Inspiring Youth to Tackle Social Issues Through Multimedia Campaigns

Imali Ngusale, alumna of PRB's Youth Multimedia Fellowship, discusses how she is using her training to educate young people.

Imali Ngusale is a communicator and multimedia producer with a passion for social change and engaging young people in development, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Based in Kenya, she is a 2018 alumna of PRB’s Youth Multimedia Fellowship (see her final project here). We spoke to Imali about her interest in using multimedia to tackle important social topics and the impact of her PRB fellowship. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What sparked your interest in multimedia production?
A: I have always had an unquenched thirst for creativity and I love the idea of innovating through sound, video, and humor. As a young girl, I was fascinated with visual entertainment. In fact, entertainment   was one of the means through which I learned about important topics. My first lesson on sexuality was from a documentary. The information was relayed very subtly, but the message was very clear: If you ignore information on sexual and reproductive health, you may not have a future.

I was 7 or 8 years old when I learned about sexually transmitted infections (STIs). As a child, I understood that STIs could have serious complications, especially with limited treatment. When I was in elementary school, PEPFAR and other USAID-funded initiatives were still in their infancy, and people living with HIV/AIDS were dying at alarming rates. Whenever a person died from HIV/AIDS, they were simply dehumanized and were not given the respect of a proper burial. This kind of information was not taught in school, and I think our parents shied away from talking about STIs.

Q: How did you get involved in PRB’s Youth Multimedia Fellowship program?
A: I first met PRB staff in Bali, Indonesia, and they were extremely enthusiastic about amplifying the voices of youth. We exchanged contact information and I started following PRB on Twitter. I got the details about the fellowship online. A colleague at DSW Germany, a nonprofit focused on youth issues, also emailed the same information to me; I was always presenting ideas to him even though I was not on the communication team and he thought I could enhance my communication skills and grow from the gurus at PRB. PRB had previously held internal training for DSW in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and that had left a good impression on my colleagues.

Q: What was the most impactful thing you learned from your PRB fellowship?
A: I learned that dreams only become reality when you take bold steps to pursue them through learning and developing skills. PRB provided a unique e-learning platform that set the stage to think differently, but in a practical way. Before the PRB training, it was rare to use a phone to record a documentary. In fact, I had never considered collecting B-roll (secondary, supplemental footage for a video) with my phone until the training. PRB also provided a Vimble (a smartphone gimbal, or camera support), which enabled me to create unique camera movements.

Additionally, I had never thought of putting my work on YouTube because the focus had always been on “traditional” physical meetings; this changed with the training. This was very rewarding because it also gave me a chance to make mistakes and learn from them quickly, troubleshoot them with Alana Barton, PRB’s director of Media Programs, and then come up with a solution.

Q: What are you most proud of?
A: I’m proud that was able to master new skills, like end-to-end production. I still use my notes from the training to do my animation scripts and for voice intonation techniques for voiceovers.

Q: How are you using those skills today?
A: PRB’s mentorship training was one of a kind because we had classes and practicums that required us to apply what we learned. This kind of learning elevated my voice recording skills to the producer level and enabled me to create The African Animator YouTube channel, which features videos on different social issues affecting the continent. I have also supported other initiatives, such as the CHReaD coalition project at Amref Health Africa, the largest health international NGO based in Africa.

Q: Who is your audience?
A: My audience is diverse. Initially, I targeted teenagers because I really wanted to discourage suicidal thoughts and irresponsible sexual behavior. But then I realized that the issues I was addressing were cross-cutting. The development of different thematic areas has attracted a larger audience than I had envisioned.

Q: What’s your advice for others interested in youth advocacy?
A: Always do your best to think creatively and be willing to learn and share what you have learned with others. In sharing skills, you gain mastery; in mastering, you gain expertise; and when you become an expert you sustain your brand as a point of reference. People who want to enter the multimedia industry should know that it is a very interesting career to pursue; however, nothing can replace passion and hard work. Determine your goals in media and have a niche target audience, considering age, gender, income, and location. This will help in establishing a brand with authority in your field.