It is a chilly Tuesday evening in Liphakoeng – a community perched on a hillside above the industrial zone of Ha Thetsane in Maseru. People are just getting home: many of them are workers in the nearby textile factories, and it is a long walk up the steep tar road before they turn onto the dirt paths that lead to their homes.

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Crowd watching Siyakhona’s “Fresh Cut,”community magazine show

On this workday evening, however, something unusual is happening in this community. On a small, rocky patch of ground underneath a tree and beside a small food stall selling fruits and snacks, a giant blow-up screen has been set up. Music is pumping from speakers and as it gets dark, people are beginning to curiously gather around the noise and lights.

This is the first of a series of screenings that the Siyakhona Media Studio @ Kick4Life is holding in communities in and around Maseru. It has now been seven months since the team of eight began their intensive training in filmmaking and citizen journalism. This evening, they are screening Fresh Cut – their first “magazine show” – which includes a series of short five-minute films that profile a variety of local personalities, topics and current affairs.

The central piece of the show, however, is a sixteen-minute call-to-action film called The Darkest Hour, which explores the lack of access to clean water that many communities in Maseru continue to face.

“Siyakhona works with communities to find out what burning issues they are facing. We went out and spoke to people and we found out that one of the most urgent issues they face is access to safe drinking water,” explains Malefu Taoana, of the Siyakhona crew members.

“We visited Tšenola Lepereng, a community in Maseru where many people struggle to get safe drinking water. We worked with one of the villagers there – an elderly lady who sometimes has to wake up at 2am to go and fetch water with her grandchildren, and even then sometimes finds that there is a queue of people waiting at the well. We spent the whole day with her filming her story, following her through the day and seeing for ourselves how much she struggles to get water.”

“Affordable water and sanitation is a human right, and we are trying to make sure that people have access to this,” says Malefu. “Lesotho sells water to other countries, but so many Basotho people don’t have water themselves.”

On this Tuesday in Liphakoeng, many of the people who are walking past the screening are carrying buckets of water on their heads. This too is a community where access to water is a daily struggle for most residents. In the growing dark, more and more people gather as, one after the next, the Fresh Cut films are played. The Darkest Hour is screened last, and by this time there is a sizeable group of people standing around – their interest sparked by what is clearly an issue that is relevant to their lives.

At the end of the screening, the Siyakhona crew invites members of the audience to come up and express their opinions about the topic. People come up one by one, with little hesitation, and speak firmly, sometimes angrily, into the microphone. They narrate the frustrations, the string of promises made and broken by politicians and officials, and the need for members of the community to speak out and take action.

“We have been getting positive reactions to the screenings from people,” says Malefu. “A woman I spoke to at one of the screenings told me that it makes her happy to see that there are people who care for them. People in her community have been complaining about water for a long time, but they haven’t been heard. She believes that Siyakhona will bring change into their lives.”

“We are working with the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) to collect 10,000 signatures for a petition that will be handed to the government. We are also trying to inspire communities to work together to find short-term solutions, such as finding ways to protect a local well from livestock, or getting a cooperative together to buy a water pump.”

“We are trying to reach as many communities as we can, and at the moment are doing three screenings a week. We’ve partnered with Sesotho Media and Development, and will soon be moving to communities outside of Maseru. We’ve collected 606 signatures so far, and we’ll keep going until we reach the goal of 10,000.”

Written by: Leila Hall

The Hillside Digital Trust is proud to announce that it has been awarded a grant of £10,074.92 from the Indigo Trust in support of the Hillside Digital Trust’s implementation of Sony and FIFA’s Siyakhona Media Studio at the Kick4Life Football for Hope centre in Maseru, Lesotho. The much needed funding will enable the participants to benefit from a further three months of intensive training by providing salary costs, travel, Internet and administration.Image

 Siyakhona (We can do it) is a project that identifies youth, both men and women, from varied and under-privileged backgrounds and provides them with the skills and confidence to be the voice of their community. The hands on and practical training in human rights, journalistic skills and ethics, digital film production, community engagement and creative thinking will empower 8 young leaders to inspire active community participation in bringing about social change through their call to action films. The group are training hard to become citizen video journalists and human rights activists, investigating the views and experiences of those whose voice is less often heard in Lesotho, including young people’s views on HIV and AIDS.

“We are delighted with the support and faith the trustees of The Indigo Trust has placed in us and Siyakhona. The grant will go a long way toward ensuring the success and sustainability of the Siyakhona Media Studio in Lesotho,” said Danny Lurie, founder and Director of The Hillside Digital Trust.

