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Speak up: Silence breeds more violence
March 12, 2015, 12:17 pm

Picture a pretty, young women staring into camera. As she begins to give viewers a step-by-step video tutorial on how to apply the perfect coverup, a sad realisation soon unfolds.

“Today, I’m going to show you how to cover bruising around the face.”

Complete with a shiny black eye, she continues... “Especially when your husband loves to hit you in the face.”

This was the thought-provoking video produced by Jeddah-based Shafiq Alam and Mohamad Sarhi, depicting a light-hearted make-up vlogging session, with a very powerful message.

In support of the UN Women’s mission to end violence against women in the Arab world, Google recently partnered with Dubai Lynx for the ‘7-Day Brief’ competition, and Alam and Sarhi’s video was crowned the winner.

Powered by YouTube, the competition called out to all creatives within the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region to create a 60-second video in just seven days, to raise awareness about this social cause.

Inspired by sadness

Taken aback by the shocking number of abused victims in the Arab region, Alam and Sarhi said that it got them thinking about the number of women around them putting on a fake smile everyday to hide their sadness deep down.

With a vision to mimic a parody spin that leverages the growing popularity of beauty channels on YouTube, the idea for their video was born.

“It’s like these women have accepted their fate and are going through life normally. So we thought of using ‘Vlogging’ to introduce a casual make-up tutorial to cover up the bruising to showcase the presence of abuse in the society.”

As the seconds tick by, it’s clear this video has an altogether different meaning, and the duo said it was their chance to creatively bring to light a heartbreaking, regional issue.

“The brief gave us an opportunity to tackle an important issue in the region and to raise awareness on domestic violence.”

Silent violence

One in three Arab women suffer from domestic violence, but with silence burdening many of these victims, the true prevalence is thought to be much higher.

Of all the women killed in 2012, UN Women has estimated that over half died at the hands of a partner or family member.

With most cases of violence against women going unreported, this shocking figure is proof that this violent pandemic needs to be ousted once and for all.

Though statistics on domestic violence differ from country to country, a spokesperson from UN Women told a Dubai-based daily that while some countries measure prevalence of domestic violence through their demographic health surveys, the gathering of statistics on this subject is not something that is “institutionalised” across the region, as it is elsewhere.

“Tunisia and Palestine have both conducted national VAW surveys (2010 and 2011, respectively). The Palestinian survey found that about 37 percent of women who have ever been married were exposed to one form of violence by their husbands.”

And the Tunisian survey found that 47.6 percent of women aged 18-64 years reported having experienced similar spousal abuse.

The 7-Day Brief competition, now in its third year, is also championing the need for more 24/7 hotlines to provide the much-needed support for women suffering from domestic abuse.

Though the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children has set up a 24-hour helpline in the city, the spokesperson said the need for more 24-hour hotlines across the region is a necessity when it comes to safeguarding victims. “What we do know is that the Arab region, despite improvements in recent years, still ranks the lowest on gender indexes globally at 15.9 per cent of women in elected bodies regionally.”

Labour force participation rates in the Mena region for men stands at 76 percent as opposed to 27 percent for women — versus 74 percent and 56 percent, respectively, for the rest of the world, she said.

“What we also know, given in part to the lack of available data, is that domestic violence continues to be very much something that happens behind closed doors. We see this also in some legislation and policies, where, for example, marital rape is not recognised as a crime in many countries in the region.”

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