Activism 101: 16 Films About Violence Against Women 2010

One of the most powerful tools that nonprofits and activists for any cause can have for shaping public opinion and galvanising public support for causes is the power of film. The power of film can cut both ways, particularly with extra sensitive issues such as violence against women.

Indeed, there are so many ways the power of film can work against the cause and more often than not, violence against women in movies are gratuitously portrayed to draw and titillate audiences. Some films even border on or cross the line into undiluted, unapologetic misogyny manifest as violence and control  – witness pornography and even mainstream films such as Michael Winterbottom’s horrendous movie that he attempted to pass off as “art” – The Killer Inside Me. Films such as these numb the (wo)man on the street to violence. Worse still, the violence against women so blithely depicted in many movies rated just G or PG-13 may well inure growing boys and girls to the realities of violence, thus potentially grooming yet another generation who would see violence as a non-issue.

As Nicole Kidman, Goodwill Ambassador for UNIFEM, admits: Hollywood does have a role in perpetuating stereotypes and romanticising violence against women.

However, demonising film would be throwing out the baby with the bath water.

The key to the influence of film is HOW film is used to represent violence against women to the masses. The key is to see film as a tool:

Done well, a powerful documentary, movie, public service announcement, music video or television episode can give might momentum to helping activists and nonprofits working to end violence against women motivate grassroots support for the cause.

Done right, the film-maker will be able to walk the balancing act of accurately depict the horrors of violence against women while inspiring the viewer to join the movement to end violence against women.

As part of our contribution to Day 8 of the “16 Days of Activism”, The Pixel Project would like to shine a light on 16 films that will present much food for thought about violence against women. In the mix are documentaries and movies as we believe that both film formats have their strengths:

Film Number 1: Desert Flower

‘Desert Flower’, based on the bestselling memoir by supermodel and FGM activist, Waris Dirie, tells the story of Waris’s incredible journey from a nomadic life in the deserts of Somalia to the world’s most famous catwalks. This was a dream and a nightmare at the same time. In New York, at the peak of her career, she tells in an interview of the practice of female genital mutilation that she had to suffer when she was five. Waris Dirie decides to end her life as a model and dedicate her life to fighting this archaic ritual.

Film Number 2: The Stoning of Soraya M

This drama is set in 1986 Iran and centered on a man, Sahebjam, whose car breaks down in a remote village and enters into a conversation with Zahra, who relays to him the story about her niece, Soraya, whose arranged marriage to an abusive tyrant who brought trumped-up charges of infidelity against her tragically ended with her stoning.

Film Number 3: The Rape of Nanking

In 1937, Japanese troops entered the Chinese city of Nanking and began raping and murdering its citizens in an orgy of violence that has few parallels in modern history. This polished film follows the struggle of the late Chinese American journalist, Iris Chang, in her struggle to bring one of the darkest chapters of history to light. Ms Chang committed suicide in 2004.

Film Number 4: Sin By Silence

Sin By Silence is a documentary by Olivia Klaus about Convicted Women Against Abuse (CWAA), the first inmate initiated and led group in U.S. prison history and shatters the misconceptions of domestic violence. CWAA was created in 1989 to help women inside prison break the silence about the abuse that drove them to kill their abusers and learn more about what they needed to do to help others stop the cycle of violence. This film has been 9 years in the making.

Film Number 5: Tapestries of Hope

“Tapestries of Hope” is a feature-length documentary by Michealeane Risley that exposes the myth behind the abuse of young girls in Zimbabwe and brings awareness to the efforts of the Girl Child Network Worldwide and their fearless founder Betty Makoni.

Film Number 6: Recovering Irma

Recovering Irma is a feature-length documentary film that crystallizes in the aftermath of domestic violence homicide as Sandra and her nephew Lorenzo embark upon a road trip from San Francisco to her parent’s hometown of El Paso. Along the way, Sandra and Lorenzo will meet with perpetrators, survivors, law enforcement officials, front line domestic violence experts asking the question, “How do we stop this?” As the road trip unfolds, Lorenzo will quickly discover this journey is a chance to see what he could become if he doesn’t change. Sandra’s hope is that by going back to where it all began, generations will have a chance to remember, heal, change, and ultimately be set free.

