Six Days

Three women. Three wars. One dream. A universal story of women’s courage and survival in the aftermath of war.

Lanja is a journalist in Iraq, fearlessly giving refuge and voice to women beaten, burnt and threatened to death by their own families. Maia fights for women’s sexual rights in the breakaway region Abkhazia, Georgia and battles archaic customs like “bride kidnapping.” Nelly runs a women’s cooperative in the slums of Monrovia, Liberia, empowering women through education and hands-on ways to make money for their families.

While thousands of miles apart, the women are united by similar challenges to fulfilling their shared dream of a better life.

Salma

Internationally-acclaimed, multiple-award winning filmmaker Kim Longinotto (Rough Aunties, World Cinema Jury Prize in Documentary, Sundance 2009) returns with Salma — the extraordinary story of a woman who becomes the legendary activist, politician, poet, Salma.

For nine years, until she agreed to an arranged marriage, Salma was trapped first by her family and then again by her husband – physically locked away, unable to continue her education and forced to write her passionate words secretly. Only Salma’s anger and determination kept her focused on obtaining her freedom. When Salma’s visceral poems reached a publisher, their frank and open observations about her own sexuality, her forced marriage and her village’s customs made her an overnight sensation, much to the displeasure of her family and village. Pushed into running in an election as a village leader by her husband, Salma unexpectedly is elected and becomes the voice for women also imprisoned by the same fate. Her legendary refusal to follow traditional Muslim customs and her outspokenness about the treatment of village women secure her status as a true rebel in the face of an ancient and brutal tradition.

Crafted as a slowly unfolding detective story, Longinotto carefully peels past the layers of contradictions that define Salma — an engaged, contributing protagonist whose emerging voice loudly soars above the “knots and ties of love” used to imprison the female heart and soul.

Gulabi Gang

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.

Hero Project Launches in India With Film About Real Life Heroes

The Hero Project, WGLG’s social change campaign in India, was created in the direct wake of the tragic gang-rape and murder of a young female medical student (affectionately called “Nirbhaya” – fearless one – in Indian media) on a New Delhi bus – a story that sparked outrage and action among communities all over India and across the globe. Encouraging young men and boys to take heroic actions against gender-based violence and discrimination in their own communities, The Hero Project was built to evoke personal reflection, a sense of responsibility, and a fresh perspective on masculinity. For those present at The Hero Project’s launch on December 16, 2013, exactly one year after “Nirbhaya’s” tragic assault, the room crackled with the urgency of these messages for young Indian men. Continue reading

Q and A with Filmmaker Rahul Roy

rahul royThe work of Delhi-based director and writer Rahul Roy probes the theme of masculinity, an angle that is seldom explored in the global dialogue on gender. Roy’s most recent project, Let’s Talk Men 2.0, presents four films from four different South Asian contexts – Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal – that both represent and interrogate masculinity.

WGLG’s Engagement Coordinator in India, Abhishek Srivastava, recently caught up with Roy to discuss the connection between masculinities and gender-based violence, and the role that film plays in communicating these complex narratives. Continue reading

Symbols of Masculinity – A Photo Essay

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What does it mean to be masculine? The Women and Girls Lead Global project in India aims to challenge harmful gender stereotypes that may contribute to gender-based violence, and to cultivate a group of young role models who are inspired to take action to promote positive notions of masculinity. As I’ve begun talking with young […]

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

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

She Matters: Women, Girls and Progress

Across the globe oppression is being confronted, and real, meaningful solutions are being fashioned through health care, education, and economic empowerment for women and girls. In She Matters, director Maro Chermayeff tells stories from India, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, and Vietnam about women and girls who have become change-agents in their communities. Continue reading