The Yumi Sanap Strong team came together for a workshop in Goroka to better understand how the audiovisual materials they have developed could reach people and have an impact among communities. The team has developed 41 digital stories which capture personal experiences of the causes, impacts and solutions to sorcery related violence. The workshop was facilitated by Dr Jackie Kauli and Dr Verena Thomas from Queensland University of Technology with the aim to reflect on how the advocacy program can be further improved.
The highlight of the workshop was a screening and community conversation at Mambu market, a community on the outskirts of Goroka town.
Umba Peter from Kafe Women’s Association in Goroka facilitated the organisation of the screening. He has been working with the some of the youths from Mambu market on a sports and rugby program. Umba has his own digital story which talks about his transformation from perpetrator to advocator. He delivers a strong message during his talk to the community:
“You see me, I am a new Umba now, the old Umba has gone. If you are someone who has accused others you can change too”.
The team noticed the emotional reactions from the audience as they watch the digital stories. They are seeing it through the eyes of people whose life have been impacted by sorcery accusations related violence. Umba comments “It’s all about empathy, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Once you feel how your actions impact other people, you can change.”
But that is only one part of many layers of the community session at Mambu Market. Kafe Women’s Association with Director Eriko Fufurefa have invited a female police officer to talk about the laws in Papua New Guinea, and the community members express their appreciation to hear this information from a government official. One woman in the audience comments further: “As mothers we face many challenges to look after our sons and to keep them away from criminal activities. I am happy that I came today and that our sons are here watching these films with us and getting the information about the law.”
The team from Yumi Sanap Strong is made up of people from various provinces. The audience hear from Roy Daniels who works with Kedu Seif Haus in Milne Bay. He shares his experience in mediating sorcery and witchcraft accusations. He says “In our society in Milne Bay our women are highly valued, and when we have accusations we hold meetings to mediate the accusations and ensure that there is peace”.
Roy provides another perspective to understanding sorcery and witchcraft accusations in PNG, and it is clear that there are many different manifestations of sorcery and witchcraft across PNG. But the team makes clear that they all have one aim and they carry out a clear message: ‘to value human life’ and that individuals have a right to believe but not to use a belief to harm another person or incite violence.
The team notices that together they carry strength, they comment how the community says that Papua New Guinea, the nation, is visiting, with representatives from Bougainville, Milne Bay, Simbu and Eastern Highlands. Agnes Titus from Bougainville observes:
“This has a huge impact, the work we were are doing in our communities, and I can see that in the stories we are sharing here today but as well as that when we work in partnership, we can help ourselves to find others who can help us. And the Government must do its part, all programs at different levels of responsibility must carry out their work.
We must not wait until tomorrow, we must start the work now and do our advocacy campaigns in our own provinces, so when we come together like this program, we are a regional representation, and a collective of experiences working in this area and so we can go out with together as a collective strength, speaking and addressing communities together, because the more the better.”
In the discussions after the screening, a community leader asks the team to come back for a bigger screening. He says that the hundred people present are only a small number, their area has more than 5000 people and we need to get everyone involved to create a safer community.
The positive response from the community has much to do with the skill set of the human rights defenders. Their understanding of community context and the content of the PNG laws is important in facilitating discussions that allow community members to contribute their thoughts and take ownership of the issues within their community. The digital stories they produced provide an important tool to open up the space for such discussion.
There is no doubt that the team from Yumi Sanap Strong left an impact at Mambu market. To date, the human rights defenders have collectively held 40 screenings. There is a need to do more.
Agnes Titus is determined: “If we keep our mouth shut, then men, women and children are being killed. If we are vocal and speak out about these abuses then we can say that at least we are doing some work. And that we are saving lives.”
Throughout the workshop in Goroka, the Yumi Sanap Strong team reflected on how they can further improve the way they work together and how they can respond to the comments and feedback received from the communities that they work in. Their ongoing relationships and programs allow them to continue to work with the communities and to track the impact of the initiative.