think about development”, was supported by the PVP’s activities to raise awareness about conflict resolution in preparation for reintegration. According to the SIPA researchers, PVP members felt that the diversity of the participants in the project itself (nearly all of the Sudanese tribes were represented) served as an example to the broader Sudanese community of peaceful collaboration across tribes.36
Challenges and limitations

While FilmAid’s PVP programme is not new, its repatriation project is. As with any new project – particularly one with few examples or models on which to draw – several valuable lessons can be gleaned. First, participatory video in a protracted refugee setting may require a longer time period to develop a culture of autonomy and self-empowerment, which otherwise may emerge more quickly in traditional community contexts. This is due primarily to systemic issues that encourage the culture of dependency, mentioned above. The Kakuma Camp context is particularly challenging given that many of the youth have spent the majority of their lives in the camp. Time, both on the part of support staff and the youths themselves, is therefore a key factor. In Kakuma, a majority of the members are still in school and must juggle the PVP activities with their schoolwork. The harsh environment further limits the hours of productivity in a day. Productions are often rushed to completion over school holidays, compromising the consistency of learning, as well as the quality of their videos.

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37 Park, Shiffer and Sung (2007), op. cit., pp. 30–31. 38 Ibid. 39 No positive or negative valuation of the cultural changes that may occur during exile is implied by the authors. Ghanem, in Bolesta (2005), op. cit., p. 125; Dona, G. and Berry, J.W. (1999) “Refugee Acculturation and Reacculturation”, in A. Ager (ed.), Refugees: The Perspectives on the Experience of Forced Migration. New York: Cassell.

Sudanese women participate in a workshop on HIV/AIDS.
Photo courtesy of FilmAid International.

Young women face the additional challenges of domestic chores and cultural constraints. The role of women in the Sudanese community in Kakuma is typically confined to doing household chores, fetching water and looking after children. In a focus group discussion conducted by the graduate student research team, female PVP members noted chores, schoolwork, cultural constraints and the lack of pay as reasons some young women had cited for dropping out of the programme.37 Even in more liberal settings where women and girls are allowed to articulate their views, rarely are they encouraged to participate. Given these circumstances, it was not surprising that the rate of participation of young women was lower than hoped; this has been the case since the project’s inception despite outreach efforts in the community to encourage support for female participation. Interestingly, in a focus group discussion with male youth from the refugee community who were not members of the PVP, there was an overwhelming consensus that more women should be involved in the PVP.38 This is one example of the ways in which this generation of Sudanese youth may be different from their predecessors. Exposure to host community practices, as well as the heavy influence of Western aid agencies on camp life, creates the conditions for social and cultural practices to change significantly among refugee communities in a protracted exile.39 Anxieties about reintegrating and reconciling the resulting social and cultural differences have commonly been expressed in the PVP’s discussions. Because of repatriation, turnover (of both Sudanese refugee staff and PVP members) has been high, slowing the project’s progress as replacement staff and participants are trained. This will be an inherent challenge to participatory media projects in repatriation settings. Furthermore, as the

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number of refugees returning to South Sudan increases, organisations should consider all of the ways in which they might support the reintegration process in order to ensure that the repatriation is sustainable. Ideally, a project of this sort would be cross-border in nature so that PVP members could continue to develop their skills and be assisted in reintegrating in their country of origin. However, this has been a challenge for FilmAid because of southern Sudan’s vast size, lack of infrastructure and high operating costs and the organisation’s limited resources. FilmAid’s reintegration strategy thus far has been to focus on the youth in the PVP in Kakuma, to assist them in examining the challenges to reintegration that they may face and to explore possible solutions. Measuring impact is yet another inevitable challenge of participatory video. As referenced throughout this chapter, FilmAid has enlisted the help of independent researchers to provide assessments of the project’s initial outcomes. The added challenges of working in a refugee setting, particularly during repatriation, may slow the pace of progress and the production of material “deliverables” that can be shared with donors. “Donor fatigue” can be a particular problem in a repatriation context, where rate of return is often slower than expected and outcomes may be less predictable. Developing the autonomy of the PVP while simultaneously meeting donor expectations has been an ongoing challenge for the FilmAid project. Donors frequently desire quantifiable impact indicators, which can be a challenge for participatory video projects due to the qualitative, often long-term nature of the objectives. The participatory methodology can be compromised by donors whose cost–benefit analyses emphasise reaching the largest number of people on the smallest budget. Lessons learned and suggestions for the future One of the goals of this study was to begin to develop a set of “best practices” for future projects using participatory video in repatriation contexts. Towards that end we will offer some initial notes. First, as with any programme in a refugee setting, protection concerns must be taken into account. Young women participating in youth group activities may be particularly vulnerable to mental or physical attack because they are perceived as going against cultural expectations and norms, particularly if the group is mixed gender. FilmAid is committed to preventing sexual exploitation and abuse and as such all staff, volunteers and PVP participants must sign a code of conduct and be trained on the topic. However, as PVP members are not FilmAid staff, there is little action that can be taken against youth who violate this code. Protection concerns remain a primary consideration. Another recommended practice is to ensure the involvement of the refugee community at every stage of project design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Participatory approaches to these stages can strengthen ownership, build community and contribute to long-term sustainability. That includes a participatory approach to defining the measures of “sustainability” itself in the context of repatriation and reintegration.

