Young People Advocate Gender Equality Through Filmmaking

Eleven females who come from diverse backgrounds have shared the same goal of promoting gender equality and women empowerment in Cambodia through a movement called “Breakthrough.” Photo provided

PHNOM PENH – Eleven females who come from diverse backgrounds have shared the same goal of promoting gender equality and women empowerment in Cambodia through a movement called “Breakthrough.” 

Launched in December 2020, the movement is supported by UN Women Cambodia, which provides training on filmmaking to the members. 

Peov Sinoun, one of Breakthrough's co-founders, said the creation of such a media platform was a new thing at the time but it has proven to be an effective way to publish inspiring stories on issues related to gender equality. 

The movement is both a social medium – mostly on Facebook – and a website, and organizes regular meetings and festivals to discuss the role of women in society.

“Although we [the eleven co-founders] come from different backgrounds, we share the same goals. Some of us work in Civil Society Organizations, others are employees of the private sector, a few work in sectors related to gender equality, and others are still pursuing their master’s degrees,” Sinoun said. 

Over the past 25 years, Cambodia has made significant progress toward gender equality, according to a 2022 report published by the U.N. and called “Gender Equality Deep-Dive for Cambodia.”

But Sinoun said gender inequalities remain a significant issue in the country. 

To face up to and help promote equality between men and women, “we strive to achieve our collective goals in raising women’s voices louder through film production and other forms of storytelling including writing, posters, pictures and videos,” said Sinoun.

“Despite our compact schedule at our respective works and studies, we still find time to contribute voluntarily to this independently managed movement.

“We use filmmaking as a main tool to reach a broader audience on social media, particularly Facebook,” she said. 

Talking about the Breakthrough movement’s vision, Sinoun said it aspires to a society where women's rights are completely respected, all restrictive societal norms are eradicated, and women and girls at all levels are safe from abuse and violence. 

As an example of the movement’s actions toward gender equality, Sinoun spoke of their first project which was called “My Hero.”

In 2020, Breakthrough produced nine films with the theme of gender equality heroes, all of which using storytelling to advocate gender equality in Cambodia.

“Breakthrough movement's videos have been screened broadly. They’ve been a part of the Generation Equality Forum held by UN Women Asia Pacific on Feminism Movement and Leadership in Paris in June 2021,” Sinoun said.

“To celebrate International Women’s Day 2022, our teams produced a short film called ‘A Secret Nightmare’ which aimed to raise awareness of sexual harassment and victim blaming.

“So far, more than 30 videos have been produced by our team including short films, interviews, vox pop, educational and promotional videos. Some of our videos also include sign language,” Sinoun said.  

Sinoun said that even though none of them are professional filmmakers, they’ve all received training from the UN Women Cambodia to grasp the basics of filmmaking and shooting.

“All the films have been posted on the Breakthroughs’ social media platforms. Before we launched this movement, we did some assessments on how to convey the messages effectively to the public. Finally, we concluded that films are the most efficient way to raise awareness among audiences, particularly young people.

Film Festival to Defend Gender Equality

Nearly four years after its creation, the movement keeps on gaining momentum. On March 24, Breakthrough held an event called “Breakthrough Short Film Festival” which featured 33 inspiring short films on gender equality. All of them were produced by talented young individuals, who were either amateur filmmakers or students.

All of these 33 films embedded a gender lens, exposed the current problem and offered some solutions to victims of gender inequalities. Sinoun said such events help by putting the spotlight on an issue deeply embedded in society.

“When the problem is not seen as the problem, there will be no solution,” she said.

“I am glad to see young people from different provinces have deepened their understanding of gender-based violence and women empowerment and transformed their experiences into films. I can see they are thrilled to see their films screening in this festival” she said. 

One of the films broadcasted at the festival displayed a real-life story of a woman who was sexually abused by her adult cousin while she was only six years old.

Sinoun said the short film brings alive the concept of the victim’s sexual abuse experience so that the audience could feel the suffering, trauma, and injustice the victim experienced from the abuse and its long-term consequences. 

“Through this short time, we intend to see audiences change their perspective on sexual abuse by supporting the victim, seeking justice for them and wishing to see the perpetrator punished for their acts,” she said. 

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