Stakeholders’ Support key To Success - It is a deliberate and collaborative effort to trigger voluntary personal actions and catalyze behavior change across African communities on gender violence through aggressive public education, awareness creation and youth engagement/capacity building activities and projects in the context of spreading awareness of the AU Protocol on Women’s rights in Africa; international artists, press cartoonists, illustrators, photographers and cartoon animators in Africa and other parts of the world are deploying comedic art and edutainment to battle gender violence and inequality in Africa, in a global context at the 2nd CARTOON AFRICA INTERNATIONAL BIENNIAL(CAIB) festival hosted by the Edo State Ministry of Arts, Culture and Tourism, in Benin City.
In a presentation at the event opening last Thursday, November 27, 2014, the Executive Director of Partnership for Women and Justice (PW&J), Mrs. Ijeoma Umeh, tasked stakeholders and artists of talent to actively engage in drawing attention to women issues through artistic solutions and sponsorships.
The PW&J leader said, “I am very glad that this event is holding at the time it is, and I want to use this medium to welcome you all to this august event and I pray that the outcome of this event would go a long way in determining the position of the society with regards to our perception of the arts and in respect of gender perspective. Whatever platform that avails to us as gender advocates we should utilize them, we should deploy them in representing the issues that affect women in the society. Just two days ago was the international day for the elimination of all forms of violence against women, and stakeholders are saying that if you have the opportunity to represent the interest of women, even as individuals, as associations, and as organizations, we should deploy those opportunities critically in raising awareness over the issues that affect women in the society.
“Nigeria as we all know joins the rest of the world to say that violence against women must end. So, I want to say that this is a good platform, a veritable tool for us to draw awareness on the issues that affect women in the society. Nigerian women have suffered greatly, they have suffered violence in all forms and the violence is not limited to a particular form. They suffer sexual violence, they suffer spouse abuse in all ramifications; we still find men who abuse and dehumanize their wives or their partners as the case may be and we are saying, as advocates, that these forms of violence should stop; and if we find Art that represents women’s interests we always support them. That is why I’m here… I want artists to use the talent that God has graciously given to them to represent the interest of women in tangible forms.
“The society needs the woman; we can’t do without women, we can’t do without the family, we can’t do without the girl child. But over the years we have seen the dehumanization of women, the abuse of women, the degrading of womanhood- the dignity of womanhood, and this dart is what the United Nations Women (UN Women) is saying must stop. And on the 25th of November every year, we find stakeholders who come together to champion the cause of women through rallies, symposium, workshops, seminars and all that. So we want to use the Cartoon Africa International Biennial (CAIB) platform to also lend our voices to that and say that every dehumanization of the woman, every abuse of the girl child-whether it’s rape…rape itself is violence, through physical abuse, mental torture and all that, psychological abuse…should stop. So we want artists who are here present to consider that whenever they are drawing their pictorial works, whenever they are creating artworks, they should also consider making a little input on issues that affect women.
“…I want to once again welcome you all to this august event, and to say that whatever activities that have been lined up, please key into them, see how we can support this organization. Be partners, be stakeholders; champion the cause of women, champion the growth of the family because, we all come from different family backgrounds, without the family you wouldn’t be. So I want us to use this platform to see how we can partner to ensure that all the issues we are going to critically look at today are brought to the limelight. Thank you very much and God bless you,” Mrs. Umeh concluded.
Background to the CAIB-MEWOR Comics & Cartoon Animation project: The first Regional Expert group-planning meeting of the Media for African Women’s Rights (MEWOR) project was held over three days in Nairobi, Kenya from the 23rd -25th of May, 2007. The meeting was convened by the African Women’s Development and Communication’s Network (FEMNET) and FAHAMU (Networks for Social Justice) and brought together media professionals in community radio and select media houses from 11 countries of Eastern and Western Africa including Ghana, Kenya, Togo, Uganda, South Africa, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Mali, Senegal, Philipines, Somalia, USA and Nigeria.
The MEWOR project aimed to develop a series of radio programmes and cartoon strips to create widespread awareness about the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa (the AU Protocol). The NIGERIAN OBSERVER Newspapers’ cartoonist, Francis Umendu Odupute, was one of the media experts at the strategic meeting. One of the resolutions at the meeting was that each participant should seek out creative means to get in-country stakeholders to be part of the project to achieve regional success in catalyzing behavioral change in Africa on the gender agenda.
