A length of pink and white striped yarn wrapped around each of our wrists to form a web – connecting trainer to trainee, office staff to field staff, woman to man. Each of us declared our commitment to promoting girls’ education and ending child marriage across Bangladesh and around the world. Some promised to share what they had learned with their colleagues and communities. Some took a more personal oath to educate and nurture their own daughters, or to refuse wedding invitations when the bride was too young. The sense of community grew stronger as we each articulated our promise – our connections stretching not only across the room – but across Bangladesh, across borders, across the globe.
The exercise concluded a day-long training in Dhaka, Bangladesh titled “Using Film to Inspire Change.” It was part of a series of trainings facilitated by Women and Girls Lead Global in India, Bangladesh, and Kenya. Representatives from Women and Girls Lead Global partners in Bangladesh – CARE, National Girl Child Advocacy Forum, Room to Read, Plan, Brac, Community Radio Network, and DNet – had gathered to discuss the power of film for promoting social change in conjunction with their existing programs, and through an exciting new joint initiative to promote better education opportunities for Bangladeshi girls – the Best Schools for Girls campaign.
We started with a curriculum – the power of great storytelling, creating a welcoming space for audiences to watch and discuss compelling films, planning creative multimedia events to spark meaningful dialogue and inspire community action. The conversation, however, dove much deeper than the steps outlined in the training guide. Participants shared their own stories and experiences. In an exercise intended to help them relate to audience members who might be triggered by issues that emerge during the films, they told a partner about an issue that deeply angers or upsets them. One participant explained, “Even though I’ve done this activity before, it is challenging every time to open up about something personal to someone I don’t know.” Empathizing with their audiences, they thought about the sensitive conversations that might arise when they asked communities to share their own experiences – communities where parents and children make difficult decisions about their futures every day.
By the time we ended the day bound together in our makeshift web, participants were excited to go back to the communities where they worked, armed with new ideas for using powerful documentary films and multimedia tools to give Bangladeshi girls a better chance at an education and a career, and Bangladeshi communities a sense of pride in what they were able to do together for all their children – boys and girls.