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:

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

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

Letters Leading to Evolution

10608227_540934352706381_3292806126262688663_o

Thousands of young girls wrote passionate letters declaring their right to stay in school and out of child marriage to commemorate National Girl Child Day in Bangladesh this year.  The Youth Summit and Letter Festival – organized by Women and Girls Lead Global, National Girl Child Advocacy Forum and Youth Ending Hunger-Naogaon – called on girls to write open letters to their parents, telling them why they didn’t want to marry young.  Over 3,000 girls from 53 different schools in Bangladesh participated, sharing their desire for freedom and their disappointment that the law banning child marriage for girls under 16 is not being consistently upheld. 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

Signs of Change at Schools in Bangladesh

facilitating better schools

Schools are gradually becoming more girl-friendly in northwestern Bangladesh, thanks to the interventions of the Best Schools for Girls campaign. Last month, 18 Women and Girls Lead Global film facilitators in Naogaon province gathered for a two-day retreat  to share stories about the changes that schools in their area have implemented since the campaign officially launched in October 2013. Continue reading

Powerful New PSA Urges Peruvian Parents to Talk to Teens Now

Teenage girl writes down her anonymous question at a WGLG Peru youth event.

Teenage girl writes down her anonymous question at a WGLG Peru youth event.

“Ahora es Cuando” – Now is the Time – is the name, and also an important message of Women and Girls Lead Global’s (WGLG) campaign in Peru.  Traveling to remote rural communities in the Amazon and Andes regions, the WGLG Peru team found that parents and adolescents in these communities were deeply uncomfortable discussing important reproductive health issues and associated risks. Urging parents to talk to their teens sooner rather than later about these pressing issues, the Ahora es Cuando campaign highlights the important connection between timely access to reproductive health information and the completion of secondary school. Continue reading

Town of Runners

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.

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.