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:

WGLG Expands Reach in Peru Through Peace Corps Partnership

Third year Peace Corps Volunteer Emily McGinnis engages youth at a WGLG film and social media workshop

This year, Peace Corps Volunteers in Peru will bring a collection of powerful documentary films into communities across the country through a partnership with Women and Girls Lead Global (WGLG). WGLG uses film to help partners in five countries spark community dialogue on their most pressing gender equality issues. This is the first time WGLG will work with the Peace Corps, and the possibilities are as exciting and diverse as the Volunteers and the communities they serve. Volunteers from all sectors – whether youth development, business, health, water and sanitation, or environment – are encouraged to integrate gender equality measures into their projects. Part of a worldwide Peace Corps gender and development initiative, Peace Corps Peru’s Gender Equity and Women’s Empowerment (GenEq) committee helps Volunteers find creative ways to do this. 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

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

Global Gathering for Girls – Oct 14 at 1pm GMT

Blog Banner

Five countries, six languages, and 100 young people leading change in their communities. Please join Women and Girls Lead Global at our Global Gathering for Girls. We’ll be convening youth from Kenya, India, Bangladesh, Jordan and Peru via Google Hangout to discuss how they’re tackling the greatest challenges facing girls in their countries.

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.

Thembi

She introduced herself to the world with something she called her HIV prayer. “Hello, HIV, you trespasser”. Young and beautiful, Thembi emerged from the shantytowns of South Africa on a mission to take on HIV. She traveled the world, met Barack Obama and spoke to congress. During her short life Thembi lived strong and proud, she welcomed the world into her life with open arms, her words giving hope to millions; this heartrending documentary takes you on her incredible journey.

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.

Miss Nikki & the Tiger Girls

Miss Nikki and the Tiger Girls is an intimate portrait of a spirited young Australian band manager as she tries to empower Myanmar’s first all girl band to speak out in one of the world’s most repressive regimes.

“I don’t know if I’m helping or hindering them. But once you’ve encouraged someone to find their voice, you can’t just expect them to shut back up again can you?” The film follows the quest of one idealistic ex-pat and five starry-eyed Myanmar girls who are fighting for their right to sing in a country where freedom of speech carries enormous risk.

The Tiger Girls have emerged at a sensitive time in Myanmar’s history. After their first election in two decades and the recent release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a mood for change exists. There are obvious parallels between the destiny of the country and the destiny of the band. Miss Nikki and the Tiger Girls is a powerful metaphor of a country on the brink of change. It explores freedom of expression, censorship, art vs. fame, and the ripple effect of empowering the voiceless through music.