COVAW activists marching during a 16 Days Campaign event.
All images courtesy of COVAW.

By Saara Ahmed

This post is part of our series for 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, a global solidarity campaign that runs every year from November 25  – December 10. During this year’s campaign, we will launch a video series to accompany our Guide to Interviewing Survivors of Sexual and Gender-based Violence.

Senior Program Manager Bukeni Waruzi recently traveled to Kenya as a part of WITNESS’ continued commitment to strengthening the advocacy skills of communities across the African continent including organizations working on eradicating gender-based violence (GBV). Terry Kunina, Programme Associate, Advocacy and Campaign Management at Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW) participated in one of these video advocacy workshops.

Bukeni and Terry shared their reflections with me on how video advocacy tools can be used to mobilize action around GBV awareness and advocacy.

Saara: WITNESS recently released a new resource Conducting Interviews with Survivors of Sexual and Gender-based Violence. How is this guide being used by the organizations you met with?

Guide to Conducting Interviews with Survivors of SGBV

Bukeni:  The organizations used the interview guide as a checklist to assess their skills and approach in conducting interviews with survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. For example, the COVAW team reviewed past interviews they conducted to identify areas of improvement.

The importance of the safety and security of interviewees was recognized by participants as crucial. Interviewees face many threats including being identified in their communities for speaking out and therefore face re-victimization.

Terry: Based off the interview guide, Terry suggested that it can help to follow the following steps towards interviewing survivors:

  1. Stop and consider: We deal with very sensitive issues and cases. These have a great impact on both the survivor and the audience. We have to be careful in how we choose stories to tell and how we portray the message keeping in mind, the impact on the individual and how publicizing the story will affect them keeping in mind some factors such as culture and social stigma.

  2. What, why, when, where and how: This is the starting point of any advocacy video.

  3. Safety and Security risks: It goes without saying that with the kind of cases we handle and the advocacy that goes with it, security is a major factor to consider. We are are consolidating relevant material such as comprehensive consent forms to aid in our video advocacy. We have used these before but we shall review them to make sure that they cover all factors regarding the survivors’ and organizations’ safety.

  4. Preparing a comfort kit for the interview: This is something we had not considered before. seriously but it is paramount in an interview scenario. We shall look into developing one that suits the different cases we want to use in our video advocacy.

COVAW team reviews the Video for Change Toolkit.
COVAW team reviews the Video for Change Toolkit.

Saara: How does collaboration and partnership support knowledge sharing among GBV prevention organizations? And how does the ability to share stories impact this solidarity being fostered?

Bukeni: Since these organizations work directly with victims of abuse, partnerships between organizations helps expand the use of new materials, acquire knowledge and the ability to measure the effectiveness of these materials in strengthening their advocacy methodologies.

For example FilmAid Kenya and COVAW will be collaborating on their video advocacy goals as well. COVAW has the equipment and FilmAid has committed to providing space and editing equipment and helping to find a volunteer to help COVAW with editing.

Terry: Theory can be misinterpreted and disapproved. It can be shot down or challenged but a well told story captured on video creates a sense of credibility. This then fosters a trust within the spheres that we share the video because it is then relatable to the audience and showcases real life situations that may have otherwise gone unnoticed if given in form of print or statistics. A video can be emotive or strike a nerve with activists and people in our line of work that then inspires the change we are looking for. Survivors then receive the closure needed when they speak up and when change even in the smallest measure is achieved.

Saara: How important is the recording and sharing of survivor stories to the advocacy work of the organizations? How can organizations implement video in their work after using the Interview Guide?

Bukeni:  Collecting and documenting stories of survivors is key to the strategies that these organizations work on. The organizations are able to provide a platform for survivors to speak out against the violence and demand targeted actions to address the issue. This requires a participatory method, where survivors are part of the process from documentation to advocacy.

COVAW activists participating in #JusticeForLiz campaign in Kenya.
COVAW activists at #JusticeForLiz campaign event in Kenya.

Terry: We plan to use video as an integral part of our larger advocacy plan. Our audiences include government officials, the Kenya Police, the public, potential and existing partners and donors, etc. Strategically adding a visual aspect to our advocacy plan may just result in the change we work towards everyday.

Rape and defilement cases are on the rise in our country and the criminal justice system is constantly failing us. We plan to focus on a project that highlights the prevalence of such cases and the flaws in the system that need attention and review. We do not want to highlight only the capital, Nairobi.  We want to shift the focus to the different counties that we work in and have encountered horrible cases and mal-administration of justice to show that this is now a national problem that needs prompt attention.

Saara Ahmed is an intern with the gender-based violence campaign at WITNESS. She has worked on prevention advocacy and community-based approaches to gender-based violence in the US and East Africa.  

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