[After watching] I have been thinking about the video for two days. The concept played in my mind over and over again… it challenged traditional beliefs of our societies and perceptions of contemporary media on sexuality of disabled young people. Thushi's ‘It’s not a different sex’ is very powerful.”
- Sachintha Gunaratne, Social Work Undergraduate, Trainer Sexual & Reproductive Health Rights
After nearly six months of intense work, I was amazed to see the number of positive reviews and responses to my video advocacy short film, “It’s Not a Different Sex: Stories of Young People with Disabilities.” The film was directed by a prominent film director who said this film is a hybrid version between a public service message and a short film and since its launch on 12 November 2015, it has been viewed nearly 12,000 times on YouTube.
It has also been shared on a number of online platforms, including NGOs, INGOs, CSOs, and community organizations that focus on the sexual rights, reproductive rights, and disability rights of young people. Not only that, but many individuals, activists, and local celebrities shared the video as well. Many of them mentioned that the video challenged their perceptions on disability, and they especially appreciated the concept of ‘not sympathy but dignity’ for people with disabilities.
We made this film in consultation with young people with disabilities, young human rights activists, and artists. While making the film, as well as after finishing it, I made a number of good friends from the disabled community in Sri Lanka and international networks. I formed a strong partnership with the International Alliance for Peace (IYAP)’s Ability Forum, which focuses on rights for all, regardless of disability. The objective of this forum is to convene high-level government officials, nonprofit and civil society organizations, and young disability rights activists to promote policy change and effective implementation of programs to improve the lives of people with disabilities. I will be working closely with the Ability Forum to ensure that the sexual and reproductive health and rights of people with disabilities are discussed and secured.
This short film was screened in partnership with IYAP, followed by a panel discussion featuring prominent disability rights activists in Sri Lanka. We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from a number of participants, including United Nations staff, CSOs, National Youth Services Council, disabled individuals from across the country, and youth activists. We also were invited by University of Sri Jayawardanapura to screen the film, where 300 students and professors joined us to watch and discuss the film.
Due to the seriousness of this campaign, at the outset, I wasn’t fully prepared for the amount of time necessary for this project when I began. A video advocacy campaign does not end by simply uploading the video to YouTube; that is where the campaign really just begins. It’s critical to monitor what is happening online and what conversations are happening around the production. However, I found this difficult to manage, as there is so much content being produced online. I also received a few negative comments from few people who viewed the video in conventional perspectives, regardless of the content of the film or the intended message. I ultimately realized that some of them were commenting without even watching the video.
I believe that this video shouldn’t be limited to Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms. Other platforms need to be utilized to bring the message to everyone, especially to those who have limited access to technology. We have plans to talk to local cinema theater owners and video shop owners to promote the film in their venues. We are also hoping to produce this film in local languages and in braille or audio for people with visual impairment.
Though we may not be able to reach everyone, we are committed to reaching as many people as possible. We strongly believe doing so will shift viewers’ thought processes, and ultimately, their attitudes towards the sexual and reproductive rights of the disabled young people.
About World Contraception Day:
In support of World Contraception Day and Women Deliver’s Young Leaders Program, Women Deliver and Bayer will work in partnership on a three-year World Contraception Day (WCD) Ambassadors Project. The project equips young people with the skills they need to collect and share digital stories about young people’s SRHR and access to contraception in their home countries. The project includes a storytelling and digital media training, a seed grant, and advocacy opportunities for the Ambassadors to showcase their work at the international level.