A message of sadness and of hope from Women and Girls Lead Global in Kenya:
We learned over the Easter weekend that 148 women and men had their lives cruelly cut short at the hands of terrorists. At the Women in the Red campaign, we have had a chance to hear the exceptional stories of leaders across Kenya who are taking action and calling their communities to greater engagement in the issues that matter the most to them. In working with partners from across the country, we see the tremendous potential of stories that can inspire people inside their communities. This is why the loss of these bright people from across Kenya is a true robbery of Kenya’s – and Africa’s – best hope for building stronger societies.
Garissa is approximately 365 Kilometres away from Nairobi, yet the effects of the horror felt as close to us as if it were next door. It has been hard to re-imagine that the dreaded attacks are now here with us. The families of the students come from every walk of life, and for those who lost their lives, the wait for their identification at a Nairobi morgue seems endless. In true form, Kenyans have come together to support the families directly affected by donating to a blood drive in the city’s capital centre, Nairobi. Many have hosted vigils and prayer services, and still others have provided daily refreshments to the anxiously awaiting families.
Our goal is to identify places where women and girls can participate in their community and opportunities for these community leaders to amplify their voices. As we proceed in guarding ourselves against the dreaded attacks, and mitigate the effects of the Garissa attack, which is the worst since the 1998 Nairobi US Embassy bombing – we note the need for extreme courage, speaking truth to power, empowerment of marginalized groups, and other intrinsic leadership qualities in the days to come.
We stand together with the Garissa attack victims, with deep condolences to the families of those who perished, and wishes for recovery for those who barely escaped with injuries. We are #OneKenya.
For those who wish to provide support, please note that theKenya Red Cross is the main connection to the Garissa victims, and their families.
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
Long-distance running is a way of life in the Arsi region of Ethiopia. In a country well acquainted with poverty, famine and war, world-beating athletes are a source of intense pride. Many of the world’s greatest runners hail from Bekoji, a small remote town in the Southern Highlands. In the Beijing Olympics, runners from the town won all four golds in the long distance track events–more medals than most industrialised countries.
Town of Runners follows three children from Bekoji keen to follow in their heroes’ footsteps, as they move from school track to national competition and from childhood to adulthood. Set against the background of the seasonal rhythms of this farming region, and the impact of increased urbanization and globalization on agriculture the film shows rural young Africans striving to make their own future.
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.
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.
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 →
When the Balkans exploded into war in the 1990s, reports that tens of thousands of women were being systematically raped as a tactic of ethnic cleansing captured the international spotlight. I Came to Testify is the moving story of how a group of 16 women who had been imprisoned by Serb-led forces in the Bosnian town of Foca broke history’s great silence – and stepped forward to take the witness stand in an international court of law. Continue reading →
In the late 1990s, Rose Mapendo was imprisoned with her family during violence that engulfed the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her harrowing experience included the nighttime arrest of her entire family by government agents, the execution of her husband, the birth of their twin sons in prison, and grim negotiations with prison guards to save the lives of her children. She emerged advocating forgiveness and reconciliation. In a country where ethnic violence has created seemingly irreparable rifts among Tutsis, Hutus, and other Congolese, this remarkable woman is a vital voice in her beleaguered nation’s search for peace. Now, Rose is confronted with teaching one of her most recalcitrant students how to forgive – Nangabire, the daughter who remained behind. Continue reading →