28 February, 2024

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Female Filmmakers To Combat Gender Based Violence & Promote Women’s Rights

 By Gayanga Dissanayaka

Gayanga Dissanayaka

“It is important to train women in film-making. No doubt that the art of making films empowers women.” The Centre for Media and Information Literacy (CMIL) conducted two mobile short film trainings in Jaffna to build the capacity of 50 young female short filmmakers to produce compelling and creative work capturing their lived reality as women in marginalised settings. At the beginning of a workshop, a young girl, who was very shy and had difficulty in confidently articulating her thoughts, later displayed exceptional talents to provide art direction support. She could draw amazing storyboards and had a unique ability to convert entire scripts into pictures. “Towards the end of the training, she was very confidently making suggestions and ideas.” Sumudu Malalgama, a short film director and a producer shared her observation after completing a four-day training workshop for female film-makers at Batticaloa. 

Addressing Gender Based Violence

During both training sessions, the young girls learned how to produce short films to address issues such as economic inequality, GBV, climate injustice, digital misogyny, a lack of gender-responsive, political and civic participation. The girls from Jaffna made a practice film on sexual harassment where they discussed how young women are trapped by officials of the corporate and state institutions. Viewing the film, those girls maintained that a culture of zero tolerance is needed to eliminate sexual harassment. 

The girls collectively affirmed that fear of sexual harassment discourages women from discovering their own potential, achieving their goals and fulfilling their aspirations. Thanushiya, a young filmmaker and university graduate said, “short films in Jaffna have also created a greater awareness amongst the youth on the rights of young girls and the LGBTQ community. She said that “when girls remain in silence, it becomes extremely hard to create constant recognition for equality.”

Breaking Silence 

Ayesha Chathurangi, Lecturer at University of the Visual and Performing Arts, mentioned that it’s extremely vital for women to break their silence against Gender-based Violence and Human Rights violations and continue to challenge the systemic oppressions against women and young girls. “One of the most effective ways to make this happen is to empower women to produce critical narratives articulating their lived realities.” she said. All the women in attendance endorsed it while many complemented her statement with their personal stories. 

Substantiating Ayesha’s statement, the majority of girls from the Northern Province said sexual bribery, sexual harassment on public transport, gender-based discrimination, cyber-misogyny, and denying access to the public sphere, are some of the issues that they face in their daily life. Yet most of the women do not speak out loud about their lived experience, in seeking justice. 

Rights to Safe Abortion 

The girls from the Eastern province made two exercise films focusing on the right to marital consent of girls and right to safe abortion and shared their personal experience in crafting their script.  Ms. Keshayini Edmond, a participant and short film maker directed the short film about the right to safe abortion which highlighted the stigma around safe abortion. Young girls indicated that some fathers and families dismantle the right of girls to choose a partner of her choice and that their consents aren’t valued.. 

During the training, Divya Rasathurai, a young female short filmmaker stated, “when producing films on the lived reality of the women, it is important to use metaphoric approaches and to engage the audience emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and physically. Women should not be portrayed as powerless, helpless, voiceless and vulnerable individuals”. 

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