Film Number 7: Precious

‘Precious’ is an award-winning film adaptation of the 1996 novel Push by Sapphire and is widely acclaimed for its realistic and thought-provoking depiction of domestic violence. The plot revolves around an overweight, illiterate teen in Harlem who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction.

Film Number 8: Senorita Extraviada

Since 1993, over 400 young women have been raped and murdered in Juarez, Mexico. Authorities ignore pleas for justice from the victims’ families, and the crimes go unpunished. Most disturbingly, evidence of government complicity remains uninvestigated as the killings continue to this day. SEÑORITA EXTRAVIADA is a haunting film by Lourdes Portillo about a heinous crime wave amid the corruption of one of the world’s biggest border towns.

Film Number 9: Finding Dawn

Finding Dawn is an award-winning documentary about a tragedy in Canada which is surprisingly similar to the situation in Ciudad Juarez. Dawn Crey, Ramona Wilson and Daleen Kay Bosse are just three of the estimated 500 Aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered in Canada over the past 30 years. Acclaimed Métis filmmaker Christine Welsh embarks on an epic journey to shed light on these murders and disappearances that remain unsolved to this day.

(Summary adapted from Women Make Movies –

Finding Dawn (Trailer)
– Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

Film Number 10: Love, Honour and Disobey

Domestic violence in all forms—from physical abuse to forced marriages to honour killings—continues to be frighteningly common worldwide and accepted as “normal” within too many societies. Getting to the heart of current multicultural debates, ‘Love, Honour and Disobey’ reveals the issues around domestic violence in Britain’s black and ethnic minority communities through the eyes of the Southall Black Sisters, a small group of women who have been working to combat abuse for more than 25 years.

(Summary courtesy of Women Make Movies –

Film Number 11: After The Rape – The Mukhtaran Mai Story

In 2002, Mukhtaran Mai, a rural Pakistani woman from a remote part of the Punjab, was gang-raped by order of her tribal council as punishment for her younger brother’s alleged relationship with a woman from another clan. Instead of committing suicide or living in shame, Mukhtaran spoke out, fighting for justice in the Pakistani courts—making world headlines. Further defying custom, she started two schools for girls in her village and a crisis center for abused women.

(Use of this video is courtesy of Women Make Movies –

Film Number 12: Backyard (El Traspatio)

This movie focuses on Blanca Bravo (Ana de la Reguera), a tough, idealistic young policewoman trained at the national police academy in Mexico City is assigned to Ciudad Juárez where young women disappear here with alarming regularity, one per week on average, most of them poor migrant factory workers. Some are found weeks later, dumped in the desert, murdered and mutilated, and some simply vanish. All are nameless victims of crimes that go uninvestigated by a male-dominated police force who treat these crimes as little more than a nuisance. Acting against the orders of her superiors, Blancas own investigation into the disappearances reveals something far more disturbing, exposing an ugly truth about the very core of society.

Film Number 13: NO! The Rape Documentary

This award-winning, ground-breaking documentary, explores the international reality of rape and other forms of sexual assault through the first person testimonies, scholarship, spirituality, activism and cultural work of African-Americans. Winner of an audience choice award and a juried award at the San Diego Women Film Festival, NO! also explores how rape is used as a weapon of homophobia.

Film Number 14: Amazing Grace

While this biopic about William Wilberforce, the legendary English abolitionist, is not directly about violence against women, it has an activist heart that provides inspirational viewing for all who work tirelessly to end violence against women. Change walks a long hard road but as Wilberforce shows, eventually, if we keep working at it, we will change things. This movie can also be used as a springboard for discussing modern-day slavery and human trafficking/sex-trafficking.

Film Number 15: The Greatest Silence: Rape in The Congo

Shot in the war zones of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006, this film breaks the silence surrounding the tens of thousands of women and girls who have been kidnapped, raped and sexually tortured in that country’s intractable civil war. The filmmaker, herself a survivor of gang rape, talks with activists, peacekeepers, physicians and with the rapists themselves. She travels to remote villages to meet rape survivors who have been shamed and abandoned, providing a piercing, intimate look into the horror, struggle and ultimate grace of their lives.

