Saharawi Voice Project is a nonprofit participatory media initiative with the goal to use digital media as a tool for expression, empowerment, and advocacy for children and youth living in Saharawi refugee camps. In terms of expression, young refugees are encouraged to use creative media as therapeutic means of telling their stories and coping with hardships experienced. They are empowered by developing basic skill-sets in new media technology that can serve as a foundation for future work or study, while also exploring creative, proactive ways to deal with difficult situations. Their photographs, short-films, writings and internet-blogs become tools for advocacy, helping to amplify their voices and messages.
Youth in Saharawi refugee camps suffer from high unemployment, lack of opportunity, and physical and psychological challenges inflicted by living isolated under harsh and dangerous conditions in the middle of the Sahara desert in Algeria. They have spent almost their whole life in these camps, where approximately 165,000 Saharawi refugees have been waiting patiently for more than thirty-five years for a promised political solution, enabling them to return to their now occupied homeland Western Sahara. But their future still remains unsure. Bedouins once, they now are forced to immobility and are completely dependent on international aid. Some youth respond to these challenges by pushing for more radical solutions, while others, suffering from despair or depression, become apathetic. There is an urgent need for programs to engage refugee youth and children in creative projects in which they can channel their energies into constructive activities, giving them the option to be actively involved in their struggle for freedom in a peaceful way.
‣ Youth Voice: to enhance the capacity for self-expression of young Saharawi refugees.
‣ Youth Development: to develop the skills and personal attributes that enable young people to become
‣ Media Literacy: to strengthen the ability to analyze, evaluate, and produce information in a variety of media forms.
‣ Skill Development: to increase communication, critical thinking, technology, and media production skills.
‣ Cultural Exchange: to connect refugees via web and social media to the world to create powerful cross-
‣ Creative Action: to encourage youth to be involved in social action and civic engagement.
The Saharawi Voice Project firmly believes that working with youth to find and share their authentic voices is an important investment in our global future - that young people, their education, feelings of self worth and expression are the key to social change and sustainable development of open societies and safe communities.