Through Their Eyes

Victims of gender-based violence fight back with video

| May - June 2008

  • Communication for Change 1

    image by Lauren Goodsmith
  • Communication for Change 2

    image by Eve A. Lotter

  • Communication for Change 1
  • Communication for Change 2

The young Liberian girl walks along a forested path. When she comes upon a man clearing brush with a machete, he stops her to talk. They argue. The man carries her into the bushes. Moments later, the girl emerges, crying, her white dress stained with blood.

In this case, the rape is a filmed dramatization, but the crime is all too familiar for many women and girls around the world, especially those living in refugee camps where gender-based violence has become endemic: Rape is a weapon of war, forced sex a currency exchanged for food or safe passage.

Often shrouded in secrecy, gender-based violence can be particularly difficult to combat in these settings because cultural traditions place the social stigma and shame on the victims. But with help from two American nonprofits, refugee communities in West Africa are focusing new attention on the problem using participatory video to show what gender-based violence looks like through the eyes of its victims.

The project, Through Our Eyes, is jointly sponsored by American Refugee Committee International (ARC) and Communication for Change, a New York–based nonprofit that has been training communities in developing countries to use participatory video techniques for more than two decades. These quickly produced, inexpensive community-made films tackle tough subjects such as rape, forced marriage, and wife beating. Community screenings of the videos spark candid discussions of the causes of and possible solutions to violence against women.

Because the videos are made by members of the community, told in local dialect and with respect for local customs, they have a big impact. People can’t dismiss the stories as happening somewhere else.

Through Our Eyes began as a pilot project in 2006 in the Lainé refugee camp in Guinea, where tens of thousands of Liberians have fled during the country’s 14 years of civil war. The project quickly spread into communities inside Liberia and in Sudan.

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