Thursday, October 28, 2021

Award winner Joyce Chavula advocates for women empowerment through film

Joyce Chavula, Director and Producer of the touchy film Lilongwe on Saturday night put Malawi and Southern Africa on the map as she proudly bagged the Best Southern African Movie Award at the Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards held in Lagos, Nigeria.

During an interview with Lifestyle, Joyce said she was grateful for the recognition, adding that her film represents the lives of a lot of young African women who are raped and suffer in silence.

“I work a great deal with women from Theatre For A Change, a British Council Project in Malawi that empowers female sex workers to improve their health and advocate for their rights, does outreach and support for sexually exploited girls and promotes critical healthcare interventions across Lilongwe. As I took time to listen to the girls telling their individual stories, the reality of rape and its consequences hit me and inspired me to create a film that tells the hardships of African women. Such issues are seldom spoken about especially in Southern Africa. That’s how Lilongwe was conceived,” she said.

Through the film, Joyce tells the story of a young girl called Lilongwe who gets raped and impregnated by an older man in the village. Out of shame she runs away from home and relocates to town hoping for a better life. She then grows into a mother of three who is an office girl by day and a prostitute by night. At one stage in her life, Lilongwe comes face to face with her rapist. The story carries on to show how rapists can sometimes escape prosecution because family members often pressurize the victims not to speak out, leaving them broken and devoid of the healing they need. Joyce added that her film is very relevant to Malawi and the rest of Africa as a lot of young girls go through rape daily. 

“The time is now for women in the film industry across the continent to tell the world about things that are happening to our children. This silence and denial is part of the reason why a lot of African women are still not empowered,” said Joyce.

The movie director and Producer is Vice President of The Malawian Film Association. She revealed that even though the arts industry in her country is not booming as a whole, filmmaking on the other hand has over the past years grown significantly. 

“We took a bold step as an association and approached UNESCO for funding with a detailed proposal on how we intended to develop local filmmakers. Fortunately they came on board as our partners and we held workshops across the country on film production. Six months later government took interest and showed a lot of support for filmmaking. As we speak the Malawian film industry is very vibrant with producers submitting work regularly to television stations,” she said. 

Joyce said her hope is to see more Southern African women taking up lead roles in the industry because she believes women’s emotions are key in storytelling. 

“These are stories of what happens to our children and who better than us women to tell them as they are?” she said.

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