Film Number 16: Call + Response

CALL+RESPONSE is a first of its kind feature documentary film that reveals the worlds 27 million dirtiest secrets: there are more slaves today than ever before in human history. CALL+RESPONSE goes deep undercover where slavery is thriving from the child brothels of Cambodia to the slave brick kilns of rural India to reveal that in 2007, Slave Traders made more money than Google, Nike and Starbucks combined. This star-studded film also uses the power of music to send out an inspiring anti-trafficking and anti-slavery message.

These films make harrowing viewing but we hope that this selection will inspire you to watch at least one or two of these little-known films to learn more about violence against women. We also hope that it will inspire film-makers out there to start making more films that tackle this difficult subject.

It’s time to stop violence against women. Together.

– Regina Yau, Founder and President, The Pixel Project

*Photo by:

Activism 101: 16 Ways to Speak Up and Break the Silence

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

One of the most effective ways of bringing about change when it comes to stopping violence against women, is to speak up and speak out.

That seemingly simple act of speaking up becomes one that is supremely difficult for many people when they are asked to do it to prevent, stop or testify to violence perpetuated against the women and girls in their lives because:

To speak up to prevent violence means acknowledging that people you know and the culture you live in may be the ones committing the violence against women.

To speak up to stop violence against women oftentimes means confronting the fact that the violence exists through someone you know or the culture you live in.

To speak up to testify about an act of violence against women may mean coming up against your culture, and even your loved ones or friends.

Yet if we do not speak up – if YOU do not speak up – it will cost lives. It will cost the lives of women and girls in so many ways ranging from chronic lifelong psychological and health problems, to even death.

How many of us have not spoken up when we know and see our mothers, sisters, daughters, nieces, aunts, friends and co-workers are facing or have faced domestic violence, rape, female genital mutilation, street harassment or any other type of gender-based violence?

How many of us have retreated or are shocked into silence when we see the bruises, the drastic change in personality and even the broken bones staring us in our faces?

How many of us think: “It’s not my business” and just tune out the screams or hurry on by without even dialling 911 (or the police/emergency services in our respective countries)?

We at The Pixel Project and all our bethren working to end violence against women say: “To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards of (wo)men“.

In today’s post marking the 5th day of the 16 Days of Activism, The Pixel Project presents 16 ways of speaking up to break the silence surrounding violence against women:

Speak Up 1: Seize the ‘teachable moment’. When violence against women makes the news, such as the Roman Polanski scandal, Time magazine’s remarkable cover portrait of ‘Bibi’ Ayesha and Mel Gibson’s abusive recordings, use those news as a conversation point with your friends, your family and even your kids.

Speak Up 2: Share it. If you are a survivor or someone who witnessed violence against women in your family or workplace, don’t sweep it under the rug or just talk to your therapist about it. When you are ready to do so, share your story with others to show them that they are not alone and that it is possible to escape and leave the violence behind.

Speak Up 3: Tweet It. If you are on Twitter, it takes just a click of a mouse to tweet a news story or statistic about violence against women. Not sure where to get this information? You can either Google for it or follow nonprofits working to end violence against women such as The Pixel Project (@pixelproject) and retweet their informational tweets.

Speak Up 4: Go Artistic. If you are an artist or artisan, use your art form to break your silence – draw it, paint it, carve it, mould it, weave it. Use your art to amplify your voice, then exhibit it online or offline to raise awareness.

Speak Up 5: Blog It. Not comfortable verbally speaking up against violence against women? Write a blog post about it. Not comfortable blogging directly about the violence you personally witness? Use a news story as a springboard for discussing your personal opinion about it – it doesn’t have to directly reference your life but use the story as a vehicle for expressing your feelings.

Speak Up 6: YouTube It. If you don’t work in broadcasting but would still like to have your voice heard by an audience, consider recording your stand against violence against women and posting it on YouTube. Not sure where to begin? Try The Pixel Project’s Wall of Support programme where you will be joining a chorus of voices from around the globe speaking out against violence against women.

Speak Up 7: Set it to Music. Are you a singer? A songwriter? A musician? Write and perform uplifting, honest songs about violence against women. Help spread the message of change and hope to your listeners and fans.

