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.

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

Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines

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