A group of widows at a CARE screening are struck with powerful emotion as they watch Taking Root, which tells the story of Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai. One section of the film chronicles a year-long protest in 1992 organized by Maathai and a group of mothers whose children were being held and tortured as political prisoners, many of whom were killed upon their release by the volatile Arap Moi regime. Audience members wept along with the mothers they watched on-screen, as they learned of their children’s deaths. But later in the screening, tears turned to joy as the women began to sing along with a Kikuyu song in the film, highlighting the importance of forging ahead together through hardship.
For the past year, Women and Girls Lead Global has been screening films for communities of farmers, educators, politicians and schoolchildren across the five countries where we work – Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Peru and Jordan. For many audience members, it’s the first time they’ve seen films about real girls and women triumphing over adversity. It’s also often the first time they’ve had a chance to discuss issues like child marriage and public safety for girls and women.
Below, we’ve compiled some of our favorite audience responses from our first season of Women of the World films. Their comments suggest the very idea that inspired WGLG: that documentary film has the power to move, inspire and empower people, and to begin the process of catalyzing change.
Pushing the Elephant
"Women have the strength in themselves to bring peace to a community, and now we know that we also can do this for our own homes." Hawa, Kupi Banya Group, Marsabit, Kenya
Pushing the Elephant
"After watching this film, I think to myself, what is my role in making sure that the conflict stops? How will I ensure that the killings will stop? If every person in my community started thinking this way, we could all get together, go to the local authorities, and together we would banish the very root cause of this conflict - tribalism." Barako Jaldesa group member, Marsabit, Kenya
I Was Worth 50 Sheep
“To prevent early marriage, I will sit with the students’ parents 4 times a year and will discuss about the consequences of early marriage. I will also motivate my students by arranging a meeting.” Assistant Head Master, Shatkhira, Bangladesh
I Was Worth 50 Sheep
“If any child marriage is held in my area, I will never give it any kind of support - rather I will protest all child marriages.” - Social activist, Naogaon, Bangladesh
“The film motivated us to think that we too, like the Go Girl program in Kibera, are able to save and accomplish much if we try.” - Audience member in Kenya
“We have been very divided even as women who ought to work together. We need to have love, peace and good working relationships to carry forward our efforts to bring peace in this season of unrest.” - Woman community member, Nairobi, Kenya
“Wangari Maathai showed us that despite being divorced and struggling a lot in life a woman can still stand up to the world.” - Woman community member, Manyatta, Kenya
Pray the Devil Back to Hell
“The movie is very much applicable to Marsabit County, where we experience tribal conflicts. We as group members can now team up to meet women from different tribes to try to bring an end to the conflicts. Since women are usually the catalysts and men follow their words, including war songs... so we can also sing peace songs to neutralize the situation.” Hawo, Kupi Banya group member, Kenya
Pray the Devil Back to Hell
“I see that women - the ones who feel pain and sorrow can also find the strength to fight for those who they are passionate about.” - Male community member, Kisumu, Kenya
“In the present situation my village girls don’t get equal rights as boys so I want to be highly educated so that I can fight for equal rights.” Nishat, 8th grade student, Moulvibazar, Bangladesh
“I will get my proper education and I will serve the nation by preventing early marriage.” Student, Naogaon, Bangladesh
“I will no longer register any couple under 18 years of age for marriage." - Local wedding registrar, Naogaon, Bangladesh
“I want higher education, not early marriage.” - Salma Akter, student, Gangni, Bangladesh
“I will protect girls from early marriage, in collaboration with other village representatives.” - Dr. Shekh Mahbubur Rahman,Shatkhira, Bangladesh
“Revolutionary Optimists showed me that whatever I have learned in my life can be used for a greater purpose. I feel that I am not small.” - Sumaiya Jahan Rakhi, university Student, Bangladesh
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.
Miss Nikki and the Tiger Girls is an intimate portrait of a spirited young Australian band manager as she tries to empower Myanmar’s first all girl band to speak out in one of the world’s most repressive regimes.
“I don’t know if I’m helping or hindering them. But once you’ve encouraged someone to find their voice, you can’t just expect them to shut back up again can you?” The film follows the quest of one idealistic ex-pat and five starry-eyed Myanmar girls who are fighting for their right to sing in a country where freedom of speech carries enormous risk.
The Tiger Girls have emerged at a sensitive time in Myanmar’s history. After their first election in two decades and the recent release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a mood for change exists. There are obvious parallels between the destiny of the country and the destiny of the band. Miss Nikki and the Tiger Girls is a powerful metaphor of a country on the brink of change. It explores freedom of expression, censorship, art vs. fame, and the ripple effect of empowering the voiceless through music.
Bundelkhand in central India, a region notorious for its rebels-turned-armed bandits, is witnessing a new kind of rebellion with an unusual cast of characters. These are the pink sari-clad women of the Gulabi Gang, who use words as weapons – demanding their rights, submitting petitions and haranguing corrupt officials. They travel long distances by cart and tractor, bus and train, to wrest justice for women and dalits, undeterred by sneering policemen and condescending bureaucrats.
Sampat Pal, the group’s founder, is a rough-and-tough woman with a commanding personality. Despite being born into a traditional family and married off early, she has evolved her own brand of feminism and egalitarian politics. Constantly on the move, today she may be found investigating the suspicious death of a young woman, tomorrow protesting against a corrupt official.
Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines traces the fascinating evolution and legacy of Wonder Woman. From the birth of the comic book superheroine in the 1940s to the blockbusters of today, Wonder Women! looks at how popular representations of powerful women often reflect society’s anxieties about women’s liberation. Continue reading →