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AMAZE and AMAZE Jr.

AMAZE and AMAZE Jr.

AMAZE and AMAZE Jr. together constitute a suite of online (video) resources created as part of a communication initiative leveraging technology to deliver sexual health information to younger adolescents and children - as well as their parents and educators - around the world. Developed through a partnership between Advocates for Youth, Answer, and Youth+Tech+Health, this initiative is designed to meet the needs of those aged 10-14 (AMAZE) and 4-9 (AMAZE Jr.) for age-appropriate, scientifically accurate, positive, and rights-based sexuality education information and resources that are grounded in gender equality. The underlying message is that you and your body are amazing just the way they are.

Communication Strategies: 

Guided by a group of engaged youth advisors who have provided input at every stage of the campaign, this initiative draws on what are meant to be creative, edgy YouTube videos that seek to help children and young adolescents develop the healthy attitudes, knowledge, and behaviours they need to navigate the critical transition between childhood and older adolescence. Available on the website(s) as well as on a dedicated YouTube channel, the videos highlight issues around body image, healthy relationships, puberty, and sexual health. Materials are also available for parents and educators on the AMAZE website in tandem with each video, including lesson plans for educators and conversation starters and videos for parents.

The work is based on what the AMAZE team sees as the 5 "must haves" of health resources, including: humour, youth narration, colours and music, organisation, and professionalism. AMAZE worked with design schools to identify a group of animation students or graduates and also hosts frequent calls for expressions of interest from young animators. Each young animator is given a content brief and has a mentor from one of the partner organisations who assures the material is accurate and age appropriate.

AMAZE also seeks to be a resource for the adults who care about children and youth. For example, the AMAZE Jr. parents' playlist is a series of videos designed to help parents understand the common questions children have and gain the comfort and confidence needed to effectively respond. Concurrently, organisers produced video playlists for parents to watch with their young children. In each, animated characters share life's lessons and respond to the questions and concerns young children have about body parts, gender, and reproduction. Together, these resources can equip parents to talk with their children early and often.

AMAZE supports regional and sub-regional initiatives in East and Southern Africa and Latin America, in partnership with regional and in-country organisations. Partner organisations select AMAZE videos for adaptation, informed by local needs, existing sexuality education resources, and consultations with adolescents as well as other stakeholders including parents and teachers. In addition, partner organisations develop new videos on occasion, such as one on boys' puberty developed in Mexico and one on considerations for disclosing HIV status, developed in South Africa. In addition, AMAZE responds to incoming requests to adapt, dub, or sub-title AMAZE videos, resulting in numerous collaborations across several countries, such as in South Korea and Japan. Further, a core set of 10 videos is available with subtitles in Arabic, Bengali, French, Hindi, Mandarin, Portuguese, Punjabi, Spanish, Russian, Swahili, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

The team expects to continually update the videos and topics to meet the needs of children, adolescents, parents, and educators. The videos are published under the Creative Commons License and are available to be viewed, free of charge, by anyone. Viewers are encouraged to republish or incorporate the content into other work, to submit suggestions, or to reach out to the AMAZE team if there is interest in sub-titling, dubbing, adapting, or creating new videos.

Development Issues: 

Children, Youth, Sex Education.

Key Points: 

In many countries around the world, there are renewed efforts to eliminate or restrict comprehensive sexual education programmes - that is, sex-ed curricula that don't just rely on abstinence-only education but also build life skills and teach about consent, healthy relationships, sexual violence, pregnancy and contraception, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, and sexual orientation and gender identity. Several scientific studies and medical papers have shown that sex ed makes teens more well-equipped to navigate sex and relationships in their present and future. Yet, sex ed curricula are often fear-based and fail to provide contraception instruction. Furthermore, the taboos around talking about sex still affect what information gets shared in schools. "Controversial" topics like queer sexuality, trans and non-binary identities, and even something as basic as contraception or the pleasurable aspects of sex are often left out of school sex education.

In that context, some have wondered whether online platforms like AMAZE are the future of sex education. And if so, will they one day replace school-based sex education altogether? Some note that, for all benefits of online sex education, there are issues such as that of access: While school-based sex education meets kids where they are, online sex education requires young people to actively seek it out - and to be able to differentiate trustworthy sources from the vast amount of questionable information that also exists online. A combination of classroom-based and online sex education is a way forward that has been explored.

Partner Text: 

Advocates for Youth, Answer, and YTH (Youth+Tech+Health) - with international partners as listed here.

Contacts (user reference): 
See video
Source: 

Emails from Nicole Cheetham to The Communication Initiative on February 5 2019 and February 6 2019; and AMAZE, href="https://amaze.org/za/" target="_blank">AMAZE South Africa website, AMAZE Jr., "9 sex myths that teens - and adults - are still asking about", by Rachel Kraus, Mashable, September 24 2018, and "Is sex ed in schools obsolete?", by Lux Alptraum, Splinter, October 27 2016 - all accessed on February 5 2019. Image credit: CommonSense.org

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The Media Development Network