This week, Dakar, Senegal, is winding up a film festival aimed at increasing awareness of gender-based violence. It was organized by the U.N. Agency for Population Activities, UNFPA, in Senegal. One of the organizers was the agency’s program officer in Senegal, Angela Walker.
She says one intent of the film festival was to affirm that gender based violence is not just a women’s issue. Many of the film producers are men. Walker says “Male filmmakers are taking a stand against this issue and it’s important to underline that fact. Men and women must act in partnership to eradicate this problem. And hopefully this issue will be in the media as well.”
Walker says film submissions came from all over the continent, both as documentaries and narratives covering a number of elements of gender-based violence including women’s vulnerability due to poverty, which forces them into sex work. From there, many contract HIV/AIDS, and the cycle goes on. All of this, she says, were captured by the filmmakers: “We have all been shocked how powerful they are, and people want to solve this problem,” says Walker.
Festival organizers received scores of films. This is good news for UNFPA Dakar, whose initial goal was to encourage public discussion of this often taboo topic. “There is such stigma affecting it and one of the reasons for the festival was to have people look at these powerful, powerful films, start them talking about it and find solutions.”
Walker says training journalists to report on gender-based violence is another way to move forward. “We really view the media as a tremendous partner in this effort to educate the public,” she says. “We hope this festival breaks the culture of silence and that people will fight this problem and find a solution.”