Exploring border issues through film
The docudrama Talking Borders gives a voice to communities in the border areas of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea whose daily lives are blighted by petty corruption, routine harassment and bureaucracy. The aim of the project is to increase public awareness on border rights and community security, as well as promote people-to-people dialogue.
Based on over 300 interviews, the film tells the stories of a woman trader, a policeman and a young ex-fighter who all live in the border areas of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. This project represents the first time that communities have been able to see their concerns articulated on screen.
Cross-border tensions or weak cross-border service management allows space for extortion and limit traders’ ability to conduct small-scale business to support their livelihoods. Extortion at border posts is common practice and women experience harassment in financial terms as well as demands by security officials for sexual favours in return for safe passage.
Amplifying the voice of marginalised communities
Talking Borders – produced and directed by Bremen Donovan and Aubrey Wade – is helping to expose these issues for audiences at all levels of society across the region. The film’s premiere was held at the British High Commission, Freetown, where the audience included the Sierra Leone Defence Minister, the Liberian Ambassador to Sierra Leone, representatives of the Office of National Security, Human Rights Commission and local NGOs.
In order to get people talking about the issues involved and their experiences we’ve been working with partners to screen the film in community settings across the region, with each screening followed by open debates on the issues raised.
Talking Borders is therapeutic, as it vividly highlights society ills meted against women. By so doing, it has succeeded in creating space and an opportunity for women to express their views on abuses against them.
A women's activist in Kenema, Sierra Leone
These screenings have proved successful in starting a dialogue for change at community, local and national levels. Community actors have been brought into dialogue with officials in the capital Freetown as a means to push an agenda for change forward. With the assistance of the Human Rights Commission, it has also been broadcast on Sierra Leonean national TV, Channel One, reaching nearly 250,000 viewers.
Generating dialogue and influencing change
By transmitting community feedback to those at the policy level, Conciliation Resources and our partners aim for security officials to oversee change in attitudes and behaviours. Talking Borders has been screened at a workshop of national security agents in Sierra Leone and issues raised from community screenings were also presented to policy-levels actors at a policy meeting in Freetown in late 2011.
With the film’s outreach activities successfully stimulating debate within Sierra Leone, our partners in Liberia and Guinea are now devising outreach programmes for communities there too. The docudrama has sparked the interest of the region’s parliamentarians and has led to a fact-finding process to explore how they can contribute to better cross-border relations.
Challenges faced by women crossing borders
The film is also having a significant impact on women. Women make up 90 per cent of small-scale traders in cross-border communities, with involvement in trade presenting great opportunities for economic empowerment but also serious threats to their security.
Talking Borders reveals the failure of security sector reform to adequately address the vulnerabilities women face.However seeing familiar situations portrayed on screen prompts them to recognise that they are not alone in being subjected to these problems and that for change to happen, they have to become more active in addressing the issues of corruption, harassment and exploitation which affect their everyday lives.
By providing space and opportunities to discuss tensions and issues of concern – within communities, between local and central levels, and between communities’ civic actors and officials across borders – it will become possible to find shared solutions and work towards the consolidation of peace.
- Watch the 20-minute docudrama Talking Borders and a short film about the outreach programme
- Read Consolidating peace: Liberia and Sierra Leone (Accord 23)
- Find out more about our peacebuilding work in West Africa