Violence Against Women: What Role Can The Artists And The Arts Play To End The Scourge?
Arts are a means to end violence against women through encouraging participants to reflect upon their capacities and their views of the world.
How can artists help in transforming harmful social norms and help in empowering women and girls? It is time to realise that the problem of GBV is not selective, we are all in it together, whether we like it not.
BULAWAYO (The Citizen Bulletin) — The United Nations is marking the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence from November 25 to 10 December 2021 under the global theme “Orange the World: End Violence Against Women Now!” In the past years numbers of abused women have risen due to the COVID 19 pandemic. It is even worse in our communities due to economic challenges being faced by the country. UN estimates that 2 in 3 women face violence in their lifetime.
Gender-based violence can and must be prevented. How can artists through their works help in stopping this violence? How can artists help in transforming harmful social norms and help in empowering women and girls? It is time to realise that the problem of GBV is not selective, we are all in it together, whether we like it not. The violence that happens within our communities has a direct and indirect impact on all of us. So it is imperative that artists be active during the 16 days of activism and take a leading role in the fight.
In the past creativity has been restricted to the arts and the artists. However, the arts in the 21st century must be applied across the full spectrum of human problem-solving. If we accept that the arts are central to the well-being of our communities then we have a responsibility to be engaged in broader agendas – civic leadership and fighting GBV must be one of them.
Different forms of social oppression permeate our everyday lives and require ongoing effort to challenge and resist. Abused women and girls experience multiple forms of social oppression which have accumulated over time.
They turn to internalise abuse and this contributes to feelings of powerlessness and futility. Artists should know that engaging this constituency is a process of active resistance that cannot be imposed but requires ongoing collaboration with them. Participatory action is required, active involvement of the participants in a process of personal and social transformation is important so that they gain trust. Through individual and collective action the participants can reassess their worlds and consider new ways of challenging various forms of gender-based violence.
The arts have played an important role in both discouraging and facilitating social action and change. Arts can be characterised as aesthetic. Arts as an aesthetic can be concerned with increasing awareness. It can draw attention to issues that are often ignored. It can encourage a reassessment of the “normal”. The arts can challenge people to think differently, engage in different behavioural experiences and experience different emotions and this is the reason why during 16 days of activism and beyond artists should come up with programs targeted at fighting the cancer.
Different forms of art can involve people emotionally. As such, they can be both a source of personal satisfaction as well as a catalyst for social action. People can be involved to varying degrees in the arts from observers through to active participants. Artists must involve people in their work – the success of an artwork is bound up with its success in emotionally as well as cognitively engaging the audience. It is important therefore, that all artists draw people to their works that fight GBV.
Perpetrators and survivors of GBV can be involved in the process of art-making as a means of collective story-making and the discovery of new strengths and abilities. It can promote a sense of shared identity and a way of developing a shared history and shared solutions.
The arts are not the solution but rather a means to the solution. It encourages the participants to reflect upon their capacities and their views of the world. Whereas repetitive routine activities can narrow our horizons, participation in creative activities can open up new opportunities and proffer solutions and be a channel for a new beginning. Artists should engage in these programs as a way of giving back to the community.
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As artists engage communities in their activities to fight gender-based violence it is important that they put emphasis on their methodologies as these have an effect on their outcomes. A methodology that puts the community as observers or consumers only may not yield results. Some of the activities that artists can come up with are workshops, open invitations to talk shows around issues of GBV, open discussions, performances and sharing of stories.
Art is a powerful tool that can be used to bring communities together to fight against evils. In the process, it helps people to connect with those that can assist them. It can help to create support systems for victims of gender-based violence. It is time to seriously fight against the scourge.
Bulawayo, Economic development and Social justice, Arts, Gender based violence
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