Creating opportunities through culture

Yemen has been a country in conflict since 2015, resulting in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and a deeply polarised society. RNW Media’s Manasati30 platform offers an alternative online civic space where young people from different backgrounds can come together. The team has found that culture is a highly effective theme when creating content that embraces and celebrates diversity and bridges the gaps between young Yemenis.

With a dedicated category on the Manasati30 site (formerly known as Yemen Youth Panel), culture is one of the three main thematic pillars of the platform’s content strategy. The team has built up a wealth of experience creating and publishing content tackling both tangible and intangible Yemeni heritage. This experience is now being used to work with UNESCO on a project that aims to raise awareness about the untapped potential of young Yemenis for safeguarding their cultural heritage and promoting cultural diversity and peace.

Economic opportunities
UNESCO’s “Cash for Work” project, funded by the European Union, aims to improve livelihood opportunities for urban youth in Yemen through the preservation and restoration of cultural heritage. As well as creating and publishing content around the issues, such as a photo series showing young Yemenis in traditional dress using modern technology, Manasati30 conducted an online survey of its community, gathering insights into Yemeni youth’s perception of their cultural heritage. A total of 2,573 participants responded, 75% of them under 30, with 70% men and 30% women taking part. The team created an animated video to present the results of the survey.

More awareness needed
Only half of the participants said they had experienced or taken part in awareness activities or programmes regarding heritage. Many suggested using social media as a way to increase awareness. Most of the participants were aware that Yemen’s heritage has an outstanding universal value while 97% supported the idea that young men and women could promote cultural heritage, and 91% agreed that it could be a good source of income for young people.

The first priority for protection should be historical and cultural buildings, according to 67% of respondents, while 16% found religious monuments a priority. Just 4% of respondents believed the preservation of heritage is not a priority.

Looking at the biggest threats to Yemen’s cultural heritage, armed conflict and air strikes were mentioned, but lack of public awareness and Government care were seen as the biggest problems. A large majority (86%) reported that the deterioration or loss of cultural heritage and cultural resources affects young people’s lives in particular.