The trainees recently completed their first cycle of training that culminated with the launch of the Siyakhona Media Studio to the public at the Football for Hope Centre in Maseru. Students screened their first films to an impressed and delighted audience.

In the next few weeks the video journalists will use their training to engage their community to discover their burning social issues. With the community’s support Siyakhona will seek to understand the problem, its root causes and together they will find creative solutions to implement. Siyakhona will produce a magazine show highlighting the issue and their call to action, and screen it all over the community to rally support and mobilization.

Rather than me telling you how the project is continuing with the support of the Indigo Trust and the project’s headline sponsors, I recommend you read about it from the video journalists themselves at www.siyakhonak4l.blogspot.com

“Morning everyone. My name is Danny and this is Herbert. Welcome to the Siyakhona training program. I am from the Hillside Digital Trust, a not for profit organization that trains young people like yourselves in human rights based participatory video journalism and community activism. Herbert is one of the first guys we trained in Alexandra Township in the first Siyakhona project. For the next 3 months we’re going to train you to become experts in and protectors of human rights, learn to think critically, research and engage experts, your neighbors and other stakeholders. We’re going to teach you how to film, edit and screen your call to action films to your community and to the world. And we’re going to have fun doing it. You will use these skills to fight HIV and AIDS and bring about dramatic social change in Lesotho.”

First day of training at the Kick4Life Football for Hope Center in Maseru, Lesotho

First day of training at the Kick4Life Football for Hope Center in Maseru, Lesotho

Following the success of implementing Siyakhona in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape and Alexandra Township on the outskirts of Johannesburg, Sony and FIFA have sponsored the Siyakhona Media Studio, with additional support from Streetfootballworld, for the Kick4Life Football for Hope Center in Maseru, situated behind the Palace of Justice on the old police training grounds.

Herbert and I kicked off the training by getting our new students to handle the camera for the first time. ‘Today was the most amazing day in my life. Unlike in most film schools and universities, the first thing we did was going straight into practically handling the camera and the mic. Everybody had a turn to introduce themselves with a mic while somebody was behind the camera filming them. Likewise, everybody had a turn behind the camera and film the introduction,’ writes Lepheana in his journal.

After an introduction to human rights and how it began the Siyakhona crew were sent out into the community to see how much people knew about their human rights. “I learned a lot about human rights only to find out there are 30 human rights, we did a little research, asked people what they knew about human rights. I believe as Siyakhona we’ll teach the community about what we have learned and we’re going to work hand in hand to bring changes,” writes Ben Mohajane. If you’d like to know more about your human rights, visit Youth for Human Rights

Watch our video on their first week of training and follow their progress on their very own blog site, Siyakhona Lesotho The site will be regularly updated with the Siyakhona crew’s journals and blogs and pretty soon they will begin uploading their call to action videos. We hope you’ll join us on their journey.

The Hillside Digital Trust’s Siyakhona (We can do it) project in Alexandra Township, South Africa received recognition in the House of Lords on 8 October 2012. Brian Mjiyakho, an aspiring filmmaker trained in the Siyakhona project received a certificate of commendation from HIVsport patron; Baroness Potter-Newton, for his directorial debut, “Goal for Hope.”

 “It was a wonderful and awesome experience for me to be invited to the House of Lords in London to receive recognition for the work that we have done.  Meeting people was also the amazing part, it’s just a good feeling to know that there are also people who are inspired by the little work we do, while to them it’s a huge thing and to share ideas regarding some of the issues that we all experiencing,” said Brian Mjiyakho.

HIVsport ran an international competition that encouraged young people to create a short film that illustrated how sport can raise awareness about HIV and AIDS. This could be interpreted in any way they chose, keeping in mind that the purpose of this film was to be used to educate young people in Europe and Southern Africa.

 The Hillside Digital Trust upon learning of the HIVsport competition used the opportunity to train local high school student, Brian Mjiyakho to make a film about how football is being used to educate the youth on HIV and AIDS in Alexandra Township.

The film and associated education pack, available for use from www.hivsport.org was produced by HIVsport as part of the Millennium Development Goals Realisation Project, funded by the European Commission’s EuropeAid programme.

 A delegation of partner organisations from four countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Italy and South Africa) had convened in London for a series of EuropeAid meetings in support of this programme of work. The meetings culminated in a lunchtime reception in the River Room of the House of Lords, hosted by HIVsport Patron, Baroness Joyce Gould of Potternewton. Speakers at this event included the Rt. Hon Lord Speaker and Dr. David Hawkins, Chair of HIVsport.

