SA directors contribute to Al Jazeera woman empowerment documentaries


Launched on 26 September, Women Make Change is a new
series from Al Jazeera showcasing women who have started impactful local projects
in Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Brazil, Nicaragua, and Papua New Guinea. Focusing on
areas as diverse as water, agriculture, family planning and sport, their work shows
that investing in women is indeed smart economic sense. Former Nigerian media
personality of the year Femi Oke hosts the new series.

When the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit met from 25 to 27
September, they discussed the progress made in the 20 years since the Beijing
Declaration of women’s rights. This series shows the human story behind those
debates and profiles some of the work being done to reduce poverty.

“At a time when the world is debating gender equality and sustainable development
goals, we wanted to hear first-hand from women who are already making
significant changes in their communities,’ says Ingrid Falck, Al Jazeera English’s
head of Documentaries. “We interrogated the latest research findings to see how the ripple of impact can work. The combination of impressive, authoritative women who live with these issues in the real world, together with integrated graphics, paints a thought-provoking picture.’

South African Karin Slater directed the first film, The Water Women,
traveling to Kenya to talk to Rose Atieno and Catherine Ondele. These women have
been instrumental in training local women to build rainwater harvesting tanks to
villages which had been without clean water. Forty-three percent of rural Kenyans are without clean water, essential to combat preventable diseases. Since they built the tank in one village, they have not had a single case of cholera. It’s also been
transformative for a nearby health centre, which can now offer a range of new

The benefits go even deeper though. There are reduced attacks on women, who no
longer have to travel long distances to the communal well. Each woman saves
almost six hours a week, which is now time she can spend working or studying. And
there’s a direct financial benefit to the community, which sells the water to the
water company and invests the money in starting new businesses.

Scorecard Rwanda, directed by UK director Alistair Waterson, highlights the benefits of sport for Rwandan
women whose families and communities were in desperate need of healing post-genocide. The women initially faced resistance from the men in their community
when Felicite Rwemalika came to enlist them in a local football team, but there
have been clear and long-lasting advantages from involving women in team sports.
In addition to the health benefits, sport has given the women a space to meet and
talk. For many, they’ve expanded their ideas into new businesses, resulting in
farming cooperatives and community restaurants. The project has also helped girls
stay in school and built confidence and aspirations. “You can be future leaders,’
Grace Nyinawumuntu says. “Don’t just think of being a coach like me or Felicite.
You can be Minister of Sport and help your country.’

Education is taken for granted by many, but having access to this basic right
is still a challenge for many. Directed by South African Brian Tilley, Going
focuses on Zainab Andan and Dolores Dickson, two women in Ghana
who are working hard to make sure that girls, in particular, are given the
opportunity to go to school. Andan benefited from a bursary awarded by an
international charity, Camfed, and now she is part of an alumni group that works in
communities to help girls in her former school. Her community work also takes her
to neighbouring villages, where she can share her skills by holding financial literacy
workshops. Dolores Dickson, director of the charity, oversees training workshops
for local projects. One of those which started out small is a shea butter processing
project that now supplies a range of outlets, including The Body Shop.

Watch the video
of Femi Oke talking about women as a force for change.


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