“CinemArena” Mobile Caravan Sets Out on a Countrywide Awareness Raising on Irregular Migration and Youth Empowerment in The Gambia

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Community of Essau in the North Bank Region of The Gambia at the village square for the first screening. Photo: IOM 2024

On February 7, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in The Gambia officially launched on 5th February 2024 the sixth edition of CinemArena, a six-week mobile cinema initiative aimed at carrying out educational and information campaigns on the risks of irregular migration and its alternatives in the most remote and disadvantaged areas.

From 5th February to 30th March, the outdoor mobile cinema will tour The Gambia for daily and nightly community events, reaching 28 villages across all regions. It aims to ensure broad dissemination of educational messages; engage and empower local communities, returning migrants, potential migrants, and diaspora through their active involvement and inclusion in capacity building and training initiatives; and actively involve media as change agents to disseminate the correct information on irregular migration risks and socio-economic opportunities available. It seeks to empower individuals to make informed decisions about their migratory journeys by screening short videos and documentaries highlighting the realities of irregular migration, utilizing comedy to stimulate dialogue and engaging community leaders and members in a debate.

“Cinema is a powerful tool for entertainment and education, and having it go around the entire country informing young people and potential migrants on the dangers of irregular migration and local opportunities as alternatives is very timely,” said Alagie Jarju, Executive Director of the National Youth Council, one of the partners of CinemArena in The Gambia. “We hope this opportunity changes attitudes and behaviour towards irregular migration, our youth believing in themselves and maximizing the opportunities,” he added.

Given previous successes raising awareness on sexual and reproductive health, landmines, and other social issues, CinemArena was determined to be a creative way to address irregular migration along dangerous routes and provide youth and potential migrants viable opportunities such as training programmes and grants as alternatives.

We’re excited to receive the mobile cinema as a community – we can relate to the film as they reflect our society,” said Awa Jallow, a women leader from Essau village. “As parents, particularly mothers, and given the role most of us play in the migration decision of children, we are now empowered to help them make positive migratory choices,” she suggested.

The community of Essau in the North Bank Region of The Gambia is at the village square for the first screening. Photo: IOM 2024

This CinemArena edition has focused on the main countries of origin of migrants arriving in Europe by sea: Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Tunisia, and Senegal. “It’s very important for me to bear witness to the reality of irregular migration and share this communities across the country,” expressed Fatou Ceesay, a returnee from Libya recruited to help facilitate the events and share testimonies.

The Gambia is one of five countries, including Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Senegal, and Tunisia, implementing this edition of CinemArena (2023-2025). “CinemArena is for the people – in their communities – and this is why the caravan meets people in their localities. We hope that all the members of communities, including parents, community and influential leaders, women and youth effectively engage in the rich conversations on addressing the root causes of irregular migration and exploring the available opportunities as alternatives,” posited Emmanuel Murwisi, IOM Chief of Mission in The Gambia. “The objectives of CinemArena align with IOM’s agenda of saving lives and facilitating regular pathways for migrants, and we should work with communities on this front,” he emphasized.

The 2023-2025 edition of CinemArena is funded from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy.

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