At the meeting in Nairobi, Mr. Odupute was appointed to lead the Cartoon Working Group for the MEWOR regional project, which he pursued with vigour upon his return back to Nigeria. When however, FEMNET and FAHAMU could not continue with the project due to funding challenges, they withdrew from continuing with the MEWOR cartoon series project. Francis Odupute was, however, not ready to let go the idea considering the relevance of the MEWOR project to securing the future of Africa in the context of youth engagement and resocialisation. He continued to seek ways to actualize the MEWOR cartoon series dream to reach out to African youths particularly.
On November 23, 2012, the pilot edition of CARTOON AFRICA INTERNATIONAL BIENNIAL (CAIB) festival held at the White Space, Ikoyi, Lagos State, Nigeria. That event marked the beginning of African and international cartoonists and illustrators contributing artworks to realize the MEWOR advocacy comics dream.
As an integral part of the CAIB project, the Media for African Women’s Rights (MEWOR) comics series is a creative education strategy to integrate graphic communication/visual literature as a special media advocacy in the defence of women’s human rights in Africa as well as for social reorientation, in the context of spreading awareness among African youths, and stimulating proactive actions by leaders of thought and policy makers, etc, on the urgent domestication of the African Union Protocol on the Rights of women in Africa, and other rights instruments in favour of African women and girls as a way to reduce gender violence and other gender-based negative behaviours and stereotyping in Africa as major issues for meaningful and sustainable development of the continent.
RATIONALE: The adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is not far-fetched: “One image can communicate more than dozens of pages of text or hours of speeches. One image can change the course of history. Editorial cartoons draw attention to important political, economic, and social issues like nothing else. Using symbols or visual metaphors, their reach transcends country borders and language barriers” it has been authoritatively proven. All over the developed or advanced world, pictorial communication is omnipresent as resilient and efficacious tool in social engineering, social networking and development information. Cartoons and comics are cheaper, simpler and more efficacious visual communication Art universally employed as youth literature and tools for re-orientation and information empowerment. The power of dramatic audiovisual presentations through cartoon animated films cannot be over emphasized in the life of today’s youths. Even for adults, graphic humour contributes in no small measure in “the development of attentive, innovative, pluralistic and open-minded social relationship”, pundits have argued.
Objectives of the CAIB/MEWOR comic book and animated video series include to use the CARTOON AFRICA INTERNATIONAL BIENNIAL (CAIB) festivals/contests as an all-inclusive platform to generate great ideas from various African skilled cartoonists, comic artists, cartoon animators, creative scriptwriters, etc, for the development, production and distribution-within Africa- of a minimum of 6 comic series and cartoon animations and a maximum of 12 comics editions plus cartoon animations for easy website downloads and also television broadcasts that broaden awareness on the AFRICAN UNION PROTOCOL ON WOMEN RIGHTS IN AFRICA and other instruments for enforcing gender rights/justice, upon the kind support and sponsorships from stakeholders, donor organizations and interest groups across Africa and internationally.
The CAIB-MEWOR objectives also include to engage African youths via capacity building in peer education to trigger personal resolves and action that will lead to behavior changes in issues regarding to gender violence in all ramifications across Africa in local contexts; stimulate reading habits in African youths via humour and visual literature/comics; build capacity of African girls and women with artistic potentials to gradually and actively engage in mainstream media cartooning, comics industry/visual development information communication, etc, from female perspectives.
OUTCOMES: Expected results will be in tandem with the objectives stated above and will be monitored over a period of two years for measurable outcomes such as increased awareness about the protocol to the African charter on Human and People Rights, on the rights of women in Africa, increased knowledge and understanding of gender matters, Increased Gender sensitiveness especially amongst youths of Africa, and reduction of all forms of discrimination against females, more girls and women start demanding their rights at all times when breached, paradigm shift in the attitudes and decision-making.
The CAIB comic book series and animations will raise awareness on the AU Protocol and generate shared opinions on it across the African continent that can trigger gender behavior changes among young people particularly. The comic books and short animated films will address critical issues affecting women covered by the AU Protocol and other rights instruments in favour of women and girls in Africa, within the prism of humour and edutainment on the social media, and by partnering print and broadcast media, etc, regionally and globally.
The CAIB festival/exhibition and the supportive events will boost the comic book project in providing interactive platforms for continuous dialogue among stake holders including community people and leaders of thought who attend the Art shows and participate in the interactive session, youth engagement training workshops/seminars, the touring art exhibitions, etc.