The video portrays a woman, bruised and battered, with blood leaking from her nose.
She closes her eyes tight, squeezing out a tear, and words flash across the screen: “Violence against women is one of the most prevalent human rights violations. One in three women will experience violence in their lifetime.”
Then the scene runs in rewind — showing her erasing signs of abuse from her face.
“We must reverse this trend,” it reads.
The public service announcement was released last week by the United Nations Population Fund, which is highlighting 16 activists during 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, an international campaign that runs from Nov. 25 until Dec. 10 — Human Rights Day. The video is part of an interactive feature, called Sixteen Voices for Change, which includes “women and men, adults and children, policymakers and grass-roots activists, as well as advocates and survivors,” according to a news release. “Together, they show that change can take many forms.”
The United Nations Population Fund, a U.N. agency that works to promote gender equality worldwide, kick-started its feature late last week in time for the international campaign. It highlights a former child bride from Ethiopia, a 10-year-old girl fighting for equality in Uganda, a Zambian musician, a teenage Syrian refugee and lawmakers and community leaders from Nicaragua to Nepal.
It also features Rand Jarallah, a Palestinian makeup artist and activist who used cosmetics in her video, called “Reversing the Trend,” to show the physical wounds that some women (and men) sustain during gender-based violence.
“Raising awareness about human rights, and especially gender-based violence, is a huge part of what I do,” she told the United Nations Population Fund. “Makeup can be used as a form of art to empower people, because, you know what, art is unlimited — and so is our creativity.”
A 2013 report from the World Health Organization states that worldwide, more than 1 in 3 women have been victims of physical or sexual violence — most at the hands of intimate partners. About 1 in 4 adults say they were physically abused as children, according to a 2014 report, and 1 in 5 women say they were sexually abused as children.
“Such violence contributes to lifelong ill health — particularly for women and children — and early death,” according to the report, which was published in 2014 by WHO, the U.N. Development Program and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. “Many leading causes of death such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and HIV/AIDS are the result of victims of violence adopting behaviours such as smoking, alcohol and drug misuse, and unsafe sex in an effort to cope with the psychological impact of violence.”
“Violence also places a heavy strain on health and criminal justice systems, social and welfare services and the economic fabric of communities,” the report states.
Since the international 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign launched last week, government leaders across the globe have also been speaking out on social media.
Jarallah, a 25-year-old from Palestine, is a fellow at the U.N. Population Fund in New York, where she is using makeup as “a tool to raise awareness about Human Rights issues,” she told The Washington Post in a Facebook message.
“Most of the time, makeup is perceived as a disempowering machine because it is marketed to be used as a way to conform to the beauty standards that society has created and cover up our so-called insecurities,” she wrote. “But today I want to challenge this idea, not only by telling people but also by showing them what I can achieve by using makeup.”
In September, Jarallah launch a campaign with the U.N. agency called #7DaysOfMakeup in time for the U.N. Summit for Refugees and Migrants. She told Marie Claire at the time that she was helping to fight for women's and girls' access to health care during natural disasters, international conflicts and war by turning her own face into a canvas depicting dramatic floods, droughts and earthquakes.
Jarallah said she created the recent video for the U.N. Population Fund to do her part to combat “one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world.”
“I have always been a human rights activist, especially when it comes to topics related to gender,” she wrote in a message to The Post, adding: “In a century where visual stimulation is high, providing creative imagery is important to catch people’s attention. This topic is incredibly important and I believe we were successful in getting people to join the conversation with this video.”
Jarallah said her hope is that the more informed people become about the issue, “the stronger the action we can take to either break the silence surrounding these issues or take action to end injustices.”
“I wish to inspire others to express themselves,” she said, “to see that there are no rules when it comes to what you can do; you can create your own reality.”
This story has been updated.