In India and Bangladesh, the problem of gender-based violence is exacerbated by deeply rooted patriarchal social structures. Women and girls are discriminated against right from birth, and gender disparity is seen in all spheres – political, educational, religious, civil service, private sector, etc. Many longstanding cultural, religious, and traditional practices in both countries reinforce male superiority and define women as weak, subordinate human beings who exist solely to serve men and their needs. Beyond the immediate health impacts of gender-based violence, the long shadows of its enduring legacy can impede the ability of survivors to participate successfully in education and training activities, achieve economic stability, and engage with cultural and civic life. On a more personal level, the trauma of violence can scar women’s relationships with intimate partners, children, and friends.
Recognizing the importance of shifting the social norms underpinning gender-based violence, in April of 2018, Silence Speaks traveled to Kolkata, India, to work with the U.S. Department of State’s American Center Kolkata and local West Bengal NGO banglanatak on the “One Story at a Time” project, documenting every-day stories of how gender bias is perpetuated. A courageous group of young people from several Indian states, as well as from neighboring Bangladesh, came together for a five-day digital storytelling workshop. We supported them in sharing examples from their own lives of the subtle and not so subtle dimensions of gender oppression that fuel violence against women; and in illustrating their stories with video clips and photos shot on location and on site at the American Center. After learning to edit their stories in WeVideo, we held an end-of-workshop screening and celebration.
In September 2018, the stories were premiered publicly at a film festival in Kolkata, and they’re now available online. Moving forward, Silence Speaks is developing a discussion guide to accompany the stories, which will be made available to the storytellers and project partners to assist in positioning these powerful videos as tools for challenging gender-based violence across South Asia and beyond.
Watch the entire collection of stories, and see Vinotoli’s story below.