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:

Sufiya’s Dream

Sufiya

Sufiya Khutan, of Tala Upazila, Bangladesh, became a child bride when she was only 13. By 14, she had already become a mother. When her husband, the only earning member of the family, fell ill several years ago, Sufiya had to rise above dire financial hardship to provide for her daughter Selina’s education and give her a better and more secure future. Their dream? That Selina will become a doctor.

Villagers in Sufiya’s community have criticized her for spending money on her daughter’s education, and the family receives marriage proposals for Selina almost daily. Unable to support more than one child’s education, parents in Bangladesh often decide to educate their sons instead of their daughters, convinced that a son will be able to better provide for his family.

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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.

Meter x Meter (1)

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Letters Leading to Evolution

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Thousands of young girls wrote passionate letters declaring their right to stay in school and out of child marriage to commemorate National Girl Child Day in Bangladesh this year.  The Youth Summit and Letter Festival – organized by Women and Girls Lead Global, National Girl Child Advocacy Forum and Youth Ending Hunger-Naogaon – called on girls to write open letters to their parents, telling them why they didn’t want to marry young.  Over 3,000 girls from 53 different schools in Bangladesh participated, sharing their desire for freedom and their disappointment that the law banning child marriage for girls under 16 is not being consistently upheld. Continue reading

Signs of Change at Schools in Bangladesh

facilitating better schools

Schools are gradually becoming more girl-friendly in northwestern Bangladesh, thanks to the interventions of the Best Schools for Girls campaign. Last month, 18 Women and Girls Lead Global film facilitators in Naogaon province gathered for a two-day retreat  to share stories about the changes that schools in their area have implemented since the campaign officially launched in October 2013. Continue reading

Capturing the Essence of WGLG

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.