Town of Runners

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.

Packed Slum Screening Provokes Reflection

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

The Lengths Girls Go to Get to School

BANGLADESH_schoolgirls_3For 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

Pink and Blue: Signs of Danger?

BhanwarSingh2  Rajni Magic Bus2

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