Sao Tomean-Estonian Elsa Figueira creates positive role-models, keeps anti-violence discussion going

by Andy Kozlov @KozlovAndy

As one could expect from checking the international calendar, yesterday the internet burst up from an inflow of awareness-raising info against domestic violence. As every year, on November 25 we were reminded that women and children around the world shouldn’t undergo violence in their homes or anywhere for that matter. ‘Thank you!’ you could roll your eyes in exasperation , “As if I didn’t no that hitting my wife’s index finger with a hammer is a savage thing to do.”

Well apparently, such annual reminder campaigns should not go obsolete just yet. Even those who you think are in the driving seat of behaviour change in there respective nations do their best to surprise you.

Elsa Figueira, a Sao-Tomean-Estonian transmedia initiative against gender-based violence
Elsa Figueira, a Sao-Tomean-Estonian transmedia initiative against gender-based violence

A curious press statement was sent out by the South African presidency on November 24. Mail & Guardian associate editor Verashni Pillay @verashni reports:

This year is significant because we’ve been doing this for 16 years. There were a few possibilities the press release could have played around with in terms of phrasing, given this neat numerical coincidence. [Instead the] Presidency celebrates 16 years of ‘raising gender-based violence’

Raising the violence, not the awareness about it. And celebrating the perversity. Really?

Speaking of observances, less than five years from now, the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe lying off the west coast of Africa will be the stage for  a centennial celebration of a revalation that — just like geneder-based violence in our time — was reported in newspapers all over the world as a major story. On 29 May 1919, Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, a British astrophysicist and popularizer of science, travelled to the island of Príncipe to watch a solar eclipse that provided one of the earliest confirmations of relativity.

This stamp by São Tomé and Príncipe celebrates the 90th anniversary of the milestone solar eclipse observation by Sir Arthur Eddington
This stamp by São Tomé and Príncipe celebrates the 90th anniversary of the milestone solar eclipse observation by Sir Arthur Eddington

The theory of relativity is an universally accepted episteme today. Brought to its completion during the First World War — that the humanity recalled throughout the whole 2014 — this theory  has successfully superseded a 200-year-old paradigm created primarily by Isaac Newton. Smashing a beer bottle over a woman’s head is somehow still one of those ideas that doesn’t want to vanish in the thin air.

The issue of violence is certainly an universal one, a primordial issue. People everywhere try to figure out a strategy to change violent behaviours in humans.

We asked the producers of a São Toméan-Estonian film Elsa Figueira about how replicable their project’s model could be in other countries.

Pekagboom says:

This project started with the Humanist vision that my musical style is spreading in the world, rapping with a social intervention message with constructive criticism. Through life stories we see happen to us every day around us. We started by a conversation about musical art and visual art in the capital city of STP. Me and the filmmaker Kris Haamer I had a talk about a track from my album that is coming out.

During our conversation I told Kris I’d like to make a video about domestic violence in Sao Tome and Principe because it’s something of great concern to society, because of the cases of deaths that have happened in the country, so I invited him to make a music video with a high quality, let’s say a super production to call the attention of people around the world.

So we decided to unite and do something more than a simple video clip but a short film using the story from my music. That’s where Elsa Figueira came to life.

As we all know to make quality requires investment and we know that Elsa Figueira has everything to be a world reference. To inspire women in a similar situation to gain courage to report these cases of crime. That’s why it’s very important to have the funding to complete this project with help from all around the world we can make a positive difference so it’s a chance to be proud of saying that together with Elsa you’re helping women around the world to combat domestic violence.

Vivalda Cravid Dos Prazeres adds:

Making this film to a broader audience will help raise consciousness of a range of problems, raise questions and promote discussion about the current level of knowledge about domestic violence and the gaps that still need to be addressed.

From the beginning, comprehensive evaluation has been seen as an important part of this movie, since the moment it was conceived to the moment it was last edited as a way to maximize the ability for learning from the diverse strands of the initiative and to guide future activities to address and prevent domestic violence in Sao Tome and Principe and in other countries.

Global Estonian Kris Haamer @krishaamer, a transmedia expert , explains:

Elsa Figueira isn’t easily replicable because she’s a unique a personality. We don’t know how to make copies of her, so we’re trying to make herself spreadable. The approach we’re taking is to create a fictional character that people can interact with, talk to, on Facebook. At one point she might learn to speak other languages, for now she’s just speaking Portuguese and subtitled in the film to languages like Estonian and Norwegian, Italian, Spanish, English, etc.

She’s someone who should inspire women all over the world to realize that if they are in an abusive relationship, there’s a way out and you can empower yourself and take that way. That is kind of universal.

What could be possible ways to cluster the awareness raising and behavior change solutions through media in the context of the domestic violence issue?

There’s hashtag activism and there are social media movements and there are examples of this working. Common signs that members of the movement recognize and gives each one more courage to keep moving forward towards the goal, which in the case of domestic violence obviously is a future without violence.

Looking around and seeing other people who care about this helps all of us remember the goal. This film isn’t going to stop violence or stop anyone from abusing his or her partner. When that happens, it’s already too late. What it may do, is use popular media to get a discussion going and create positive role-models that influence people earlier in their youth, so they don’t grow up to be someone abusive.

Please consider supporting the film here.

Let us know your ideas about making behaviour change campaigns stick.

Andy Kozlov can be reached on

Support Elsa Figueira via Kickstarter
Support Elsa Figueira via Kickstarter

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