The local leg of the UNiTE to End Violence Against Women Film Festival and Community Activism Workshop has wound up in Joburg and is heading to Free State. Its films focus on the search by women for equality and freedom from violence.

UNiTE

The Johannesburg leg of the second UNiTE to End Violence Against Women Film Festival and Community Activism Workshop recently ended. The festival and workshop highlighted the importance of stopping violence against women and girls in all corners of the world.

Film screenings and workshops in Joburg were held at the Market Theatre in Newtown, as well as at venues in Orange Farm and Alexandra Township from 6 to 9 December. The events were opened by the Department of Arts and Culture in Newtown.

The spirit behind this year's efforts included activism, intercultural engagement and social mobilisation. It had the theme "56 years since the Women's March to the Union Buildings, 56 years of women united against poverty, unemployment and inequality".

Films screened included You Have Struck a Rock by Deborah May. Made in 1981, it tells the history of South African liberation struggle heroines such as Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Dora Tamana and other leaders who stood against the pass laws in the 1950s.

Also screened was Liberation Women / Week In Week Out, a documentary made in 1985 by Beata Lipman that airs the views of South African women who campaigned against apartheid.

Also screened were Weapon of War, about the on-going horror of rape in Democratic Republic of Congo; the Bafta Award-winning Pink Saris, about activist Sampat Pal and her Gulabi Gang in India; and Academy Award-nominated Quest for Honor, about the still prevalent practice of honour killings in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraqi.

The festival attracted film-makers, gender activists, government officials and representatives of non-governmental organisations, community groups, youth programmes, faith-based organisations and the public at large. Workshops and panel discussions addressed themes as diverse as youth representation and the media, rape and corrective rape, and gender and culture. The Film and Publication Board hosted a workshop on pornography and cybersex, and Sonke Gender Justice engaged men and boys on gender issues. The workshops closed with a session for aspiring film-makers.

This year, the UNiTE festival was geared to emphasize two broader themes connected to the 16 Days of Activism campaign: the United Nation's theme of "From peace in the home to peace in the world: Let's challenge militarism and end violence against women"; and the South African theme based on that of the Commission on the Status of Women of "Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and children".

It also supported the 365 Days of Action Programme to end violence against women and children, a national process being led by the Council for Gender-based Violence South Africa.

UNiTE background

The inaugural UNiTE To End Violence Film Festival took place in December 2011, where more than 36 films from 17 different countries were screened, attracting audiences of over 900 people over the five days of the festival.

It was established in support of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's UNiTE to End Violence Against Women campaign, which is geared to eliminate violence against women and girls in all parts of the world.

The South African festival now moves to the Free State, where it will run from 14 to 16 December. For more information, visit the festival's website.