“We came to the DRC to highlight issues of sexual violence,” said Angelina Jolie, “and you have made our work easier – [Our Voices Matter] says it all. It is often difficult for women to speak about these types of experiences and it is incredible that they trusted the organisation and your partners to tell their stories…”

Angelina Jolie, actress and UNHCR Special Envoy, and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague met last month with the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, and with their partners in Goma, Eastern DRC working on the issue of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict in the region. This advocacy meeting featured a screening of Our Voices Matter, a film produced by Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, partners in the DRC, and WITNESS.

Jolie and Hague joined forces again last week to launch the G8 Declaration on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict, a historic agreement by the leaders of the Group of 8 (G8) countries to work together towards ending sexual violence in conflict. The Declaration includes a commitment to develop an international protocol on investigation and documentation of rape and sexual violence in conflict and a commitment for increased funding for international prevention and response efforts.

The Women’s Initiatives and DRC partners, also organised a public screening of Our Voices Matter  on March 25th in Bukavu, South Kivu, in a region that has seen significant conflict over the two decades. The screening hosted over 70 attendees, including representatives from the provincial government, the Congolese Army, the judiciary and human rights organizations.

If you haven’t already seen the video, watch it here:

Much of the power in Our Voices Matter comes from testimonies. Testimonies connect viewers with those directly affected by the situations we seek to change, and they are powerful engines for action.

There at the police, one told me: ”You’re too old, you can’t be raped.” I didn’t get justice. Nobody gets justice. They only told me: “Go home! We’ll see what to do about it!” And then nothing ever happened.” – Elisabeth Kandolo, from Our Voices Matter

As Angelina Jolie noted, testimonies also represent much courage by the interviewees. Our experience at WITNESS shows that for men, women, and children who have experienced sexual and gender-based violence, sharing stories of trauma can be incredibly difficult emotionally and also potentially risky to their personal security. In conducting interviews with survivors it is essential for the interviewer to respect the survivors’ need to tell their stories in a way that is most comfortable for them, and then to represent that story powerfully, truthfully, and ethically. Filmmakers can struggle to get this right.

This has led WITNESS to create a guide to filming and conducting these interviewees safely, effectively, and ethically. We’ve compiled input from our trainees and partners over the years who work on gender and gender-based violence issues. We’ve captured some of their best practice and lessons learned, and also gathered input from experts on the subject.

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Elisabeth Kandolo, one of the women whose testimonies are featured in Our Voices Matter.

For example, camera angles are important. Placing the camera higher than the interviewee should be avoided: it gives the viewer the impression of ‘looking down’ upon them and can diminish their presence. Other considerations include: Should you conceal the interviewee’s identity to protect against potential risks – for example,  if the perpetrator were to see their interview and recognize them? When choosing a location to film, how can you find one that is safe, secure, and comfortable for the interviewee?

We’re in the final stages of distilling these lessons learned and best practices into an accessible guide (already in Swahili here) that will provide advice and guidance to filmmakers and activists who are conducting interviews with survivors. We look forward to sharing this with you soon. Stay tuned in coming weeks!

 

Rose works on the gender-based violence team at WITNESS, and she just voted for the Human Rights Channel to get a Webby award. Have you? 

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