A group of Malagasy survivors of human trafficking have come together to film their own stories of forced marriage and domestic slavery in a new documentary.
The film is part of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Global Migration Film Festival, which aims to engage communities in sharing their experiences.
Madagascar is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Thousands of Malagasy women are employed as domestic workers in Lebanon, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, where many report exploitation. Malagasy men are also known to be victims of forced labor in the construction and service industries in the Middle East.
For the first time in Madagascar, victims were empowered by IOM to become the filmmakers of a counter-trafficking film to help raise awareness of a subject that, in many communities, remains hidden or treated as taboo. The Festival’s team of facilitators trained the participants using Participatory Video (PV) methodology that, beyond creating a final product, is a process that catalyses self-reflection, self-recognition, transformation and change.
In order for the women to portray themselves with dignity – but without running the risk of revealing their identities – the majority opted for protecting their faces either using counter-light techniques or covering up with locally made tissues.
They also embraced a creative solution: presenting themselves without revealing their real names, but names of flowers grown in Madagascar instead. “Dalia,” “Ovy Ala,” “Menakely,” “Mavo Adala” “Rose” and all the other members became the “Flora filmmakers” group and produced the short film Fleurs de l’Espoir (Flowers of Hope) – a 15-minute collage of testimonials portrayed via seven themes: Poverty; Lies and Frauds; Slavery and Abuse; Violence; Forced Marriage; Search for Freedom, and Hope.
“After the process I was proud because I could not imagine we could produce a film like this, especially after all we’ve been through,” said one woman named ‘Lilas’.
Clara Perez, Counter-Trafficking Project Coordinator at IOM explained, “For the first time, we inverted the way of communicating about trafficking in persons: instead of us talking, we sat, observed and heard the victims of trafficking putting across in their own words and with their own means, their experiences.”
“With that, we want to put emphasis on the individuals’ agency to overcome their trauma, and show that if you have been a victim at some point of your life, you are – as a human being – deserving of so much more, and we will not let you be catalogued as a victim for the rest of your life.”
The film will now be disseminated by IOM and the Government of Madagascar to communities across the country before being shown internationally at the 3rd annual Global Migration Film Festival.