Small Talk_Mar 02.jpgEstablished by the United Nations as a body which champions gender equality and the empowerment of women, UN Women has created a project that aims to raise awareness about the range of issues women face across the globe. Perfectly timed to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8, the HeForShe Arts Week Bangkok will bring free artistic and cultural activities to the BACC, Chulalongkorn University and SF Cinema at CentralWorld from March 8 to 15. Alejandro Hita, HeForShe’s regional campaign coordinator, tells us more.

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Alejandro Hita is hoping to effectively raise awareness on gender equality and women’s empowerment through the world of art

What exactly is HeForShe?
It’s a solidarity movement initiated by UN Women about two and half years ago. Traditionally, the quest for women’s rights has been done by women. In today, there is an increasing realisation that there is also room for men and boys to participate. So HeForShe is a movement that created a platform for men to become equal agents of change towards gender equality and women’s empowerment.

And what about the Arts Week?
This arts week is a global initiative. The pilot project took place in New York last year. Art is a powerful tool to raise awareness and can serve as a vehicle to send out messages. The idea is to create awareness and strengthen support from civil society and institutions to mobilise opinions and resources. It was a success in New York and now this year Bangkok’s HeForShe Art Week will be synchronised with London, New York, Mexico City, Panama City, Paris, Reykjavik, Santiago de Chile and Sao Paulo.

What can people expect from the event here in Bangkok?
While people in New York have to pay, in Bangkok this is all free of charge because we wanted to penetrate all levels of the local community. We have created what one might call the HeForShe triangle. The arts week will take place at three different venues, BACC, Chulalongkorn University and SF Cinema, CentralWorld, all of which form a triangle on the map.

We will have an array of activities happening. From March 8-12,14-15, there will be permanent exhibitions related to the topic. And at SF Cinema from March 9-12 there will be screenings of seven award-wining international movies, each with its varying themes, from violence against women, economic empowerment, women in conflicts and more. Because we wanted to achieve geographical equilibrium and with the support of several embassies here, we are going to show films from Sweden, Canada, Turkey, Germany and others. Additionally on March 8, as part of the opening a small theatre troupe will perform a show tailored to gender equality. This performance will be repeated on the weekend as well. We will end the arts week with a Vagina Monologue, which you will find in almost every city now.

What’s happening at Chulalongkorn?
On March 13, we will have a screening of He Named Me Malala, about the young female activist Malala Yousafzai followed by a panel discussion related to violence. Professors and academics from Chulalongkorn will take part.

What were some of the challenges in organising this event?
We are a relatively small team doing this. From the beginning you don’t know how big you can go because it depends on the support that you receive. Luckily we have got support from the BACC and several embassies. Budgets are always an issue. Sometimes you want to bring in a movie but it’s too expensive, or sometimes, the relevant embassy doesn’t want to support it. It’s a sensitive topic and while some countries are happy to self-criticise, others are not. In a nutshell, it takes quite some time to organise all this and shape it according to the possibilities you have. The initial idea for bringing HeForShe Arts Week here came to us around June-July last year. But as you can see, at the end we have managed to come up with a very good and solid programme. People who are not particularly interested in gender quality issues can still enjoy it for the sake of art and culture.