The film festival, which begins on Thursday, November 23rd, falls between two other days set aside to mark the rights of women.
Every year, November 25 is observed as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and December 10 is observed as International Human Rights Day. The days in between are designated as “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.”
The international campaign was created by the first Women's Global Leadership Institute in 1991. Those dates were chosen in order to symbolically link violence against women with human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights.
Alia Nankoe is a program officer for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Senegal. She says it’s often difficult to get people to talk about violence against women because it’s embarrassing for them.
Strategy to Overcome Embarrassment
A film festival, says Nankoe, and the idea is basically to open people up to the issue. “I thought when there are many films that show this phenomenon and move people, we can start to address the problem.”
The festival now underway in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, was planned to coincide with the “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.” Nankoe says, “It is the most appropriate time to…draw on the momentum that they gather.”
Pictures that pierce the heart
Nankoe says the films reflect a variety of violent practices: female genital cutting, wife beating, rape in conflict situations and child abuse. She says she hopes to help create an awareness that will reduce the stigmatization of victims by their own communities. “Some victims are encouraged to be quiet about their most traumatizing life experiences.
Nankoe says her efforts focus on reducing stigmatization and gathering resources for coordinated support to victims by community protective and social services. She says, “This means that the police, justice system, the social and health services are all trained, with a referral between them for the long term.”
The organizers want to make an annual event of the festival. After Senegal, the films will be translated into various languages and viewed in other African countries, both by ordinary people and particularly, policy makers. “We hope that this will bring change all over Africa.”