Film Exposes Women’s Struggles in Zambia

NOTE: This is a guest blog post from Kimberley Sevcik, Information and Media Relations Manager for Camfed.

Filmed by the first women’s filmmaking collective in rural Zambia, Hidden Truth is an intimate portrayal of the effects of domestic violence on women and children in Samfya, a remote region of Northern Zambia. The Samfya Women Filmmakers harness the power of film as a way to challenge injustices in their community and advocate for change. Many in the group were deprived of the opportunity to go to school, and some cannot read or write – but film is providing them with a compelling tool for telling their own stories, in their own voices.

The second film produced by the collective, Hidden Truth has been screened for hundreds of communities in rural Africa, where it is stimulating important dialogue about an issue that is rarely discussed.

The film has also been screened for audiences at film festivals and cultural institutions around the world, capturing the Best Documentary at the 2011 Zanzibar International Film Festival – a sign that the film’s message resonates far beyond the borders of Zambia. See the next page for a Q&A with Hidden Truth Director Penelope Machipi.

What was your initial reason for making a film about domestic violence?

For this, the Samfya Women Filmmakers’ second film, we researched topics and talked with women in the community. We learned a lot of women have been victims of domestic violence, and we wanted to make a film to help people learn about the problem and stop it.

What was your experience making a film on such a sensitive, personal topic?

In fact it was very hard and at times very scary. We got threatened by men, people tried to take our camera, and we were told that we had “no respect to tell this story.”

It was interesting the reaction some men had to us with our camera and gear. They were afraid of us—they thought we were going to get them arrested. One husband even confessed to us, and then started treating his wife better, even doing the housework once he thought he was going to get in trouble!

Well thankfully you not only got the film done, you’ve screened it all over the country, in numerous settings! What kind of responses have you received from these community members regarding what they perceive as the causes of domestic violence?

Women’s responses have been that it’s because of poverty. Women are not educated and not economically independent, and they have children to look after – that’s why often they feel unable to leave, as they have no other support.

Some people believe that if your husband beats you it means that he loves you, and if you report him then you will be accused of wanting to send your husband to jail. Now, since Hidden Truth, people are saying that women need more of an education about what path to take if they’re suffering from domestic violence.

Have you seen any other evidence of changes in attitudes or behavior around domestic violence in your community since the screening?

There has definitely been a change in attitudes and behaviour since Hidden Truth. We are starting to see people living in peace. Screening the film has brought issues of domestic violence out into the open, when previously people were not comfortable discussing the topic.

The questions and answer sessions after the screenings have resulted in people talking more openly about what they have seen in the community and how they feel about domestic violence, without necessarily discussing [their own] personal issues. Lots of women have requested that the film be screened again to different people in the same area, so that more people get the opportunity to see it…women would like more sensitisation around the subject of domestic violence, along with more victim support. Chiefs in the communities have even been requesting more screenings of the films.

Did audience members in the communities have any comments about what they think needs to be done to end domestic violence?

Audiences commented that the government should empower women with information, but also economically to reduce dependency on men. The men have been saying they would like more sensitization about the effects of domestic violence. The men themselves believe that they should discuss domestic violence within community-wide meetings

What were some of the most positive comments you heard from people about the film/the screenings?

Some positive comments have been that women are now making strong statements about wanting action taken when somebody perpetrates violence. More people are voicing how they believe the government should empower women. Demands have been made on the government to formulate more laws that protect women.

How do you feel about the new anti-gender-based violence legislation in Zambia?

I’m extremely happy that the new law has been passed to help protect women in Zambia. In addition to the passing of the law that we’ve been fighting for, I would like to see it being enforced, so that women are protected. I believe the whole community will be very happy about the passing of this law.

How do you see Hidden Truth’s role in fighting for an end to domestic violence, both in Zambia and around the world?

Hidden Truth has been a powerful tool in challenging attitudes in Zambia.

I would like to continue to screen the film in the hope that it will continue to raise awareness and sensitize attitudes surrounding the issue.

Since the film, most women know about their rights and feel more protected now, but I would still like to see women gain more respect in their community.

I hope to continue screening the film throughout Zambia, and eventually have the opportunity to screen it in many different countries in order to bring about positive change.

Camfed is dedicated to the eradication of poverty in Africa through the education of girls and the empowerment of women as leaders of change. Since 1993, 1,451,600 children in some of the poorest rural districts of Ghana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia have benefited from Camfed’s programs.

Photo credit: Camfed

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Jackie Agusta
Jackie Agusta3 years ago

That little boy looked very nervous, hopefully he will grow up to be a different man to his brother-in-law becaue that guy is obviously a coward. Unfortunately domestic violence happens all over the world. In Ireland the man has to practically kill the woman before anything is done about it and the cops will tell you themselves that they cannot get involved in domestic distrubances and aside from that, there are hardly any places for these women and their children to flee too in safety :-(

Jane L.
Jane L.3 years ago

Wow, to hear the stark truth come out of that young boy's mouth...It's startling and shocking. He is so bright, smart, and articulate enough to express himself. It's sad to hear that children, such as himself, have to live in the fear of such violence and, at the same time, want to grow up to be the change to stop it from happening. Very provoking video. Definitely sharing it on facebook. I'd love to see the whole video.

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers3 years ago

Thankyou for infroming the world of these atrocities.

Dijana D.
Dijana D.3 years ago

this documentary is so great....the women's stories break my heart

Ana R3 years ago

Micheal M. i agree...
Thanks for sharing Emily

pam w.
pam w.3 years ago

Ginger..."A man that beats a woman is a coward."

++++++++++++ Have you been to Africa? Asia? South America? Because what seems true to YOU, in THIS country, may be ABSOLUTELY NORMAL in others! Do WE have the "right" to impose western ideas of "normalcy" onto cultures in other parts of the world? If so...what gives us that "right?"

I'm playing devil's advocate because this is NOT a simple issue.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson3 years ago


Rose Becke3 years ago


Shanie Mangulins
Shanie Mangulin3 years ago

Unfortunately the abuse of women & girls is endemic to the worlds of "commerce" & "war"... Look at Ruwanda, the Congo, Somalia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, India, even here in Canada! A mother & daughters murdered - an honour killing! What men do in the name of "honour" is murder pure & simple! And, it must stop!

Margaret C.
Margaret C.3 years ago

Change is what we as individuals have to do. Change who we are to people we can live with and try to help others to see themselves as they are to others. Stop saying change and make the change. Men who know that other men are abusive to women and children should talk to those men and tell them it's time to change. Women who know of abuse should try to help those women they know are being abused, shelter them or help them find shelter. This is nothing new. Some women have gone the route of fighting back and even killing their abusers, they see no other way, esp. if they are alone in world. Some women have no one and no means of support, so they have to take the abuse, esp. if they have children. Do (some) men feel so emasculated by life that the only way to feel power is to hurt, abuse and kill every woman, child and animal in this world. To bad they don't know that love is power too.