Speak Up 8: Broadcast It. Do you work in broadcast television or your local radio? Push for educational content about preventing and raising awareness about violence against women to be included in the programming. It could take the form of a public service announcement, interview slots for local activists or even just playing songs standing up to the issue during your shift.

Speak Up 9: Get it Published. Are you a writer or a poet? Write and submit an OpEd or article to your local newspaper. Write a poem about the violence and how you feel about it… then share it online on suitable online forums, blogs and websites.

Speak Up 10: Write a Letter. Tired of seeing content and images that promotes violence against women in the media? Write a letter to the company/producer/director/artiste concered to express your concern and outrage.

Speak Up 11: Start a Petition. Feeling outraged about any act of violence against women in your community or country or even the world? Start a petition online and rally all your friends and family to sign it in protest before presenting it to the relevant authorities/governments/organisations.

Speak Up 12: Lobby. Lobby. Lobby. Horrified by the lax or non-existent laws tackling violence against women in your community, country or even the world? Get together with other likeminded people to lobby your representative in government to push through legislation that is sorely needed.

Speak Up 13: Join The Discussion. Not sure where to start? If you are on Facebook or any other social network site where people come together in groups to discuss the prevention and solutions to violence against women, join those groups and join the discussion list.

Speak Up 14: Wear Your Message. Get a t-shirt or two printed with snappy anti-violence against women messages and wear them. Or try wearing either a purple, white or purple-and-white ribbon that is signifies the movement. These moves will, more often than not, spark conversation and you can take it from there!

Speak Up 15: Teach It. If you are a parent, a teacher, a college professor or a sports coach, start proactively bringing up discussions about violence against women, why it is wrong and why it needs to be stopped. There are so many ways of bringing up the subject, ranging from one-to-one discussions to lessons plans incorporating the messages, to getting in experts from your local battered women’s shelter or rape crisis centre to speak to the young people in your charge.

Speak Up 16: Dial that Number. If you live next door to a domestic violence situation, or if you stumble upon a sexual assault situation anywhere, dial for emergency services (including the police) to let them know about the exact location of the act of violence, then rally other bystanders to step in together to interrupt the situation.

These are just 16 of many ways of expressing your opposition to violence against women. So please – don’t “sin by silence” anymore. Speak up and speak out because it really is time to stop violence against women. Together.

– Regina Yau, Founder and President – The Pixel Project

16 Ideas for Taking that First Step

“A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”
– Lao Tzu, Chinese Philosopher (604BC – 531BC)

With Violence Against Women being a huge global pandemic that is present in virtually every society and culture that values men over women, boys over girls, it can be overwhelming for anyone who wants to help.

From the understaffed and underfunded nonprofit struggling to help as many women and girls as possible, to the seasoned activist campaigning nonstop, working to stop and eventually end violence against women is both exhausting and frustrating. It can also be emotionally draining and, for some activists who work in the field, it can be mortally dangerous. Many have lost their lives in the course of their work as they face up to organised crime and brutal social mores to stop sex trafficking, prostitution, forced marriage, dowry murder and more.

For the newcomer who wants to join the cause because s/he has decided to do something about it, the immense scope and brutality of the issue can be more than overwhelming – it can paralyse taking action. Often, the question that pops into one’s head is: “Where do I start? Where can I start?” And all too often, the feeling of helplessness takes root and the potential activist or volunteer ends up not taking any action as this fatalistic thought reverberates around his or her mind: “What’s the point of helping anyway? What good can my efforts do to stop violence against women?”

The answer is: “Quite a lot!”

The fight to end violence against women does not solely belong to global behemoths such as the United Nations agencies, Amnesty International or Doctors Without Borders. Yes, they are huge organisations with the financial resources, skills and specialists who are able to mobilise thousands of people or to wade into the worst of the atrocities with the right equipment. However, the key to the massive change that is needed always starts and belongs with the grassroots.

In plain English: It starts with YOU.

Yes, YOU.

This is how The Pixel Project started: We were born from an idea in a shower. We do not have any funding – we run mainly on donated materials, products, services and skills. We do not run campaigns that call for paid fundraisers or masses of advertising. None of our people are paid a single cent/penny.