 “The energy and quality of the ideas from all the young people engaged in this project has been excellent. HIVsport is delighted to be able to launch ‘Fact or Fiction?’ today in the House of Lords in the presence of our European Colleagues and film makers from South Africa”, said Dr David Hawkins.

 An award was presented to Brian Mjiyakho and Danny Lurie; founder of the Hillside Digital Trust from South Africa as part of this event followed by further presentations from winners of London’s Sex Factor Ideas 2012 (another competition that engaged young people about sexual health, linked to the 2012 Olympic Sexual Health Legacy Programme).Image

What we do

Posted: October 30, 2011 by Danny Lurie in Alexandra, HillsideDigital, Khayelitsha, PressClipping, Sony, The Process, Video

Hillside Digital citizen journalists (CJs) collect a minimum of 100 votes from their community on a particular issue before producing an advocacy based video on a call to action: Sony Fevacastors made a great video explaining what we’re about.

HD CJs research and interview all concerned before formulating and producing a film that calls for a ‘plan of action’.

Platform

The screenings provide a platform for information sharing, debate and (a specialist on HIV/AIDS, employment, housing, government policy etc) dialogue empowering the community and leadership to unite to find solutions to their most pressing issues- speeding up social change.

HD videos are screened to all parts of the community on portable projectors; covering a number of issues notably, service delivery, human rights, health, education and employment, local news as well as positive stories on local arts and entertainment, success and impact.

A post viewing dialogue will give the audience a chance to have their voice heard.

The videos empower the community to unite and find solutions to their most pressing issues; i.e. speeding up social change.

HD CJs are responsible for implementing an agreed upon action by the community and reporting back to their community.

Action

 

In each area where Hillside Digital operates, it coordinates with the area’s key role players; community leaders, NGOs, development forums and local authorities (when ethical) inspired by the community to ‘do it for themselves’ through the video advocacy screenings. Siyakhona inspires city to put rats in its crosshairs

DATE: 29 AUGUST 2011

VENUE: MC WEILER PRIMARY SCHOOL

We as Siyakhona went to the MC Weiler Primary school to screen the rats’ call to action film for 250 learners. We were truly amazed by the way the kids responded to our call for them to join the Siyakhona Initiative to get rid of the rats and pollution in Alexandra.

It was not only to show the film but to hear their views about the project and the film. Mandla from Eco-Solutions was there to tell the kids about the owls and how they will help Alexandra to reduce rat populations. The kids responded by saying:

“We want the owls because it’s good for the environment and they could help.” But there were two sides, others said “Owls are used to practice witchcraft”. Others said they were scared of rats but they would love to be part of the project of introducing owls to their school and a competition to turn waste into wealth by recycling as the environmental class.

They came with the solutions that they are using now, “as learners of MC Weiler we will go around our township and collect waste and recycle.

And they have their three R’s (re-use, reduce and recycle). So we urge the schools that are part of the competition to start looking at the environment differently and tell their peers to.

BY

Shirley Langley

Siyakhona held their mobile public cinema screening on 25 August 2011, the screening was held in the Setshwetla area near Marlboro Gardens. We demonstrated a good strategy of working together with local stakeholders such as Alex FM and Amakhone Esintu. The Alexandra community station reported on the event and dj Umbrella joined us to listen to what the community had to say. Amakhone Esintu, a local theatre production company performed African traditional ways of story telling to empower our community with issues related to battle against rats.

Mobile Community Cinema Screening

Lehlohonolo speaks to the community

Eco solutions provoked a possible solution by playing a digital story about owls and their role in managing the rats and also verbal teaching of the importance of balancing the eco system. Introducing owls to the rats problem is part of a solution which then sparked debate amongst the citizen of Setshwetla.

After the rats film the audience shared their views and opinions:

They highlighted the issue of cleanness as one of the problems, they then suggested to be given extra plastic bags to put in their rubbish.

People also have a problem of congestion as one of the problems that prevent proper cleanliness, and they suggest that the cleaning company must intensify cleaning effectively in congested areas .

They also highlighted the issue of housing as the main solution to the rats problem.

More than half the population believe in different myths that are attributed to owls . However one lady suggested that it would be better to live with owls than rats. The over-all response of people on this eco-solution showed a greater need for more workshops about owls.

The Setshwetla screening was one of the best screenings that we ever had around Alex. The turn out was +-350 people and more than 50 kids were there. Organizations from Alexandra township like Life Line also supported our consultation, helping us to facilitate the dialogue session after the film and encouraged us with support for the great work we are doing.