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Posts Tagged ‘youth’

The girl affect

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Girls living in poverty are uniquely capable of creating a better future. But when a girl reaches adolescence, she comes to a crossroads. Things can one of two ways for her, and everyone around her…..

Check out the Girl Effect website for more information about this awesome campaign and how you can get involved.

International Year of Youth has begun - August 2010

Friday, August 13th, 2010

On 18 December 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the year commencing on 12 August 2010 as the International Year of Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding. The year coincides with the 25th anniversary of the first International Youth Year in 1985, on the theme Participation, Development and Peace.

Check out the official International Year of Youth website. Here you will find information on events planned throughout the year, as well as suggestions on how YOU can get involved!

Project Friendship

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

In August, people across New Zealand will be buying $3 colourful, hand-woven friendship bracelets and wearing them to support the work of Volunteer Services Abroad (VSA) volunteers in developing countries This year Project Friendship is focusing on youth. Money from each sale will support VSA volunteers who are working with young people on issues such as children’s rights, HIV and AIDS and the environment.

Find out how you can get involved at:

Circle, Circle, Triangle, X

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Dru Seneviratne

Of course Grand Theft Auto is going to start some chins wagging; it takes the spotlight as ‘the’ worst game series because of its violent content, however millions of people around the world will be queuing up to buy it.


Photo by Fiona Beals

Things have come a long way since the Atari 2600 and games like Space Invaders. Nowadays, that 2D moving image with a background track of polyphonic music has evolved into a high definition, seamlessly animated, clear and crisp sound, gaming experience; and the video game industry has become a multi-billion dollar business.

While the industry grows so does the debate about the effects of playing video games. While some studies have shown it can have positive benefits, others show it can also lead to feelings of isolation, health issues and aggressive behavior. One study, Fair Play? Violence, gender and race in video games, produced by Children Now, looked at the top ten selling games in the US and highlighted the potential dangers of the use of ethnic stereotypes.

Putting people into boxes
Fair play found when we look at the portrayal of particular ethnicities in video games, some patterns emerge. More than half of all characters are white. Whites and Asians are over- represented, whereas everyone else is under-represented. Effectively, all the other ethnicities are shoved into the corner.

Photo by Fiona Beals

Photo by Fiona Beals

When they are not being marginalized, African American and Latino characters were usually seen as criminals or lowly citizens who cause trouble. Pacific Islanders also fall into the same category, as cheap, under handed thugs, while Asians are likely to be wrestlers or fighters and Italians part of organised crime.

The game world vs the real world
With the heavy stereotyping in games, there is a danger that we presume what we see on the screen is real. If we see a black man shooting a white man or an immigrant ripping off someone off, again and again, there is a chance we’ll believe that it happens in real life. A lot of traditional media use stereotypes, but this isn’t just a static picture in a newspaper; if you see something on a screen, talking, moving, acting like a real person, and you are interacting with it, then it’s likely that you’ll remember it.

Most of us want to see ourselves represented on the screen, being successful, happy and doing general all round ‘good things’, but the reality is, if you aren’t white or Asian, it’s likely that the you’ll see yourself as a victim, dying first and in loud, explosive ways. Better yet, you could be the antagonist, who is seemingly genetically programmed to murder, deal and rape. Image how it feels seeing someone who looks like you, getting their head blown off by a rocket launcher, because they robbed a bank? When, in the game, their character has been designed as a bank robber.

We are affected by these images and portrayals, like it or not, and it affects the way we think, and the way we see other people. It may not be such a hugely obvious issue, but especially for younger gamers it can affect the way they start to see the whole wide world.

Just a game?
videoTo put it simply, video games are a medium of entertainment, but the way we depict each other in that medium has an impact on the way we, the players, perceive each other. Gamers used to be stereotyped as guys living in their family basement with pocket protectors. Today video games are being played by more and more, and younger and younger, people. Game developers have a responsibility to start reflecting a more truthful reality, because there are no extra lives in the real world.

