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In Senegal, Online Videos Break Silence over Abuse

Fatou Warkha, founder of WarkhaTV, an online television channel aimed at empowerment for women in Senegal
Fatou Warkha, founder of WarkhaTV, an online television channel aimed at empowerment for women in Senegal
In Senegal, Online Videos Break Silence over Abuse
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Online videos are important in Senegalese activist Fatou Warkha’s campaign to document and end violence against women.

The 30-year-old grew up in Pikine, one of the poorer neighborhoods near Dakar, Senegal’s capital. Locally, cases of domestic violence, rape and abuse were once as common as power outages and seasonal flooding.

Warkha tried, but failed, to raise public awareness of domestic violence through traditional forms of activism. But in 2018, she launched an online television channel. She hoped the privacy offered by the internet -- and its reach -- might get women to tell their stories after generations of silence.

Warkha told the Reuters news agency, “When I started making video reports, that was when it seemed like things started changing.”

The television project has led to much-needed debate and helped bring about real change. Its videos of women or actors retelling true stories of suffering and abuse have been widely shared on social media. They have even appeared on local television stations.

The World Bank notes that as of 2017, about half of the population of Senegal was using the internet.

Some of the videos played a part in a successful campaign for the criminalization of rape, which was signed into law on January 10.

Warkha said the television channel now plans to produce reports explaining the new law and how rapists and abusers can be held responsible for their actions.

She added that women need to “know how to preserve the evidence so they can prove that a rape has happened. Other than that, more work needs to be done to raise awareness about the rights of women and children.”

One of the series on the channel is called ‘16 voices, 16 victims.’ In one video, a woman tells how, as a child, she watched her father beat her mother until she did not get up. Another report provides details about the murder of a young woman at a university.

One issue Warkha faces is finding money to finance her campaign. The channel sells its production services to cover the cost of making its own videos. Additional money comes from non-governmental organizations.

Slow internet speeds and power outages are an issue of concern. But these difficulties have not lessened Warkha’s belief in the importance of technology for activism.

She said, “I often tell people that you can do great things with just a mobile phone.”

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Anna Pujol-Mazzini and Christophe Van Der Perre reported on this story for the Reuters news agency. Jonathan Evans adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

awareness – n. the quality or state of being aware; knowledge and understanding that something is happening or exists

domestic – adj. relating to or involving someone's home or family

preserve – v. to keep something safe from harm or loss