Every November, a campaign called “16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children” takes place in South Africa.

The event, which runs from November 25 to December 10, began in 1998 to raise awareness about the topic and as an intervention strategy towards creating a society free of violence. As part of the campaign, Independent Media created a special content series called “Don't Look Away,” which ran for the duration of the 16 Days of Activism.

We supported the series with a social media campaign using the hashtag #DontLookAway. Each day, a first-person account of abuse was featured in the company’s newspaper titles and online platform, along with a video of the person's story.

The videos supported Independent Media’s news brand and objective of the Don't Look Away campaign by shedding light on the real stories and dire circumstances many individuals are still subjected to.

It created awareness by showing the public that we need to fight harder to eradicate violence in our society, and that it is the duty of citizens and organisations to not turn a blind eye to the plight of women and children who find themselves in such volatile situations.

Don't Look Away was a video series to raise awareness about violence against women and children.
Don't Look Away was a video series to raise awareness about violence against women and children.

The video unit also invited people to pledge their support against the abuse of women and children in Cape Town. People were also encouraged to paint one of their fingernails orange to show their commitment to ending such violence.

The challenge was to create visually appealing and creative video content — yet without revealing the individual’s identity or invading their privacy. This meant we could not re-enact the situations described, due to the serious nature of the content.

One of the stories that really stood out for us was that of one survivor, Candice (fictional name). Both of her parents were alcoholics, and Candice was subjected to sexual abuse from a young age by her father. When she was 4, her mother sent her to live with her aunt to remove her from the situation. However, two nephews who lived in the house began to sexually abuse her as well.

Candice found the courage to tell her aunt that her cousins were abusing her; but the aunt accused Candice of lying and trying to break her family apart, and kicked her out of the house.

Candice was then sent to a children’s home, but later moved back in with her mother, who was still drinking. She had to drop out of school because her mother could not afford the fees. Candice’s mother then sold her for sex to support her alcohol addiction.

Candice left and went to her father, but was not welcomed to live there. With nowhere else to go, she was forced to live on the streets of Cape Town.

The video spoke about a sensitive topic, without being overly explicit. An interview was conducted with a survivor and adapted into a script that would translate well for video. This script was used to create scenes for the video.

Difficult "Don't Look Away" stories were told using sensitivity and creative video concepts.
Difficult "Don't Look Away" stories were told using sensitivity and creative video concepts.

We chose to use a childlike concept of drawings to tell the story of Candice from her perspective as a young child. We aimed for the drawings that would evoke the raw emotions she experienced, but also help the audience remember her sense of innocence when subjected to traumatising environments.

The video was shot in stop motion on a whiteboard. The illustrator created unique characters and emotions for each person in the narrative, to help the audience easily identify and follow Candice’s story. Narration was added to help bring the story to life.

Working for weeks on this campaign, and translating each survivor’s story, made it difficult for our team not to become emotionally attached to each narrative. This emotion played testament to the horrors that these survivors, along with many other women and children across the globe, face daily. As Candice mentioned during her interview: It is not your fault. And help is always available.