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
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.
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.
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →