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Art, Activism, and Action

Some of the stuff we do during 16 Days is got-to business – the work I have to do that serves a purpose but doesn’t make my toes dance. And then there’s the get-to stuff – the things I feel fortunate to be able to do – the cool innovative bits that help some people think differently about some things.

Our art competition was one of those cool things. We invited young people in the Arab region under the age of 25 to answer the question “violence against women – whose problem is it?” using any art medium they like.

We received over 75 submissions – photographs and paintings and video clips – from all over the region. Our youngest contributor was a 10-year old girl from Kuwait.

The panel of partners – ESCWA, UNFPA and IWSAW – all spoke briefly, along with Jordanian artist Rand Abdelnur. Rand’s work was instrumental in raising awareness of – and eventually abolishing – Article 308 of the Jordanian penal code, one of the region’s so-called marry-your-rapist laws. Rand inspired and mesmerized the audience.

She says: I do not know if my work can change anything, but a change is necessary… My art is urgent and it is political. I am a political artist…

I asked the audience: What is GBV? What are the 16 Days of Activism? What is art?! as a way to set the scene for the fusion of these things. Art is human expression and creation – an act, a thing. So art can be used for activism. And the act of activism can be art.

So why use art for GBV activism specifically? We are always looking for new ways – looking for EVERY way – to get people to pay attention. We want to both galvanize artists for our cause and also offer new forms of expression and action for activists to raise awareness, to change behaviors, and ultimately to end GBV.

Check out last year’s winner. Still gives me chills even though I’ve seen it a bazillion times.

As the moderator, I asked each member of the panel to tell us why they are passionate about ending violence against women.

Mehrinaz of ESCWA told us of the scars in her heart from survivor stories that she has carried for many years.

Noushig of UNFPA said she was here today – and every day – because she believes she can make a change.

And our star artist Rand said: GBV genuinely makes me upset. And once I am upset about something I have to fix it. And I fix things through art.

And so the event unfolded. Why did I love it? Well… it’s one of the more successful ways we’ve engaged young people, which of course gets me excited because I desperately want everyone to CARE. And it’s amazing seeing the ways in which they’ve expressed themselves against this injustice.

Rand selected the Artists choice award – a piece called Wedding. The artist used the image to symbolize society as the main perpetrator of violence against women.

And this year’s winner was Misplaced Guilt, a powerful short video clip of a girl in a tub drowning under the weight of words:

She did this to herself!

What was she doing out?!

She brought shame upon us!

She asked for it!

She deserved it!

CHILLS. Watch it and see for yourselves. Subtitles coming soon – but it’s powerful enough that words aren’t even necessary.

#GenderbasedViolence #Activism #16DaysofActivism #Art #ViolenceAgainstWomen

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