Over 130 students, activists, and representatives from the diplomatic community came together to paint a Wall of Hope at the British Council, November 8th, to initiate a campaign to end violence against women and girls. The campaign is being coordinated by Human Rights Film Focus Nepal as part of its Half the Sky Film and Arts Festival, taking place November 25-December 10, 2013.
The Wall of Hope Campaign Outreach Coordinator, Gopal Aryal, reports that already over 100 schools and colleges are involved, and that three schools have signed up for the Campaign in the United States and Italy. Because of the enthusiastic response in Nepal and elsewhere, the Wall of Hope Campaign is being extended until International Women’s Day, March 8, 2014. Organizers are hoping that by March 8th 400 schools will be involved in every district in Nepal. Gopal Aryal pointed out that most schools have everything they need: a wall, some paper, markers, and paint, and a lot of hope, in the form of students and teachers.
Ambassador Andrew Sparkes hosted the launch activities at the British Council. Ambassador Sparkes hopes to get the diplomatic community involved and pointed out that gender violence is a global issue affecting women and girls in every country in the world.
Susan Parker-Jones, Director of Public Affairs at the US Embassy, was excited about the Wall of Hope Campaign and said the Embassy will be helping to expand the project to more schools in Nepal and abroad. UN Women has been working tirelessly around gender issues and women’s empowerment, and was represented at the launch by Zaid Sheikh, the organization’s director in Nepal. The Half the Sky Film and Arts Festival was planned this year to take place during the sixteen days the United Nations dedicates every year to stopping violence against women. The UN estimates that one in three women in the world will be either physically assaulted or raped in their lifetime. “A stunning statistic,” Sneha Shrestha, artistic director for the Wall of Hope Campaign, told students at the British Council. Ms. Shrestha will soon be launching her own project, the Nepal Children’s Art Museum, and said the Wall of Hope Campaign is exactly the kind of community project the NCAM likes to support.
After watching a film in the British Council meeting room called From Fear To Freedom, Ending Violence Against Women, students discussed issues brought up by the film and wrote messages to blend with a collective visual stating “Hands Off Women and Girls.” Some of the 140 messages included: “respect women”, stop women trafficking”, “equal education”, “hands off”, “speak out”, stop abuse”, “learn to respect women and girls”, “say no to discrimination”, “stay strong”, don’t make women victims”, real men don’t abuse women”, “stop rape”.
“The ‘Wall of Hope Campaign’ will be a great learning tool in developing multiple leadership and citizen skills”, Gopal Aryal told principals attending the launch. The Campaign and Half The Sky Film and Arts Festival are also organizing a WATCH, TALK, AND WALK initiative which will take place on December 7,8,9, and 10th. In cooperation with NTV, From Fear To Freedom will be televised on December 7th, just before International Human Rights Day. Participating schools in Nepal will assign their students to WATCH the film for homework, then return to school to TALK about it on December 8 and 9th, and then WALK for human rights on December 10th, International Human Rights Day. The film will be followed by a half hour discussion with women from organizations working on gender issues here in Nepal.
Sponsors, partners, and collaborators of the Wall of Hope Campaign and the Half The Sky Film and Arts Festival include: The US Embassy, The British Embassy, The British Council, UN WOMEN, CARE Nepal, Flame of Hope Nepal, The Sky Movies, Women LEAD Nepal, School Captains’ Club, Women For Human Rights, ACCESS, The Nepal Children’s Art Museum, One World Theatre, Women Make Movies, Women’s Learning Partnership, Suchila Arts Academy, CIWEC Clinic, the 1905 Restaurant, and Youth for Human Rights.