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:

Women in the Red featured on KTN’s “Morning Express”

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We often think of leadership as monumental and large-scale, such as founding an organization or initiating a movement. But leadership comes in many forms, as WGLG Country Engagement Coordinator Josephine Karianjahi discussed with host Michael Gitonga during a recent interview on Kenya Television Network’s “Morning Express.” Gitonga spoke with Karianjahi last week about the goals of WGLG’s Women in the Red campaign: to encourage more women to take on leadership positions, and to celebrate women who have exhibited extraordinary leadership qualities.

Appearing with Karianjahi was 18-year-old student leader Purity Wangui Muchai, who, as the chair of Women Student Welfare Association, mentors young women leaders. “By sharing stories of women like Purity, we hope to inspire people who are watching this show and listening to our show on Radio Maisha to know – where does an individual start their leadership journey?” said Karianjahi.

In keeping with its mission, the Women in the Red campaign just launched a Listeners’ Choice Award to recognize extraordinary, little-known women leaders throughout Kenya – women who are giving back to their communities, initiating critical conversations, starting innovative businesses.

Beginning today, the campaign invites you to submit stories of the women in your life who are doing remarkable things; and to vote on the existing nominees. To learn more – and to vote – click 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.

Continue reading

Film about South Indian Poet Inspires Menstrual Health Movement Among Women & Men Alike

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Salma – the film’s title character

Salma, a Women of the World series film chronicling the extraordinary story of South India’s most famous woman poet and the violence she endured as a young woman, has stirred an incredible response among villagers in Maharashtra, India. One female health worker in particular has seen remarkable changes in the community she serves. Continue reading

Rickshaw Puller Becomes Role Model to Parents across Bangladesh

 

Most poor families in Bangladesh who marry off their daughters before they turn 18 – the legal age of marriage for girls – say that poverty forces them to make the choice. They can’t afford to keep their girls in school or otherwise provide for them, so they withdraw them from school and find a man who can care for them.  The result, for most girls who marry early, is more poverty, as well as higher rates of maternal and infant mortality, and increased susceptibility to violence and disease.

But what happens when a poor family makes a different choice – to keep its girls in school rather than marry them off? Continue reading

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.