This past Wednesday and Thursday, September 15th and 16th, the filmmakers of Pushing the Elephant (PTE), Beth Davenport and Elizabeth Mandel, and their main subject, Rose Mapendo, traveled to Washington DC — in cooperation with ITVS — to raise awareness around violence against women and girls internationally. Also along were Rose’s brother, Kigabo, and outreach coordinator, Kim Borba. Filmmakers Davenport and Mandel filed this report for BTB.
Our first stop was the World Bank. In an event hosted jointly by the Bank’s Social Development Department and the World Bank Institute Fragile States Program, we generated concrete dialogue among fifty World Bank staff and partners on the role of leadership and reconciliation in response to violence in fragile and post-conflict countries. A panel that included Fragile States staff, Rose and the filmmakers followed the screening. The discussion focused on ways Rose’s experience could help Bank staffers better understand the communities in which they are working. Tamara Gould (vice president, ITVS International) introduced the program, contextualizing the value of social-issue media in inspiring action. Our advisory council member Kury Cobham, an operations officer in the Social Development Civil Society Fund, at the World Bank, organized the event and supported its success within the Bank.
As with all Arts Engine films, our outreach strategizing begins during pre-production. We recognize that the most robust outreach campaigns will be built upon relationships that start early, and that enable us to incorporate the knowledge, connections and ideas of experts in the issue areas that we address through storytelling on film. It was exciting to see our long-term planning result in the organization and successful execution of this event.
Arts Engine also collaborated with a coalition of NGOs working to help pass the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA). IVAWA comprehensively integrates helping survivors and the prevention of violence into U.S. assistance programs which provide healthcare, education, and economic opportunity and promote legal reform and social change in developing countries. The legislation makes ending violence against women a diplomatic priority and urges timely response by the U.S. government to respond to critical outbreaks of sexual violence in armed conflict, such as the mass rapes used as a weapon of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Passing IVAWA would help remove a major barrier that keeps women and girls from getting an education, working and pulling themselves and their families out of poverty.
In cooperation with our longstanding partner Jewish Women International (JWI) and nine other key NGOs of the IVAWA Coalition, we participated in a Congressional briefing on Thursday morning, attended by an overflow audience of 160 legislators and legislative and NGO staff. Paula Kerger, President and CEO of PBS described the power of Pushing the Elephant in conveying the brutal realities faced by women around the world, and the importance of the film and its upcoming broadcast on Independent Lens in lifting the voices of those women. Rose, a featured panelist at the event, shared her stories of surviving gender-based violence and emphasized the need to create local solutions to local problems, with women at the fore. Also featured on the panel were two of the Congresspeople co-sponsoring and pushing the passage of the bill, Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), along with Ambassador (Ret.) George Ward, senior vice president for international programs at World Vision, Ritu Sharma, president and CEO of Women Thrive Worldwide, and Samantha Mathis, actor and Amnesty International spokesperson.
As a complement to the public assembly, Kim organized one-on-one meetings with the offices of three Senators and five Congresspeople. These eight legislators represented both parties and included co-sponsors of the bill as well as those not yet supporting it. Michelle Freeman, senior policy and advocacy specialist at JWI, joined us on our rounds and we received an overwhelmingly positive response across the board, including a commitment from Representative Cardoza, (D-CA), not yet a co-sponsor of the bill, to bring it to the attention of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to ensure it expeditiously comes to the House Floor, and to come on as a co-sponsor. Similarly, Representative Nunes‘ (R-CA) chief of staff, after hearing Rose’s story, said he would recommend co-sponsorship of the bill. We were thrilled to see Rose putting into action the IVAWA stipulation that local women must be part of the solution, with seats at the decision-making table.
Our effective, productive two days in DC provided us with three distinct partnering opportunities – working with NGOs, legislators and an intergovernmental organization– three distinct ways of using Pushing the Elephant to inspire change—training, engagement and awareness raising. It was also our first chance to work with ITVS on outreach and to experience the organization’s commitment to harnessing the power of character-driven social-issue media to help people better understand the world.