South African filmmakers are mounting their own campaign against gender inequality, with industry body Sisters Working in Film and Television (Swift) announcing on Sunday their efforts to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace.
The campaign will include an industry-wide code of conduct that has already garnered the support of government institutions, trade groups and broadcasters, as well as a series of PSAs created around the hashtag #ThatsNotOk, that will highlight instances of unacceptable workplace behavior.
With the weekend launch in Berlin of the European movement Speak Up, following in the wake of #MeToo in the U.S., Swift’s Zoe Chiriseri-Ramushu called it “exactly the right moment” for the South African industry to join forces with “a world movement for all women together.”
The campaign builds on the findings of a sweeping study conducted by the group last year, which found that two-thirds of women working in the South African film and TV industries have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace.
In a country that suffers from one of the world’s highest rates of violence against women, the initiative is geared toward providing a legal framework to both identify and combat incidents of workplace harassment.
“Ignorance [of the law] is not an excuse,” said Chiriseri-Ramushu, who added that one of the group’s goals is to ensure that “no production will be funded or commissioned without a code of conduct.”
The wide-ranging support so far reflects the broader push to prioritize gender equality in South Africa. Bizzers have cause for optimism. Despite endemic challenges in the film and TV industries, noted director Sara Blecher, most of the country’s funding bodies and broadcasters “are run by women who understand the struggle of women, because they’ve been victims of that struggle.”
She added, “You’re not going into these meetings with broadcasters as adversaries; you’re going in as allies.”