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Silence Speaks

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Women in Uganda share stories

At Brave New Films we tell stories of injustice, inequality and security. We are proud of what we do and of our education initiatives. We love the idea of sharing stories that encourage empathy among viewers. Because of this, when we see programs that also seek to educate and promote understanding, we are happy to tell our educators about them. In this post we wanted to share with you the great work of Silence Speaks, an initiative that not only supports the rights of women, but the rights of all people to tell their own stories in their own words. 

In spite of the advances in women’s rights that have taken place around the globe, women still continue to suffer the  brutal consequences of physical, sexual, and emotional violence that is inflicted on them every day. In many countries, laws that are currently in place to protect women are not adequately enforced. As a result, women are at risk of being taken advantage of by the very people who should be ensuring their protection against the perpetrators of gender-based violence and making sure that those who stand against these rights are held accountable. Cultural and social norms that perpetuate discrimination against women remain in place today, complicating women’s efforts to access education, find employment, participate in civic life, and achieve full equality in society.

Silence Speaks uses storytelling and participatory media to support women in telling and sharing their stories of struggle and courage, in their own words, and on their own terms. Through intensive workshops, Silence Speaks puts the tools of digital media production in the hands of women who typically only hear their narratives through the storytelling of someone else. But in these workshops they are given the chance to develop short, first-person narratives articulating their own experiences and challenges in their own voice.

The initiative’s ten-year history of work around the world has demonstrated clearly that the process of sharing difficult stories can bring a sense of relief and connection for those who have experienced human rights abuses. Participants in Silence Speaks workshops are able to regain control of conversations about circumstances in which they had little or no power. Those who tell stories in these workshops create videos that offer a sense of connection between storytellers and audience members. This bridge of understanding provides a vehicle for engaging audiences into action on behalf of women’s human rights issues.

To highlight some of these stories Silence Speaks has recently released a new DVD compilation, The Right to Her Story. This digital compilation presents eight short videos that create a mosaic of cohesion between women from varying backgrounds, all of whom have lived through experiences that reflect both gender discrimination and human rights violations. In one story, Elisa risks her life for a back-alley abortion when she is unable to afford a safe procedure in a medical setting. Meanwhile, Nombasa and her friends live in fear of violence as they watch most of their friends succumb to despair and alcohol abuse due to the lack of adequate schooling and job opportunities available to them.

Despite the challenges faced by these brave storytellers, their narratives offer hope and a conviction that the rights these women deserve will one day be secured as theirs. In surfacing stories that reflect this desire for change, Silence Speaks gives its workshop participants opportunities for their voices to be heard by those who can make a difference.


Mariya Guryeva is a fourth year student at Drexel University. She is majoring in communications with a focus in public relations and hopes to go to graduate school after graduation.