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Upcoming conference focuses on African media and children

ATHENS, Ohio (June 16, 2006) -- African media and African children will be the focus of the Institute for the African Child's 7th annual conference to be held at Ohio University in June. The conference will be held in Walter Hall Thursday, June 15, through Saturday, June 17, and coincides with the International Day of the African Child on Friday, June 16. The conference, co-sponsored by the Middle States African Studies Association, features presenters from Ohio University, across the United States and the African continent representing academia, the media and the non-profit sector.

The conference considers how African children are represented and underrepresented in African audio-visual and print media. Conference sessions will explore the role of state, private and nongovernmental organization-owned media institutions and organizations, and examine their impact on the lives of African children. "The representation of anyone, especially African children, will contribute to decisions that are made about them," said Ghirmai Negash, assistant director of the Institute for the African Child. He explained that the portrayal of African children is vital to their well-being because they are such a marginalized population which depends on the aid of the international community.

"We have used the annual conference of the Institute for the African Child to highlight topics not focused on by either mainstream academe or journalism," said W. Stephen Howard, director of African Studies and the Institute for the African Child. "This year's conference brings together scholars and practitioners from all over the spectrum to look at the multiple uses of media to entertain, educate and inform the children of Africa and their families. We want to address the problem of the 'digital divide' as it separates Africa's children from the rest of the modern world."

According to Negash, the institute has found inspiration in the work of filmmakers like Firdoze Bulbulia, the conference convener. "Our common objective is to ensure that a multiplicity of children's voices is heard, in the spirit of ubuntu — I am because you are," Bulbulia said.

A director, producer, writer and educator, Bulbulia is the chairperson of the Children and Broadcasting Foundation for Africa. An activist in women and children's movements, she has used theatre and art as mediums of expression and for conflict resolution. She has worked on many development programs and facilitated many workshops in the 'child rights' arena. Bulbulia was involved in the establishment of the South African Charter on Children's Rights. She has produced a series of videos entitled BMW-African Pen Pals, based on children from Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt and Tanzania, with the goal of giving African children an opportunity to learn more about themselves and to share their lives in a way that gives international audiences a realistic glimpse of African society. 

The conference will begin Thursday, June 15, with a day of master class workshops. Mary Ann Dudko, an expert on media programming for children and vice president of content development for HIT Entertainment, will lead a workshop entitled "Programming for Young Children: Co-Production of Barney and Friends." Firdoze Bulbulia will direct a workshop on digital story telling. Nicole Opper, a filmmaker and media educator with the Hannah Senesh Community Day School of Brooklyn, New York, will instruct a workshop called "The Sister School Project: Defining Youth Media's Role in Education and Advocacy." Clifford Cohen, founder of AnimaAction, will lead a workshop entitled "Animated Media Tools for Twenty-First Century K-12 Education." Michael Cohen, managing partner of the Michael Cohen Group LLC, will teach a workshop on education, public broadcasting and children's media.

Ian Stewart, the former Associated Press bureau chief for West Africa, will deliver the conference's opening address "Fragile Peace: A Journalist Looks at Africa's Youth" at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 15. Stewart is the author of "Ambushed: A War Reporter's Life on the Line," which chronicles his miraculous rescue and three-year recovery following life threatening injuries sustained while covering a rebel assault on Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown, in January 1999. Stewart has worked and lived in more than 40 countries, including Afghanistan, the former Zaire, Sierra Leone and Cambodia.

Fredick Nnoma-Addison, a producer at the Discovery Channel and head of the Washington, D.C.-based Africa Media-Image Project, will present a concluding address on "African Children and Media: Opportunities, Challenges and the Way Forward" at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 17. The film "Soweto Blues," produced by Faith Isiakpere and Firdoze Bulbulia will also be screened on Saturday. "Soweto Blues" examines South Africa's political history through the context of the musical artists who gave voice to the struggle and engaged audiences around the globe, raising awareness about black South Africans' battle to achieve freedom and establish a democratic society.

Conference sessions on themes such as the media and news spaces; media and education; violence and trauma; media, institutions and politics; and media, story telling and literacy will take place all day Friday and Saturday in Walter Hall.

The Institute for the African Child seeks to promote research, teaching, and service that consider children in the process of the African continent's socio-economic development. Past conferences of the Institute for the African Child have addressed such issues as child labor, malaria, HIV/AIDS, child soldiers, the girl child, and children and Islam.

For more information contact conference coordinator Ghirmai Negash at 740-597-1368 or visit the conference web page at www.ohio.edu/afrchild/conferences.cfm.

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Media Contact:Assistant Director of the Institute for the African Child Ghirmai Negash, (740) 597-1368 or negashg@ohio.edu

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