What we do have as a team and an organisation is an absolute shared belief that if we pool our individual efforts and pull our own weight, we can start making a change from wherever we are in the world. It doesn’t matter how large or small each volunteer’s contribution to our campaigns are – what matters is that each volunteer has stepped up to do something.

We are here to tell you that you can do something too and that whatever you do COUNTS.

To help you get started, and in honour of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, here are 16 Quick Ideas for newcomers to take action for the cause to end violence against women:

Idea 1: Tweet It. If you are on Twitter, make it a habit of tweeting or retweeting a piece of news about violence against women each time you log on to tweet. It’s an easy way to help raise awareness about the issue. Not sure what to tweet? Follow us on Twitter where we tweet VAW news and info  24/7 365 days a year as @pixelproject and start retweeting!

Idea 2: Blog about it. Pay attention to the headlines to catch any major news about violence against women and write a blog post about it. It doesn’t matter if it is a short blog post – what matters is that you are speaking out against violence against women.

Idea 3: Facebook It. Join groups and pages on Facebook that are campaigning to end violence against women. Join in the discussions or start one. Post news about violence against women on your profile page to raise awareness amongst your friends and family.

Idea 4: Get volunteering. Are you able to spare a couple of hours or more each week? Consider giving your local battered women’s shelter or rape crisis centre a hand. If you have less time or have unpredictable hours due to work, you can try virtual volunteering or seasonal volunteering during holidays.

Idea 5: Sign a petition. The next time you hear about a petition to stop a woman from being stoned or to protest against a gender violence atrocity such as wartime rape, step up to sign it.

Idea 6: Write a letter. If you see a movie, a magazine, a song or any other high-profile pop culture item that trivialises violence against women, write a letter to the producer/the editor/the artiste/the director to protest and tell them why you are protesting. Remember: Keep it civil – abrasive and foul language never got anyone anywhere.

Idea 7: Set a good example. If you have children and young people in your life, start setting a good example by opting for non-violent solutions when resolving interpersonal problems. Show them that it is possible to both respect and disagree with another person without resorting to sexism, degradation or violence.

Idea 8: Listen. If you know someone who is facing gender-based violence in her life such as domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, forced marriage etc, start by being a good listener for them. Don’t judge – just listen. Victims frequently feel isolated and helpless and having someone listen to them is the first step towards getting help for themselves.

Idea 9: Be an upstander. If you see a woman or girl being attacked in any way, step in to help. It could be dialling 911 immediately if the situation is too dangerous. It could be stepping in to stand up to the perpetrator to get them to back down and stop the abuse. Whatever you do – do not walk away. It may cost someone her life.

Idea 10: Mark your calender (and take action). Whenever occasions such as International Women’s Day, Domestic Violence Awareness Month or International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women happens, find a campaign that is happening online or near you and participate!

Idea 11: Give what you can. Find a reputable local or global nonprofit working to end violence against women and make a small donation – even just US$5 or US$10 helps. Every single penny/cent counts and the best nonprofits make every penny stretch.

Idea 12: Hobbies that help. Good at knitting? Fabulous at baking? Consider starting a small fundraiser or awareness-raising effort involving your local community with the proceeds donated to your local battered women’s shelter or rape crisis centre.

Idea 13: Gift ideas. If you are getting married or celebrating your birthday, ditch the gifts. Instead, ask your friends and family to donate their money or volunteer time to your choice of nonprofit organisation working to end violence against women.

Idea 14: Forward it on. If you have received a call-to-action for any campaign to stop violence against women via email, don’t delete it. Forward it on to 5 or 10 of your friends whom you know would be interested or open to learning about the issue.

Idea 15: Wear it well. Wear the purple, white or purple-and-white ribbons that are associated with the cause to end violence against women. More often than not, seeing the ribbon would spark conversation, giving you an opening to help raise awareness about the issue.

Idea 16: Nip it in the bud. If you are witness or any conversation or interaction that trivialises, reinforces or urges violence against women, step up and speak up. Don’t remain silent because it is not okay to denigrate women and to trivialise violence.

These are just 16 out of hundreds of actions you can do to help end violence against women in your community and ultimately the world. We hope that it is enough to inspire you to take that first step towards helping the cause!

It truly is time to end violence against women. Together.

– Regina Yau, Founder and President, The Pixel Project