A group of widows at a CARE screening are struck with powerful emotion as they watch Taking Root, which tells the story of Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai. One section of the film chronicles a year-long protest in 1992 organized by Maathai and a group of mothers whose children were being held and tortured as political prisoners, many of whom were killed upon their release by the volatile Arap Moi regime. Audience members wept along with the mothers they watched on-screen, as they learned of their children’s deaths. But later in the screening, tears turned to joy as the women began to sing along with a Kikuyu song in the film, highlighting the importance of forging ahead together through hardship.
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.
Pushing the Elephant
"Women have the strength in themselves to bring peace to a community, and now we know that we also can do this for our own homes." Hawa, Kupi Banya Group, Marsabit, Kenya
Pushing the Elephant
"After watching this film, I think to myself, what is my role in making sure that the conflict stops? How will I ensure that the killings will stop? If every person in my community started thinking this way, we could all get together, go to the local authorities, and together we would banish the very root cause of this conflict - tribalism." Barako Jaldesa group member, Marsabit, Kenya
I Was Worth 50 Sheep
“To prevent early marriage, I will sit with the students’ parents 4 times a year and will discuss about the consequences of early marriage. I will also motivate my students by arranging a meeting.” Assistant Head Master, Shatkhira, Bangladesh
I Was Worth 50 Sheep
“If any child marriage is held in my area, I will never give it any kind of support - rather I will protest all child marriages.” - Social activist, Naogaon, Bangladesh
“The film motivated us to think that we too, like the Go Girl program in Kibera, are able to save and accomplish much if we try.” - Audience member in Kenya
“We have been very divided even as women who ought to work together. We need to have love, peace and good working relationships to carry forward our efforts to bring peace in this season of unrest.” - Woman community member, Nairobi, Kenya
“Wangari Maathai showed us that despite being divorced and struggling a lot in life a woman can still stand up to the world.” - Woman community member, Manyatta, Kenya
Pray the Devil Back to Hell
“The movie is very much applicable to Marsabit County, where we experience tribal conflicts. We as group members can now team up to meet women from different tribes to try to bring an end to the conflicts. Since women are usually the catalysts and men follow their words, including war songs... so we can also sing peace songs to neutralize the situation.” Hawo, Kupi Banya group member, Kenya
Pray the Devil Back to Hell
“I see that women - the ones who feel pain and sorrow can also find the strength to fight for those who they are passionate about.” - Male community member, Kisumu, Kenya
“In the present situation my village girls don’t get equal rights as boys so I want to be highly educated so that I can fight for equal rights.” Nishat, 8th grade student, Moulvibazar, Bangladesh
“I will get my proper education and I will serve the nation by preventing early marriage.” Student, Naogaon, Bangladesh
“I will no longer register any couple under 18 years of age for marriage." - Local wedding registrar, Naogaon, Bangladesh
“I want higher education, not early marriage.” - Salma Akter, student, Gangni, Bangladesh
“I will protect girls from early marriage, in collaboration with other village representatives.” - Dr. Shekh Mahbubur Rahman,Shatkhira, Bangladesh
“Revolutionary Optimists showed me that whatever I have learned in my life can be used for a greater purpose. I feel that I am not small.” - Sumaiya Jahan Rakhi, university Student, Bangladesh
Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg works at the intersection of academia and social entrepreneurship. A professor of political science and international relations, she is also the founder and Executive Director of Akili Dada, an award-winning leadership incubator that is nurturing the next generation of African women leaders.
She spoke with WGLG-Kenya’s Country Engagement Coordinator Josephine Karianjahi — whose “Women in the Red” campaign strives to balance the gender equation in Kenyan politics — about the value of women leaders, and what it will take to prepare more Kenyan women for political office. Continue reading →
Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, exemplifies the potential of women leaders in Kenya.
Most children in my classroom in Kenya, when asked at age seven about their future goals, dreamed of growing up to be the president. Whereas both boys and girls agree on this goal in their first decade, fewer and fewer female voices chime this refrain as teenagers and young adults. A girl’s childhood dreams are typically tempered by cultural expectations, and her leadership status is defined through her fathers and other older male relatives who may want her to be more active on the home front, and seldom elsewhere. The domain of most Kenyan women has primarily been the home; however, women are seldom included in making important family decisions. A woman’s spouse and his male relatives often make the choices about how a woman occupies her time. Continue reading →
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 →
Three decades ago, Wangari Maathai suggested to rural women in her native Kenya that they plant trees for firewood and to stop soil erosion – an act that grew into a nationwide movement to safeguard the environment, defend human rights, and fight government injustice. The tree-planting groups that formed gave the women a reason to come together and become involved in resolving their communities’ challenges. Continue reading →