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Further research on the potential for participatory video to address psychosocial aspects of repatriation, such as anxiety, fear and conflict, would be helpful for future programme design. <The> reconstruction of one’s links to “home” is seldom a straight-forward, spontaneous and effortless process … Their experience is compared to a person who has undergone a severe car accident. When one takes the driver’s seat again, all the feelings and emotions from the accident come to the surface once more … the decision to return raises anxieties even for those who have been dreaming of their homecoming for many years.40 Addressing the psychosocial needs of refugees in Kakuma has been one of FilmAid’s primary goals from the start. However, further study of the therapeutic potential of participatory video and theatre to help refugees – particularly youth – come to terms with their anxieties and fears about reintegration is needed.

40 Ghanem, in Bolesta (2005), op. cit., pp. 117, 126. 41 Koser documented examples in Malawi of repatriation decisions made based on inaccurate information about conditions in Mozambique (the country of origin), or on information that had changed by the time the refugees had returned. Koser also noted that “The potency of (mis)information campaigns in discouraging refugees from returning has been witnessed in the recent past in the case of Rwandan refugees.” Koser (1997), op. cit., p. 3.

As we have argued, future repatriation projects should have a cross-border component to enable 42 Ibid. as much support for reintegration as possible. This could facilitate additional ways of gathering country of origin information, as well as the possibility of addressing tensions between returnees and those who remained in country. One model would be to provide the Developing the autonomy of the PVP tools and training to pre-existing community groups or local while simultaneously meeting donor organisations in South Sudan, who are in a better position to offer expectations has been an ongoing participatory video programmes than organisations that were previously challenge for the FilmAid project. operating only in the camps. While the PVP was only minimally involved in FilmAid’s country of origin information campaign, it should be noted that such information – particularly communicated through a visual medium – is powerful, and may have unintended effects. As Koser and others have noted, information can also be a coercive force, compromising the voluntary nature of the decision to return. During the planning stage of FilmAid’s repatriation project, careful consideration was given to how to collect, package and disseminate the country of origin information, and to what extent and how the PVP (and other members of the refugee community) could be involved. The conditions in southern Sudan are ever-changing and delivering information (particularly related to security) one day that could be erroneous the next was a significant protection concern.41 Koser has argued that,“emphasis should be placed on the way that information about home conditions is received and evaluated”.42 This is particularly important in a community where media literacy is relatively low; some viewers may not be as prepared to contextualise and evaluate the information they see on the screen as those of us accustomed to navigating a screen-saturated society with a critical eye. Lastly, practitioners should remain self-reflective and sensitive to modes of thinking that may not apply to every refugee community. As several researchers and practitioners have found, individuals’ sense of “home” and belonging may no longer be associated with their country of origin. (The current system of repatriation as a durable solution does not take this into account.) Further, because most participatory media models were based upon Western conceptions of democracy

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43 Black, R. and Gent, S. (2004) Defining, Measuring and Influencing Sustainable Return: The Case of the Balkans. Brighton: Development Research Centre on Migration, Globalisation and Poverty, p. 19.

and empowerment, planners must remain flexible and open to different ways of helping the community meet its own needs on its own terms. Conclusion While we may understand the power of the visual, we do not yet understand all of the possible impacts that video might have in the complex context of repatriation and reintegration, where much is at stake. As Black and Gent have noted, “what happens to returnees, whether return is sustainable, and what contributes to the sustainability of return, remain under-explored areas”.43 The multidimensional nature of the information needs in a repatriation context cannot be underestimated. Combining participatory video with mass information campaigns is an important step towards meeting these needs, guided by the direct involvement of the refugee community. FilmAid’s engagement of refugee youth in the repatriation process through participatory video activities can help inform the design of future repatriation support services and information campaigns. Even more important, perhaps, is the contribution participatory video might make to ensuring the sustainability of the reintegration process, an area for further exploration and innovation. As this chapter has examined, there are unique opportunities as well as challenges to using participatory video in a refugee setting, with added considerations in the context of repatriation. A truly voluntary repatriation may remain an elusive goal under current systems of governance, but ensuring the dignity of the return through access to information and communication channels should not be. Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank FilmAid International’s Kakuma, Nairobi and New York offices for their assistance. They also thank Anthony Muteru, Amy Kwan, François Bar, Amy Keith, Ashley Wax, Jayshree Bajoria, Kendra Park, Erin Shiffer and Elizabeth Sung.