WITNESS, an international organization founded by Peter Gabriel to pioneer the use of video to expose human rights abuses, today announced the launch of a three-year campaign to end violence against women and girls in conflict and post-conflict zones. The campaign, which will be featured as a commitment at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, will use video to highlight and combat injustices committed against women in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.
WITNESS will work in partnership with the network Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice (WIGJ) and local grassroots organizations to film the stories of women and girls who have experienced gender based violence and to screen these videos for key decision makers at domestic, regional and international levels, such as the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where Women’s Initiatives is headquartered.
Social activist, actress and WITNESS supporter Maggie Gyllenhaal says, “As an actor, I have seen first hand the power visual images have to capture our minds and our hearts, and to send us into action. The video of the murder of Neda Agha Soltan in Iran and the footage of monks protesting in Burma forced the world to take notice of human rights abuses in those countries. Imagine what would happen if you gave women in conflict zones cameras, the training to use them, and the path to getting that footage to the people who can make a difference.”
Specifically WITNESS will work with the Women’s Initiatives to:
- Train over 50 grassroots organizations in Africa to use video to document violence against women and girls;
- Provide long-term, strategic support to key organizations – guiding them in the use of video to bolster local advocacy goals to end gender-based violence; and
- Produce in-depth videos on gender-based violence that will be screened for key decision-makers.
WITNESS Executive Director Yvette Alberdingk Thijm says the campaign will harness the most potent of resources. “We’re nowhere close to realizing video’s incredible potential as a tool for leveraging human rights change,” says Alberdingk Thijm, “A camera gives a woman unparalleled power to tell her story and to hold perpetrators accountable.”
Some examples of the video campaigns envisioned by this project include:
- A campaign to create and use footage of gender-based violence in the Central African Republic as evidence to be submitted to the International Criminal Court for inclusion in its investigations of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
- A campaign to create and use footage as evidence for the prosecution in judicial proceedings against the FDLR and Mai-Mai militias, who have raped tens of thousands of women and girls in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Women who have been raped during the conflict in the Kivus/Eastern DRC are often rejected by their husbands, families and communities. Tribal chiefs who lead these communities have the power to reunite these families but may not have access to the stories of these women. This campaign would film and bring these stories directly to the local chiefs to advocate that they condemn and end this practice.
YouTube, the global video-sharing Web site and online video community, has agreed to be the platform partner for this commitment. The company will showcase video content that documents violence against women and advocates for gender justice prominently on the site on a quarterly basis for the first year of the campaign. They will also promote the campaign via its blog and power regular programming opportunities to highlight the issue. WITNESS is currently seeking additional partners to join in this effort.
“The explosion of digital media means that anyone can bear witness to human rights abuses. Images shot on a cell phone, camera or PDA can be uploaded to the Internet and end up on the nightly news in a matter of minutes and social networking sites are making it easier than ever to mobilize communities for change,” says Alberdingk Thijm. “This brings human rights groups an unprecedented opportunity to not only capture proof of injustice and give it to law makers, but to spread that proof and establish a broader, more interconnected human rights community to collaborate to bring violence against women and girls to an end.”