Film

Me Too: Why I'm Making a Film About Sexual Abuse

This film is about those moments that change things forever

When I was 14, construction workers arrived in my middle school to build a new gym. In the meantime, me and the other girls had to change to a temporary building adjacent to the construction site. One day, a teacher told us that the construction workers were peeping at us through the windows, and we had to be careful. That was it.


Back then I was already used to street harassment. 2 years earlier, as I was walking home with my mom, a man had stopped me to ask me out. He didn't seem to mind that I was only 12.

I was told that I should cover up. That it was my fault for wearing grown up clothes, for having a grown up body at a young age.

There is something incredibly heartbreaking about being in a situation where you're the prey of much older men and none of the adults around are even trying to help. It's scary. It makes you feel helpless. This event shaped the way my body is seen in public and private spaces: an object of lust and fetish, an object that doesn't belong to me but is for all to grab.

The events my friends and I were going through back in middle school are still, unfortunately, relevant today. And it's necessary to tell them. Years later, this behaviour from men didn't stop. I naively thought that getting older would cause them to, maybe, respect me more. But between the one who tried to kidnap me in broad daylight in the metro because he found me pretty, the one who stalked me at work and got my contact details from my colleagues, the one who tried to touch me because "black women are more sexual anyway"—it didn't stop.

The author, Aude Konan

I used to believe I was the only one these things would happen to. That I was unlucky. Or wearing the wrong clothes. But talking to other people made me realize they're was nothing wrong with me, or with them. The shame shouldn't be our burden to carry.

Sexual abuse is brutal and cruel. It happens to ordinary people, to everyone. The victims don't have to be good or innocent people. Innocence doesn't protect children from it.

And, unfortunately, the effects last much longer than the actual abuse. But no one really talks about it. We either see the victims kill themselves, or get their revenge, or need the help of a saviour. And what is happening afterwards? Too often, we never see the true consequences. The aftermath. The trauma. How it continues to impact people's lives for a very long time afterwards.

When sexual assault is shown on screen, it is too often with a twisted voyeuristic compliance. In films, rape scenes are always incredibly violent as if, in order to be real, sexual assault has to be. But it only serves to shock the audience as if they can't relate to what the victims go through unless they see it. And happens to the victims afterwards? We seldom see it.

In life, they are moments after which there is no way things can go back to the way they were before.

This aftermath is something I want to depict in my new movie, "Me Too" because it seems like no one cares but the victims. And that's why I am making this movie, because something so important, so serious should be handled in a better way. I want the audience to face the ugly truth, the terrible things that are happening to these young girls who are just starting to learn more about their sexuality and are already so heavily sexualised.

In life, they are moments after which there is no way things can go back to the way they were before. "Me Too" depicts one of them. It's like being on the verge of a cliff, and trying to cling on to anything to stop the fall. But sometimes falling is the only option. Sexual abuse means for many victims and especially my main characters, having to deal with the loss of the kid they used to be, and accepting the person they need to become in order to survive.

They have to learn to accept what has happened to them, how it has shaped them, and how it has changed everything in their lives. Women from so many different countries have literally been through the same issues. Together we stand stronger. That's why I am making this movie. To give our stories a proper representation. To tell survivors that we support them.

Aude Konan is a writer, journalist, novelist and playwright. Her first children's novel "Ma Petite Soeur" has been released in 2014. Her work has been published for The Guardian, Complex Magazine, Media Diversified, Londonist, Amina, and more. As a playwright she has worked with the the Royal Court, Talawa, Soho Theatre and more. She has launched a crowdfunding campaign for her film Me Too and part of the donations will be given to a charity.

For more info and to support the movie click here.

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Image courtesy of Lula Ali Ismaïl

'Dhalinyaro' Is the Female Coming-of-Age Story Bringing Djibouti's Film Industry to Life

The must-watch film, from Lula Ali Ismaïl, paints a novel picture of Djibouti's capital city through the story of three friends.

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If you're looking for African films to dive into while at home during the coronavirus outbreak, a new digital series from award-winning director Ava DuVernay's film collective ARRAY is a great place to start. The multi-media platform and arts collective is launching its #ARRAYMatinee series, and each film will be available for viewing here.

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Photo courtesy of CNOA

These Colombian Civil Rights Activists Are Fighting to Make Sure Afro-Colombians are Counted in the Census

When 30 percent of Colombia's Black citizens disappeared from the data overnight, a group of Afro-Colombian activists demanded an explanation.

It was the end of 2019 when various Black organizations protested in front of the census bureau—The National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (DANE)—in Bogotá, Colombia to show their dissatisfaction about what they called a "statistical genocide" of the black population. The census data, published that year, showed 2.9 million people, only 6 percent of the total population of the country, was counted as "Afro-Colombian," "Raizal," and "Palenquero"—the various terms identifying black Colombians.

