By Umila Singh and Jackie Zammuto
The Forced Evictions Advocacy Toolkit from WITNESS/Amnesty International, has been traveling around the globe and into screening rooms, trainings and community meetings since its launch last fall. From an experimental music and arts festival in Edinburgh, Scotland to the UN-Habitat World Urban Forum in Medellín, Colombia, these events have introduced the Toolkit to a global audience of activists, community leaders, social movements, policymakers, and grassroots organizations.
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL
Brazilian artist collective Lanchonete.org, and leaders of the Occupation São João [PT], featured the Toolkit on March 29, 2014 at Café Imaginário, a monthly event that features art, music, workshops and discussions. The videos “Evict Them! In 5 Easy Steps” and “People Before Profit” were screened and the Toolkit was presented to a crowd of nearly 150 community members, activists and artists. Organizers of Baixo Centro, a collaborative street festival, also offered a workshop on how to organize and produce festival events, specifically around occupation and forced evictions.
On April 1, 2014, Hidden Door, a not-for-profit arts production organization, hosted a Video Activism Night as part of the Hidden Door Festival. The event aimed “to represent the use of video as a tool for activism.” The Night’s screenings, which included “Evict Them!” and “People Before Profit,” were attended by approximately 200 people and showcased video’s ability to empower people, serve as powerful tools for justice as well as to promote public engagement and policy change. Joel Venet, who founded a community video organization called Pilton Video (now called Screen Education) in Edinburgh in the 80s, shared his thoughts on the event:
…The Video Activism Night in particular gave a fantastic moment of expression to a worldwide perspective on community empowerment in the face of global commercial forces pushing ordinary folk around. The WITNESS films in particular showed what a few good people armed only with camcorders and the will to resist could do to support the poor and underprivileged say NO to exploitation and poverty…
On September 7, 2013, in Cairo, WITNESS and Amnesty International partner Mahmoud Saber screened “Evict Them! In Five Easy Steps” for a group of approximately sixty journalists, academics, human right defenders, and community members from around the country affected by forced evictions. The screening was part of a day-long program in honor of Egyptian Housing Day, which seeks to address the issue of inadequate housing faced by millions of Egyptians. The program included testimonials by individuals affected by forced evictions and local and international human rights organizations, as well as screenings of documentaries by the Shadow Housing Ministry and the Social Cinema Center.
On April 7, 2014, WITNESS was invited by the World Urban Forum (WUF) to participate in a round table dialogue between community members fighting eviction in a central Medellín neighborhood, El Naranjal, and members of Empresa de Desarrollo Urbano (Urban Development Company), the company working to redevelop the area. Both sides presented videos along with their arguments about why the development project was helpful/harmful to city and its inhabitants. WITNESS participated in the discussion and screened “Voices of the Mission – Restinga,” “Evict Them! In Five Easy Steps,” and “People Before Profit” to demonstrate how other communities were using video to fight evictions. Over 90 people attended the panel, and many people commented that it was one of the few spaces in the WUF that invited both sides of the argument. To learn more about the El Naranjal community, check out this multimedia memory and testimony project [ES] by Punto Link Casa Creativa and Corporación de Vivienda de Naranjal.
Last December, we showcased the work of CineMaralita, a film festival in the Philippines supported by the Urban Poor Resource Center (UPRCP). Since then, CineMaralita has held numerous additional screenings of the WITNESS videos. In January, at Adamson University, retired Philippine Chief Justice Reynato Puno spoke as guest of honor at a screening of the South African film “Dear Mandela” and “Evict Them! In 5 Easy Steps.” The videos were also screened at the Ateneo de Manila University in February and at the De La Salle University last March. CineMaralita is now preparing for a 3-day film festival and currently has 28 films in total, and hopes to expand its film list to advocate of behalf of the urban poor.
BURMA & ASIA-PACIFIC
This spring, the International Accountability Project (IAP) supported two trainings with activists facing forced evictions in Burma. The trainings were centered around a new guide written by IAP with the support of local activists, “A Community Action Guide to the Asian Development Bank: How to Use ADB Safeguard Policies to Protect Your Human Rights.” The Toolkit is being distributed alongside the Guide throughout Asia-Pacific, and the videos will be screened at trainings in five countries. IAP finds that visual tools are effective when discussing who is financing the projects that cause human rights abuses.
Overall, IAP has also distributed 95 Toolkit DVDs to its Global Advocacy Team, which will be used at upcoming community trainings and events in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Philippines, and Thailand.
As we share the stories of groups responding to forced evictions, we hope to inspire new ways to collaborate with community organizers, human rights activists, educators and artists. In the second part of this series we will feature highlights from India, Cambodia, Kenya, U.S. and more.
Can we add you to the map?
Tell us how you are using these resources, and we’ll share your story in the next blog post. Send highlights and photos to jackie [@] witness.org.
Where is the Toolkit?
The Toolkit is available for free download in the WITNESS Library. There are also a limited number of DVDs available, please email jackie [@] witness.org with requests.
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