claims of "hijacking"

New Save the Children campaign under fire

Published onsdag 13 april 2011 kl 15:44
Joel Burns. Photo: Dan Hansson / SvD / SCANPIX
City councillor Joel Burns was one of the many Americans that took part in the "It gets better" campaign in the States with a moving testimony. Photo: Dan Hansson / SvD / SCANPIX

A new campaign and TV show by the Swedish branch of the Save the Children Fund and commercial TV station TV3 has come in for heavy criticism from parts of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi- and Transgendered) community. "Det blir bättre(It gets better)" as the programme and campaign is called, will feature Swedish celebrities that have fought through tough times as children to get where they are today, with the message to the youth of today, "Hold on, it gets better".

However, the idea behind the campaign is not new and has been borrowed from a campaign started in the USA last year aimed at suicidal gay teens.

"It gets better" started as a reaction to a wave of suicides among young gay teens in the USA. Gay men and women with experience of growing up hiding their sexuality, being bullied, or even having considered suicide themselves recorded video messages on the internet, messages of hope and survival. The campaign soon spread, an internet site was created, and even supporters of the gay community, such as US Vice President Joe Biden left words of encouragement to young gay youth.

The Swedish branch of Save the Children and tv channel TV3 have been inspired by the campaign and are now trying to start their own movement here in Sweden, but this time the focus isn't just restricted to the LGBT community, but also children with eating disorders, child abuse, violence and those fleeing war abroad.

And the fact that they have changed the focus of the campaign has raised eyebrows in the gay community here. Micke Kazarnowicz was one of the activists and bloggers who brought the original movement here to Sweden, and he is critical of the Save the Children campaign.

"It's no longer about LGBT youth", he told Radio Sweden, "It's about youth in general. This is taking a cause created by LGBT persons for LGBT youth, and then applying it on a wider scale". Kazarnowicz is worried that the former LGBT focus will be lost, and the campaign turn into something completely different. He claims Save the Children have hijacked the original campaign.

"It's like taking Pride and applying it on a larger scale because you want to show the diversity of the whole community", he adds, "I think they should openly apologize and re-name it, because this is not about 'It gets better.'"

So what does Save the Children Sweden have to say to the harsh criticism that they have hijacked another campaign? Elisabeth Dahlin is their General Secretary, and she says that the original campaign in the USA wasn't just aimed at young gays and lesbians.

"If you look at the pledge of the original 'It gets better' it clearly says, 'I'll provide hope for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and other bullied teens by letting them know that "It Gets Better," says Elisabeth Dahlin, "It's a little bit hard to understand this outrage, because all along it's been part of the campaign in the States."

"We are very happy to have a dialogue with those who think this is not a good thing that we do, and we take it very seriously", she adds.

The first programme in the "Det blir bättre" series will be aired on TV3 on Sunday.

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