Pandemic Stories

Peruvian video contest lets young people have their say

In November 2020, the Peruvian CAMECO partner network Coordinadora Nacional de Comunicaciones (CNC) invited adolescents between 13 and 17 years to share their personal experience of the Covid-19 pandemic. The contest, titled Historias Pandémicas (Pandemic Stories), offered them the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings with three-minute videos. The narrators of the ten best stories were to be awarded a cell phone each.

Over two hundred young people from all over the country participated in the contest. There were many moving stories, such as the one about a family in which the grandfather became seriously ill with Covid-19. To save him, the family resorted to the use of a drug that later turned out to be toxic. The grandfather died, with the family being accused of poisoning him. Other stories were more optimistic, such as the one told by the thirteen-year-old daughter of a single mother who lost her job and walked with her children for five days to find food and shelter with their relatives, finally managing to overcome the crisis. Some analysed the weaknesses of the Peruvian education system, or denounced social injustice and corruption involving the distribution of emergency aid.

Peru has been struck particularly hard by the pandemic. More than 37,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Peru by the end of 2020. According to the Johns Hopkins University data, the Andean nation has the world’s second highest per capita death toll from the pandemic. For several months, Peruvians lived under a particularly stringent lockdown with a strict curfew, which led many participants to report that they had learned to re-appreciate the role of family. Existential uncertainty has also led young people to ponder the meaning of life and re-evaluate the role of religion in their personal life.

A jury of 9 people – 8 Peruvian experts and Christoph Dietz from CAMECO – selected the ten best contributions (and fourteen honourable mentions), which will be available online at Historias Pandémicas in February 2021. The videos will be supplemented with background information on the lives of the winners.

The extraordinary response the competition has received and the authenticity and seriousness with which the young people have shared their stories have triggered a discussion at CNC, the umbrella organisation of Peru's community-oriented media, on how young people can be included in public debates in the future. More competitions or joint youth programmes will likely ensue from this experience.

The initiative was part of the CAMECO-led project “Strengthening the capacities of civil-rights-oriented local media in Peru”, which ran for five years and ended in December 2020. With support from the German Development Ministry BMZ, the project helped fifteen local radio stations to improve their programming, strengthen their organisational capacity and attract new audiences. The online courses on digital journalism and marketing that the project initiated have already received 13,000 registrations. An unforeseen consequence of the project was that the participating local media outlets pooled resources to found the umbrella organisation CNC to better represent their collective interests in the future. 

January 2021 / CD