Will the New Male Hero Please Stand Up?

10947244_422563931240010_5132917642879937700_nWhen a 10 year-old girl in Haryana, India can see that her community is in need of more male heroes to protect the safety, livelihood and rights of women and girls, something must be done.

In October, “The Hero Project” – a campaign that aims to prevent gender-based violence in India by challenging harmful gender stereotypes – launched the #ChangetheStory Contest. Hundreds of rural communities in Pune and Beed and slum communities in Bombay and Delhi watched a series of three documentaries about various forms of violence against women, shared their thoughts about them in lively conversations, and were then challenged to develop their own solutions to gender-based violence. In January, four of the 190 participating communities were awarded $1000 in seed money to implement their projects. Among the winning ideas: a strategy for tackling the drug abuse that is provoking violence in boys and men, and a plan to develop a playground reserved for girls.

Now the campaign has developed an online companion contest with the goal of reaching a wider network. The digital version of #ChangetheStory asks netizens to share their ideas about what the new male hero should look like, in the form of a painting, poem, short film, short story, illustration or other form of art. To see some of the fantastically creative submissions “The Hero Project” has received, visit the Facebook page.

One of the most poignant submissions came from a ten-year-old girl, who submitted her version of the new male hero – a policeman who is committed to protecting the women in his community even when that means standing up to his superiors.

If a young girl understands that policemen need to be the catalysts for change, it is time for her vision to be brought to life. With new global initiatives such as the HeforShe movement, we are seeing more and more campaigns that bring men and women together. The movement to create a safer world for girls and women cannot be led exclusively by women. Everyone needs to help. If a 10 year-old can #ChangetheStory, why can’t you?

To submit your idea for the New Male Hero and win a mobile film projector that allows you to create your own movie theater wherever you go, please visit http://theheroproject.in/

A New Way of Seeing

After watching several films about girls and women overcoming injustice around the world, a group of youth in Jordan were presented with a challenge: produce a short film that tells a story about the gender discrimination in your community.

The contest, “Share Films . . . Share Change” aimed to deepen participants’ understanding of gender-based violence through engaging them in a creative process. Young people participating in the Women and Girls Lead Global campaign in Jordan were asked to combine knowledge they had acquired from the campaign’s documentary film screenings with phenomena they’ve experienced in their own lives. Working in groups, participants submitted ten films. Six films were then short-listed, shared and voted on via the Facebook page for “I Have a Story”, Women and Girls Lead Global’s campaign against gender-based violence in Jordan.

Meter x Meter (1)

Some of the stories shared in the films are based on true events, such as, “When Life Becomes Impossible”, about a woman’s suffering at the hands of an abusive husband. Another film, “The Inheritance”, addresses women being deprived of their inheritance, a common practice in some rural areas in Jordan. It wasn’t an easy film to make. Filmmaker Ahlam Al Zaideen began by doing off-camera interviews with her subjects – but once she turned the cameras on, all of the women refused to be interviewed, even if their identities were hidden. “They are not camera shy,” said Ahlam. “They don’t want people to know what their families did to them. They’re afraid of being stigmatized.” Ahlam herself was judged by her fellow villagers, who disapproved of her project. “They told my father that I was making trouble. But I’m lucky to have a father who is fair to all his children and he gave me his blessings.” Ahlam’s film, “The Inheritance”, was shared by many voters on Facebook, who called to put an end to this practice.

The winning film, “Meter x Meter”, is a poignant display of the many ways that girls are treated unfairly, starting with discrimination against girl babies and continuing on to the limits placed on girls’ freedom to study, work, and plan their own lives. “When a girl is born, the family feels a heavy burden because raising a girl requires their full attention and it’s stressful for them,” says filmmaker Hiba Al Nabulsi. “A girl’s life is not easy. She doesn’t get the opportunity to choose her studies, her career, and sometimes even her friends.”

Other films addressed harassment in public places and family violence against girls. All the films in the contest shared one important message: that women and girls are often not encouraged to share their suffering with others. Through bringing girls and women together to discuss their struggles, Women and Girls Lead Global hopes to encourage them to open up, and not to suffer in silence anymore.

Film Inspires Indian Father to Send Daughters Back to School

A reflection on intergenerational organizing, in honor of AWID’s #ICommit Tweetathon!

revopts_3_Priyanka Mandal leads the Allhadi

A scene from Women of the World film “The Revolutionary Optimists”

When you ask many parents in Indian villages about education, they’ll tell you that it’s an investment – and beyond that, that it’s more valuable to invest in a son’s education than a daughter’s.  That’s what Bhagwat Thorat would have told you before he went to a community screening of the film Revolutionary Optimists. He had pulled each of his three daughters out of school when they reached puberty, fearful that if he waited too long to find them husbands they would have fewer prospects, that they would become victims to sexual violence, or if nothing else, that his investment would end up benefitting the husband’s family and not his own. Continue reading

Film about South Indian Poet Inspires Menstrual Health Movement Among Women & Men Alike

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Salma – the film’s title character

Salma, a Women of the World series film chronicling the extraordinary story of South India’s most famous woman poet and the violence she endured as a young woman, has stirred an incredible response among villagers in Maharashtra, India. One female health worker in particular has seen remarkable changes in the community she serves. Continue reading

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