Case Study: Grand Theft Auto IV
Grand Theft Auto is one of the most controversial games ever released and also one of the most profitable. GTA IV follows Niko Bellic, an Eastern European war veteran who arrives in the US in search of the American Dream. He quickly becomes entangled in a seedy underworld of gangs, crime, and corruption. Niko is Caucasian, 30 years old and a hot headed gangster. He has a thick accent and is very handy with a rifle. His CV boasts murder, grand theft auto, kidnapping, assault, smuggling and prostitution. The other minor characters offer a variety of racial stereotypes, from the African American gangster to the Latino drug dealer. Not to be left out, the women are all over-sexualised, violent and generally depicted as idiots, while the immigrants (Russian, Italian and Irish) are painted as money hungry, heartless criminals.


Photo by Fiona Beals

As a player you aren’t just passively watching, but actually interacting with this underworld, carrying out various crimes and missions. There is a danger that people start to believe some of what they see, as if GTA reflects the real world. This is not helped by the ever more realistic graphics and the fact that the game is based upon the real life New York City. The worst part is when these issues are raised game developers and some gamers usually denounce the complainers as overly sensitive; a common response to critics is that these are ‘only games’.

Mean World Syndrome
‘Mean world syndrome’ explains how the media can make the world seem a darker and crueler place than it actually is. The term was coined in the late 60s by George Gerbner, who was one of the first people to research the effects of television on society. He found that people who watched lots of television tended to think of the world as a scary and unforgiving place, and felt they needed more protection than is actually necessary.

Today ‘mean world syndrome’ relates to all media, which covers television, movies and video games. Especially video games! A number of games are set in dark, inhospitable places, for example, the Fallout series of games. They are set after a nuclear fallout, and thus, the world itself is mostly rubble, and is overrun by the savage remnants of the humanity. Then there is Grand Theft Auto, most likely one of the most controversial games to be ever released, GTA creates a world were the only way which you can survive is through murdering and stealing. You play these games too long and you start worrying about what could be hiding around every corner.


  • The first thing you can do is be aware of the issues and talk to your mates!
  • When you are next playing a video game, stop and think for a minute. What does this game tell you about the world? Do you believe it?


Check out these other articles…

Please don’t take our money away

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Young people and adults involved with Enviroschools make themselves heard about what Enviroschools (and the recent budget cut) means to them.

You Can Save the Planet

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

by Jacquie Wines and Sarah Horne

This book introduces and explains massive global problems that need to be addressed now. It’s packed full of useful things you can do to make your homes, schools, and neighbourhoods more environmentally friendly. Including:planet_photo1

  • How to save water around your house.
  • How to persuade your local supermarket to reduce the number of plastic bags used.
  • Ways to organise your household recycling that really work.
  • How to spread the word on saving the planet.

You can join our library and get books and DVDs out for Free!

Free Hugs Campaign

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

‘Free hugs’ is a real life controversial story of Juan Mann,  a man whose sole mission was to reach out and hug a stranger to brighten up their lives.  In this age of social disconnectivity and lack of human contact, the effects of the Free Hugs campaign became phenomenal.

Freehugs troops are now mobilising all over the globe. From Sydney to Helsinki. From LA to Tokyo, from London and Paris. To find out when a free hug event is organised in your area, check out the campaign website here.

UNYANZ (United Nations Youth Association of New Zealand)

Friday, February 20th, 2009


What do they do?
UNYANZ serves as the Youth arm of the United Nations Association of New Zealand. It provides the opportunity for youth to express themselves, learn about the United Nations and provide positive solutions for the future.

How can I get involved?
UNYANZ provides many opportunites for young New Zealanders to learn about the operation of the UN and become involved in civil society in New Zealand.

By becoming a member, you can participate in events like the New Zealand Model United Nations. Held annually in Wellington, this event brings together over 250 high school students from all around the country to debate and represent United Nations member states. This is a great opportunity to learn more about how the UN works and also about world affairs. Similar events are run at a regional level in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.
UNYANZ has also become active in Universities where studuents can involve themselves in Model Security Council events, including the New Zealand Model Security Council Competition.

