Thursday, 26 November 2020

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Ciné-ONU: On Her Shoulders

On 20 June 2018, Ciné-ONU screened: 'On Her Shoulders' to mark World Refugee Day. The film tells the story of Nadia Murad, a 23 year old Yazidi refugee from Iraq, who recounts to the UN, and the world, her story of abuse at the hands of ISIS militants. This film was shown in partnership with Caritas Europa and UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) at Cinéma Galeries in Brussels.
The screening was preceded by a Facebook Live event broadcast on our Ciné-ONU Facebook page with Co-Producer Elizabeth Schaeffer Brown and was followed by a conversation on the issues highlighted in the documentary. The guest speakers included: Elizabeth Schaeffer Brown, Co-Producer of 'On Her Shoulders' and Founding Member of Nadia's Initiative; Shannon Pfohman, Advocacy and Policy Director of Caritas Europa; Sophie Magennis , Acting Regional Representative for the EU Affairs at UNHCR; and Jean-Louis de Brouwer, Director of Operations of the European Comission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department. The conversation was moderated by Carlos Jimenez, UNRIC.
In the ensuing discussion, Shannon Pfohmann stressed that the issues addressed in the film were both complex and political. However, above all, she asked that we recall the "importance of humanity" when we consider our responses to the issues raised in the film. An audience member asked how we could move beyond just feeling emotionally touched by the plight of refugees. 'How are we actually going to create change?', they challenged the panel. Jean-Louis de Brouwer was refreshingly honest in his response. Firstly, he noted that often we are predicting many of these crises and genocides before they are happening, but we are only acting after the dammage has been done. Secondly, he offered a challenge back to the audience that we be involved in applying pressure on states. He used the example of the recent case of the Aquarius refugees: when one state stands up and accepts refugees, the rest feel the pressure to do the same. As citizens of those states, we are equally responsible for creating that pressure.   
Sophie Magennis remarked upon how Nadia Murad provides leadership and courage. The effectiveness of her message is its simplicity: refugee rights should be upheld and the basic support they need must be provided . The panel all reflected on how Nadia should be an example that we can follow. Shannon Pfohman implored individuals to add their own voice to Caritas Europa's social media campaign #whatishome. Through this campaign and by sharing our experiences online and in the media, we keep the conversation of refugees in the limelight where it is unable to be ignored. Other answers to questions such as these were more practical.  As one of the co-founder's of Nadia's Initiative, Elizabeth Schaeffer Brown noted that small donations, such as the "price of a movie ticket", all add up. Even as justice gradually emerges for the Yazidi community, they still have to rebuild their homes and livelihoods in the aftermath. As individuals we can support organisations that are helping that process.

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