Gilad Cohen first became connected to human rights issues when he traveled to North Korea in 2008. Although he didn’t witness human rights abuses firsthand, the trip inspired him to learn more about the country. What he learned horrified him. Since then, Gilad has been actively involved in the human rights scene while volunteering with numerous NGOs in Toronto, Korea, Kenya and several parts of Latin America. Feeling the need to raise more awareness in his community, Gilad teamed up with others and launched the The Human Rights Film Festival in 2012. Gilad has been invited to speak on human rights abuses at Universities, Colleges and High Schools as well as media platforms including Radio Free Asia, Voice of America, the CBC and Al Jazeera America. In 2012, Gilad spoke at the 19th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. Gilad graduated with a post-graduate certificate in International Development.

Jayu’s Human Rights Film Festival exists to provide a platform for those connected to human rights issues to have a voice and share their stories. Whether it’s an individual who has suffered human rights abuses or an artist that is connected to the issue, they want to become the leading interlocutor between the issue and the audience. They are doing this to redefine the dialogue about human rights with a focus on the people’s voices, through art. Jayu’s 3rd Annual Human Rights Film Festival took place at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in downtown Toronto on December 5-7, 2014.

Jayu is growing bigger than the film festival itself and they continue to offer new and exciting programs including: Jayu Speaks and the #StreeetPhotographyProject.

The #StreetPhotographyProject is a collaboration between Jayu, Community Story Strategies, six Toronto-based photographers and the at-risk and homeless population at Horizons for Youth, a youth shelter in Toronto. The project will start in Spring 2015 with a workshop held each week by a different photographer focusing on a different element of mobile street photography. At the end of each workshop, the youth participants will have the opportunity to go on a photowalk with the photographer where they will practice and begin to hone their photography skills.  In the next phase of the project, we will team-up with Community Story Strategies and work with each youth to help the participants make and share personal stories that send a powerful message. The project will culminate when the best photos are selected and displayed for several weeks in multiple art galleries across the city in Spring 2015 (dates and locations to be announced). 100% of the proceeds from each photo sale will go directly back to the youth who took the photo.

Paul and Gilad are members at the Centre for Social Innovation. Coming from a film background, Paul was fascinated to talk with Gilad about how the Jayu festival started and finding out more about his background as a human rights activist. Learn more about Gilad and other Jayu initiatives:

Website: http://www.jayu.ca

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jayufestival

Twitter: @JayuCanada

Instagram: https://instagram.com/cohengilad