JAFTA, UNICEF Spotlight Shorts to zone in on gender-based violence
KINGSTON, Jamaica – With a keen focus on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, UNICEF in collaboration with the Jamaica Film & Television Association (JAFTA) created the Spotlight Initiative. The project’s mission was clear – make the issue the centre of efforts to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Since its take-off in 2021, the objective has been met but with the organisers’ eyes set on constant growth, this year’s edition of the initiative is aimed at fostering development through the stories of survivors. Happy to have been handed a platform through which such a sensitive issue could be given the ‘spotlight’, the selected writers and filmmakers committed all their creative energy into ensuring their projects aligned with the project’s main objective.
“This is a space that I’ve longed for. I am inspired by it and I plan to do more in the film space. I’ve always felt as women that we should tell our stories from our perspectives,” said writer/director Neisha-Yen Jones. “We should be speaking our truth in these spaces, especially when we speak about gender-based violence and especially violence against women.”
Jones’ film will see her telling the tales of domestic abuse victims with the hope of empowering women going through similar trauma to reach out and get the support they need.
Her fellow grant recipient, Mezan Ayoka, also has a similar goal. Telling her story through a main character named Rose, Ayoka hopes to shine the spotlight on GBV to evoke healing for all women who have gone through the dreadful experience.
“I wanted to tell Rose’s story because it centres her trauma as a healing journey – a difficult journey, but one that ultimately takes her closer to peace and acceptance. For anyone who has experienced violence against their bodies, this film can help give them hope to know that there’s a way out of the negative thoughts that can limit their full expression,” she said. “I believe that The Spotlight Initiative’s goal of eradicating gender based violence is possible and with projects like the Spotlight Shorts JA Developmental initiative we’re making space for more conversations that go beyond the horror of the actual experiences, but to also explore the psychological damage that can occur to individuals, families and communities that are plagued by GBV.”
Humanitarian aid organisation UNICEF, who partnered with JAFTA for the Spotlight Initiative in 2021, said it was a no-brainer that they would climb onboard again this year.
“Under the Spotlight Initiative, UNICEF Jamaica has been working with various partners to address the social and cultural norms that drive gender-based violence and child abuse at the community and family levels. A part of our mandate was to engage critical non-state actors including the media and creatives, and to leverage their influence to address gender based violence,” Novia Condell, UNICEF Health Specialist told Observer Online.
“The Jamaica Film and Television Association has provided UNICEF with access to an invaluable resource – the community of local filmmakers and their ability to creatively and meaningfully share the stories of survivors of gender-based violence and child abuse. These stories have resonated with audiences at the community, national and global levels and have provided us with platforms that amplify the voices of survivors and provide a space for reflection and discussion of the issues around GBV.”
For UNICEF, the most valuable impact of the partnership has been the increased awareness and sensitivity that filmmakers have shown as part of the process of participation in Spotlight Shorts.
“One key lesson which we want persons to understand through the Spotlight Initiative, is that we each have a part to play in addressing gender-based violence -as individuals, families, communities. All of us have a role to play in preventing abuse, supporting survivors and in challenging those beliefs and practices which can help drive this form of violence and prevent survivors from speaking out and getting help. We can make a difference,” said Condell.
The films selected under the 2023 Spotlight Initiative, We Need To Talk About Consent and Not by Will, will be screened at the Carib Theatre on Sunday, December 10.
Expressing excitement for the upcoming screening, Lesley-Ann Wanliss, Business Development and Initiative chairperson at JAFTA said the projects represent her organisation’s mission to “impact changes within the culture as well as the industry.”