Te Reo Marama

Friday, February 20th, 2009


What do they do?
Since 1998, Te Reo Mārama has been dedicated, on behalf of the Auahi Kore-Tupeka Kore community and the wider Māori community, to tobacco resistance. The main role undertaken is to advocate evidence-based positions on tobacco-related issues at a local, national and international level in order to achieve the vision of a Maori nation free of the deadly toll of tobacco.

How can I get involved?
As of November 2008, the main way to be involved with Te Reo Marama is by donating or simply by taking up their call to action in your local community.
However, in 2009 Te Reo Marama will be holding a training summit for young leaders to take the cause back to their schools and communities. Watch this space!

Ugdana’s Invisible Children

Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

Hanna Butler

buvuunya kidsWhile I sit at a desk and swivel on an office chair, a little known phenomena has begun on the other side of the world where night is falling and children should be getting ready for bed. Instead, tens of thousands of Ugandan children begin what has now become termed as a “night commute”. Every night, children who live in dangerous rural areas where a militant rebel group have stronghold, walk up to 20km just to be able to sleep in the safety of the city. Fear of being abducted by rebels in their sleep, and being kept as soldiers or sex slaves, easily justifies a nightly marathon. And as thousands of eyes close to go to sleep, dreaming is not likely in a world where nightmares are a reality in more ways than one.

20 years ago, a self proclaimed prophet and spirit medium started a rebellion against the Ugandan government. The Lords Resistance Army (LRA) headed by Joseph Kony began a rebellion of terror without clear reasons or intentions and until recently never made a clear statement of its political aims. The current situation in Northern Uganda - of a cultish fanaticism, ruthless military might, complimented global attention or concern- has produced one of the most evil situations in the world.

Since 1987, 95% of the population has been displaced due to the LRA. 1000 people die every week from disease, the poor living conditions and violence. There are 300,000 child soldiers in the world, and 30,000 of these are in Uganda, and they make up 80% of the LRA. Imagine an unknown town destroyed by war and populated by children turned into killing machines and sex slaves. Recruits as young as 8 are subjected to a form of warfare involving more than just guns and bombs. The LRA have become known for their atrocious style of attack, and can be seen on the faces of the people of northern Uganda who now smile without lips, hear without ears and smell without noses. Children are taught to perform terrible atrocities — including killing their families and other children — or face death themselves. Forgetting the conflict however does not deny nor discredit what has happened. The facts are shocking, hard to believe and, what is even worse, these facts very rarely known.

In a competition where war, death, horror, and exploitation are the criteria for winning, the LRA can justifiably accept second place for their 20 year war without a reason in Northern Uganda. Last year 100 international experts launched a poll on which of the world’s “forgotten” emergencies they wanted the world to focus and act on. United Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland stated, “I cannot find any other part of the world that is having an emergency on the scale of Uganda, that is getting such little international attention.” Adding that it is worse than Iraq’, and a moral outrage.

Last month the elusive Kony broke his silence and very unconvincingly blamed the atrocities of the last twenty years on groups trying to frame him, and the use of propaganda for creating his monster image. He explains that he was just trying to do as the voices had told him, and enforce the 10 commandments. Kony is now top of the International Criminal Courts warrant list and alone is wanted for 33 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

I have a message to give you, while you sit on your office chair, from a 15-year-old girl who escaped from the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, who now makes the nightly commute while you and I swivel on our chairs.

“I would like to give you a message. Please do your best to tell the world what is happening to us, the children. So that other children don’t have to pass through this violence.”

Guluwalk site
Night Commuters in Northern Uganda by Rebecca Czarnecki


Movie: The Invisible Children and the media kit you can download
Lira: Uganda’s Child Soldiers


    • Watch the movie Uganda Rising - screening free at the Southern Cross, Abel Smith St, Wellington on November 13 and 20 2006
    • Join Hanna in Wellington 25 November 2006 in giving the message of this girl to New Zealand. GuluWalk is an international event that replicates the walks of the children in order to raise awareness and support for this crisis. Be that message of hope for the children of northern Uganda, and walk to tell their story. Northern Uganda is not the only place in the world where children live amongst war and poverty, it is unfortunately far too common, and more often that not we are in positions where there is not much that we can do. GuluWalk is an opportunity where you can “do more than just watch”.
    • For more info visit the GuluWalk site or email