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'Breakthrough U' Puppets Help Students Stop Gender-Based Violence

Thursday May 11, 2017

A new video series, "BreakthroughU," is tackling complicated social issues, like gender-based violence, intersectionality* and culture change, issues that are at the heart of the work that Breakthrough has been doing for over 17 years. The videos employ an unusual approach -- puppets.

A cast of rainbow-colored puppets represents a range of identities, from a gay Latino guy with an abusive boyfriend to a gender-nonconforming person struggling to find a restroom. The videos are designed to help high school and college students discuss tough subjects with friends and family members and find ways to challenge and transform harmful attitudes and culture when they encounter it.

Students who grew up on "Sesame Street" will recognize the puppets as a nostalgic, familiar form. But instead of teaching the ABCs, characters break down ideas that are crucial to activism, yet are sometimes difficult to grasp.

The videos explore scenarios dealing with gender-based discrimination and violence as they commonly occur in campus life. By playing out scenarios, the videos address issues such as intimate partner violence (in heterosexual and LGBTQ couples); non-consensual image sharing; sexual harassment; discrimination against gender-nonconforming and transgender people; and hypermasculinity and gender policing.



"These practices are explored in order to connect the dots between the culture we learn, practice and create, the gender norms that perpetuate this culture, and the individual and collective power we all have to challenge and transform culture and create change in our communities," said Ishita Srivastava, producer and deputy director of programs at Breakthrough.

Breakthrough's network of campus activists have encountered barriers to changing the culture around gender.

"Talking to someone who promotes toxic or threatening expectations about gender can prove befuddling, especially when the behavior is so subtle it's almost impossible to detect or articulate," said Srivastava. "'BreakthroughU' allows puppets to do the heavy lifting, both in modeling strategies to challenge and transform harmful dynamics and explaining the concepts as a scaffolding to understand them."

"We want the videos to give people who are interested in making change, a sense of their own agency and power," said Srivastava. "We're committed to providing the tools needed to break through and transform the culture of gender-based violence."

Breakthrough is a global human rights organization working to make violence and discrimination against women and girls unacceptable. Our cutting-edge multimedia campaigns, community mobilization, agenda-setting and leadership training equip men and women worldwide to challenge the status quo and take bold action for the dignity, equality and justice of all.


To download a toolkit for activist curriculum for high school and college campuses, or to watch the videos, visit http://us.breakthrough.tv/campaigns/puppets/


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