For many years, Afro-Colombians have been considered the second largest ethno-racial group in the country. Regionally, Colombia has long been considered the country with the second highest number of Afro-descendants after Brazil, according to a civil society report.

Why did the population of Afro-Colombians drop so drastically?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists protesting erasure of Afro-descendants in front of the census bureau.

Last year, a crowd of activists gathered in Bogota to protest what they saw as erasure of Black communities in the Colombian census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

In the latest national census report from 2018/2019, there appeared to be a 30.8 percent reduction of the overall group of people that identified as Black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal, and Palenquero, as compared to the 2005. After this controversial report, an Afro-Colombian civil rights organization known as the National Conference of Afro Colombian Organizations (CNOA), officially urged DANE to explain the big undercounting of the black population.

This wasn't a small fight. Representatives who hold the special seats of Afro-Colombians in Colombia's congress asked the census bureau to attend a political control debate at the House of Representatives in November 2019 to deliver an accountability report. "The main goal of doing a political debate was to demand DANE to give us a strong reason about the mistaken data in the last census in regard to the Afro population," said Ariel Palacios, an activist and a member of CNOA.

At the debate, the state released an updated census data report saying that, almost 10 percent of the Colombian population—4.6 million people out of 50.3 million—considers themselves Afro-Colombians or other ethnicities (like Raizal, and Palenquero). But despite DANE trying to confirm the accuracy and reliability on the latest census report it was clear that, for a variety of reasons, Black people were missed by the census. The state argued that their main obstacles with data collection were related to the difficulties of the self-recognition question, as well as security reasons that didn't allow them to access certain regions. They also admitted to a lack of training, logistics and an overall lack of success in the way the data collectors conducted the census.

How could they have counted Black populations better?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists playing drums in front of the census bureau.

Drummers performing during a protest against the Colombian census bureau's erasure of Afro-Colombians from the 2018 census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

These arguments were not reasonable for the civil rights activists, partially because the state failed to properly partner with Afro-organizations like CNOA to conduct or facilitate extensive informational campaigns about the self-identification questions.

"CNOA has worked on self-recognition and visibility campaigns among the Afro community and this census ignored our work," says priest Emigdio Cuesta-Pino, the executive secretary of CNOA. Palacios also thinks that the majority of Afro-Colombians are aware of their identity "we self-identify because we know there is a public political debate and we know that there is a lack of investment on public policies."

That's why it is not enough to leave the statistical data to the official census bureau to ensure that Afro-Colombian communities are fully counted in the country. And the civil rights activists knows that. They made a big splash in the national media and achieved visibility in the international community.

Thanks to The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights organization, Palacios traveled to D.C to meet with Race and Equality institution and a Democratic Congressman. "We called for a meeting with representative Hank Johnson to talk about the implementation of Colombia's peace accords from an Afro-Colombian perspective but also to address the gross undercounts of its black population," says Palacios.

For the activists at CNOA, the statistical visibility of the Black population is one of their battles. They have fought for Afro population recognition for almost two decades. "Since the very beginning CNOA has worked on the census issue as one of our main commitments within the statistical visibility of the Afro-Colombian people," says priest Cuesta-Pina. Behind this civil organization are 270 local associations, who work for their rights and collective interests.

The activists want to raise awareness on identity. Because according to Palacios, "In Colombia, there is missing an identity debate—we don't know what we are. They [the census bureau] ask if we are black, or if we are Afro-Colombians. But what are the others being asked? If they are white, mestizo or indigenous?" Palacios believes that for "CNOA this debate is pending, and also it is relevant to know which is the character of this nation."

Afro-Colombian Populations and the Coronavirus

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists use mock coffins and statistics to protest erasure of Afro-descendants

Colombian civil-rights activist insist that undercounting Afro-descendants can have a real impact on the health of Afro-Colombian communities, especially during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

Even though the state recently "agreed with to give us a detailed census report" and make a different projection with the micro data, says Palacios, now with the Covid-19 emergency, CNOA and the government has suspended all meetings with them, including cancelling a second congressional debate and the expert round table meeting to analyze the data.

Unfortunately, it is exactly in situations like the Covid-19 emergency where data analysis and an accurate census report would have been useful. According to the professor and PhD in Sociology Edgar Benítez from Center for Afro Diasporic Studies—CEAF, "Now it is required to provide a reliable and timely information on how the contagion pattern will spread in those predominantly Afro regions in the country and what is the institutional capacity in those places to face it," says Benítez.

He adds that this information is "critical at the moment because the institutional capacity is not up to provide it at the current situation". That's why the Center for Afro Diasporic Studies plans to work with DANE information from the last census. According to Benítez, "We are thinking of making comparisons at the municipal level with the information reported in the 2018 Quality of Life Survey, in order to have a robust and extensive database as possible on the demographic, economic and social conditions of the black, afro, Raizal and Palenquera population in Colombia."









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