A Filmmaker is Born

Girls have it hard. We need permission before we do anything, and we encounter harassment just for being ourselves.”

A few years ago, Hiba Al Nabulsi proposed to her father that she spend after-school time learning media and technology skills.  At first, he was resistant. “I was 16, and there were boys at the Clubhouse,” she says, referring to the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network, a community of computer clubhouses focused on equipping young people with media and technology skills and resources. “I had never participated in mixed-gender activities.”

Eventually, however, her pleas wore him down and he relented.

Budding filmmaker Hiba Al Nabulsi

The short film that Hiba submitted to garner the prestigious award, “Meter by Meter”, was produced last summer for a Youth Film Contest organized by WGLG’s campaign in Jordan, “I Have a Story”, and WGLG’s NGO partner, JOHUD (The Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development), which works to end gender inequality by encouraging women to play active roles in their local democratic processes and in their daily lives.  The contest challenged young people to produce a film that addressed the campaign issue of gender discrimination and violence.

Mays Zaneh, a country engagement coordinator for WGLG’s “I Have a Story” campaign in Jordan, explains that the goal of the contest was “to introduce GBV awareness in a new and creative means to encourage the largest share of youth to participate.” Mays explains that she and JOHUD wanted the contest to give youth an opportunity to express their own thoughts about gender-based violence through creative means such as filmmaking and digital media. The Intel Clubhouse management, as well as Hiba’s family, recognized the work and effort Hiba had put into “Meter by Meter”, and encouraged her to apply for the Adobe Youth Voice Awards.

“Meter by Meter” is a poignant and creative display of the many ways that girls face inequality throughout their lives, starting at birth, and continuing as they get older and limits are placed on their freedom to study, work, and plan their own lives. “I wanted to portray the challenges of being a girl, but I wanted to do it artistically,” says Hiba. “Girls have it hard. We need permission before we do anything, and we encounter harassment just for being ourselves. It’s difficult even to be sweet and kind, to smile, without being sexually harassed.” Hiba came up with the concept for the film and directed it, as well as putting together a team of four other young people to collaborate with her on the production. The film was awarded first place in the Youth Film Contest, which solicited votes on social media.

“When my father watched the film for the first time, he cried,” says Hiba. “I think he was proud, he didn’t know I could create something like this,” she said.

“I think the ‘I Have a Story’ campaign awakened something in me,” Hiba says. “Now, everywhere I go and everything I see, I envision a movie. I don’t know how I’ll find time to make all these films – but I think I’m on the right path.”

Watch “Meter by Meter” here:

Influencers in Bangladesh Highlight Value of Investing in Girls’ Education

 Education is indispensable. If you invest one dollar in female education, you can get five dollars in return.”

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Moderator Mahmud Hasan – Country Coordinator for WGLG Bangladesh – engages panelists Mashuda Khatun Shefali of Nari Uddog Kendra; Dr. Iftekhar Uzzaman of Transparency International Bangladesh; and Mr. M K Aaref of the Edward M. Kennedy Center for Public Service and the Arts, Dhaka

USAID Bangladesh, Women and Girls Lead Global (WGLG) and the EMK Center commemorated International Women’s Day with a film screening highlighting the traumatic effects of child marriage – and a discussion that built a powerful case for keeping girls in school instead. Part of an ongoing Gender Seminar incorporating Women of the World films, the event’s theme was, “Girls’ Rights to Education and to Decide When to Marry are Human Rights.” Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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.

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Film Inspires Indian Father to Send Daughters Back to School

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

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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.