Long-distance running is a way of life in the Arsi region of Ethiopia. In a country well acquainted with poverty, famine and war, world-beating athletes are a source of intense pride. Many of the world’s greatest runners hail from Bekoji, a small remote town in the Southern Highlands. In the Beijing Olympics, runners from the town won all four golds in the long distance track events–more medals than most industrialised countries.
Town of Runners follows three children from Bekoji keen to follow in their heroes’ footsteps, as they move from school track to national competition and from childhood to adulthood. Set against the background of the seasonal rhythms of this farming region, and the impact of increased urbanization and globalization on agriculture the film shows rural young Africans striving to make their own future.
By November, the grounds of Bangabandhu Peshajibi High School had been under water for three months, and most of the classrooms were un-usable. But the flooding didn’t stop dozens of students, parents and teachers from flocking to the launch of the Best School for Girls campaign at this secondary school in southern Bangladesh’s Sathkhira District. The Best School for Girls campaign challenges schools in three districts of Bangladesh to create girl-friendly educational environments. Continue reading
The city of Calcutta in India is 10,961 miles from the community of Unocolla in the Andean highlands of Peru. But the distance did not prevent a group of Peruvian teachers at Unocolla’s Mariano Melgar High School from connecting with the story of Amlan Ganguly, the founder of a youth leadership organization called Prayasam in India.
At a recent screening of a film called The Revolutionary Optimists, secondary school teachers in Unocolla were inspired by the way in which Ganguly, a lead character in the film, has planted hope in the poorest neighborhoods of Calcutta by empowering children to become leaders in their communities. A teacher named Alejandro Ruelas Verástegui was particularly impressed by an exercise Ganguly leads called, “The River of Life”, which asks children to draw a river that charts the high and low points of their life experiences. He decided to use it, and other colleagues supported his idea. Continue reading
The screening was scheduled for 7:30pm, but by 6:00 around 50 young girls and boys had gathered before the big white projector screen that had been set up on an expanse of dirt in the Delhi slum of Madanpur Khadar. As the start time neared, more people crowded into the space – mothers cradling infants, gangs of teenage boys, girls in pink and red and aqua-colored saris – until nearly 200 people were pressed tightly together. Organized by Women and Girls Lead Global and Magic Bus, a non-profit organization that mentors young people in the slums of Delhi, the event featured a screening of Revolutionary Optimists. The film profiles a group of adolescents in the slums of Calcutta who are being groomed as community organizers by a lawyer-turned-activist named Amlan Ganguly. Because the WGLG India campaign focuses on challenging harmful gender stereotypes as a way of addressing gender-based violence at the roots, one of the key messages that was highlighted at the screening is the mutual respect of the boys and girls in the film, and the exemplary way that they share power and leadership roles. Continue reading
For girls in the village of Patnitala in northern Bangladesh, the route to school is fraught with challenges. More than half of the population lives below the poverty line. Most of their families are subsistence farmers without the means to pay for transportation or proper school shoes for their children. So the girls walk the two miles to get to class barefoot each day, cutting across rice fields, crossing rivers, and splashing through mud puddles. Continue reading
To deepen my understanding of young people’s perception of gender in urban India, I recently ventured to the Bhanwar Singh camp in Delhi with Magic Bus, a WGLG partner organization that mentors youth in the slums across India. Bhanwar Singh is a labyrinth of narrow lanes, open drains, community water taps, and pastel-colored mud and brick houses. Many of the poor families there have migrated from their ancestral villages in hope of work and better educational facilities. Locals strive to make an honest living by driving auto rickshaws or taxis, cleaning houses, selling vegetables or as daily wage labors working on the booming city’s many construction sites. Continue reading
Amlan Ganguly empowers children to become activists and educators, with powerful results. The Revolutionary Optimists follows him as he attempts to replicate his work in the brick fields outside the city, where children live and work in unimaginable conditions. Continue reading