WITNESS: Cutting Edge Video Advocacy

The advent of the moving image has significantly changed the way in which we experience the world. In 1992 musician Peter Gabriel co-founded WITNESS with the vision of harnessing the power of film to transform personal stories of abuse into effective tools of grassroots activism, public engagement, and policy change. Since Cultures of Resistance shares a strong commitment to using creative media to promote change, we are excited to support WITNESS's video advocacy. Today WITNESS provides hands-on training in advocacy planning, technological education, filmmaking techniques, production, editing, and distribution. Their method has produced ground-breaking films covering issues of race, gender, and state violence in countries including Zimbabwe, Yemen, Cambodia, Colombia, and the Philippines.

Below you can watch a WITNESS-supported film that examines caste discrimination and the economic exclusion of India’s urban garbage pickers.

Among WITNESS's initiatives is a recent collaboration with two grassroots organizations in Macedonia. The Healthy Options Project Skopje, which works to reduce HIV/AIDS transmission in high-risk communities, has teamed up with the Macedonian Harm Reduction Network, which works to protect the human rights of drug users, prostitutes, inmates, and other marginalized individuals. This collaboration has resulted in the formation of a video advocacy network campaign that is fighting discrimination against a broad number of stigmatized communities.

Another of WITNESS's exceptional initiatives is its partnership with the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice, in which it will train 50 member groups how to produce video documentaries that tell stories about violence against women and girls around the world. The following trailer previews this collaboration.

The unique power of film, WITNESS Program Manager Kelly Matheson explains, is that it “asks you to imagine what you would do if someone you loved was abused and neglected and you were in a position to do something about it”. Video gives a human face to often complicated and abstract issues. Victims are seen as mothers, daughters, sons, and fathers rather than numbers and figures in the daily paper. Matheson adds that when “your eyes are opened by these stories, it is hard to turn away”.

Click here to access WITNESS's archive of human rights-related media, known as The Hub.

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