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
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.
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
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 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.
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 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