Sahara Group tackles girl-child empowerment through

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Bodurin Sasore, Olajumoke Ajayi, Zuriel Oduwole, Bethel Obioma, Dakore Akande and Toyosi Akarele-Ogunsiji

‘If we educate a boy, we educate one person. If we educate a girl, we educate a family – and a whole nation.’ – An African Proverb.

With this in mind, Sahara Group – a leading African energy and infrastructure conglomerate – decided to take on a more inclusive approach in the second instalment of their Grooming Film Extrapreneurs initiative by partnering with the DUSUSU Foundation and young female filmmaker, Zuriel Oduwole.

“This year, in accordance with our commitment to the attainment of the sustainable development goals, especially goals 4 and 5 (quality education and gender equality); we have partnered with the DUSUSU Foundation, in empowering 90 girls from three African countries – Nigeria, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire – with the skill of filmmaking,” shared Bethel Obioma, head of Corporate Communications at Sahara Group.

DUSUSU or the Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up Foundation was founded by ‘girl-child advocate’ and15-year-old filmmaker Oduwole with the aim to encourage African heads of state to instil policies that promote equal education to both sexes. Oduwole is Sahara Group’s youngest ambassador to drive the ‘Empowering the Girl Child’ initiative, which also debuted the first #AsharamiSpeaks series that brings actors, producers, directors and other girl-child advocates as panellists for discussions on how to shape the narrative for young girls in Africa.

Oduwole spearheaded the 10-day workshops alongside members of the DUSUSU Foundation and Sahara Group staff volunteers in the cities of Lagos, Accra and Abidjan. Thirty aspirant storytellers from each country were chosen from various underprivileged communities to work with the young, female filmmaker. Participants were trained in the foundational aspects of scripting, producing, directing and editing their own stories.

A 24-year-old, Konate Makoya from Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire remarked that the high point of the event was when she held the camera for the first time in her life. “This experience would certainly change my life, and I am looking forward to inspiring other ladies as well,” she said.

Pleased with the outcome, Obioma added: “When girls are handed the tools to create what they had hitherto only admired and thought to be beyond them, they are empowered. They are given the wings to fly and achieve their potentials. This is the significance of the project for us.”

At the end of the programme, three short docu- films were produced by the participants from the various countries. The Lagos group created a short film on examination malpractice, while the Ghanaian team made a short film on the importance of school attendance, especially at secondary school level. Lastly, the group from Cote d’ Ivoire showcased a short documentary using dance to promote peace and justice.

“It is a well-established fact that the medium of film remains one of the most engaging ways of shaping narratives and moulding norms that govern human relations – either positively or negatively, depending on how the medium is manipulated. We consider this medium as one that will share desirable girl child narratives across the globe to foster the change the world desires,” said Obioma.

Apart from the workshops, the #Asharami sessions on promoting the empowerment of the girl child through the medium of film took place with distinguished people from the film industry and celebrities from the three countries.

“In Nigeria, we had Ramsey Nouah, Rita Dominic, Stephanie Busari, Dakore Akande, Jadesola Osiberu, Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji. Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire had Joselyn Dumas and Akissi Delta respectively,” informs Obioma.

The discussions touched on issues such as pay inequality in the film industry when men are being paid more than women for similar roles.

Other talks included the positive growth of women taking leadership roles in the movie industry, with the example of how Nigeria has the highest grossing movies of 2017 that were written and directed by women.

The panellists addressed issues of sexual assaults and harassment in the workplace, which has recently come under the global spotlight with the #MeToo campaign. The panel also took time to applaud people who aim to break the common gender stereotypes through film, by introducing strong and dominant female characters.

References were made about the great impact of movies like Wonder Woman, The Zookeeper’s Wife and Hidden Figures, which all shed light on issues facing women and the amazing feats they can attain when giving the right opportunities to shine.

While here in Africa, the Nigerian film Wives on Strike, was praised for not only it’s box office success, but also on how it brought awareness to issues facing girl children in Africa, such as child marriage, women marginalisation, girl-child education and women’s rights.

“Following the outcomes of this project, we have realised that youth across Africa want a voice, they want to be heard, and they want self-reliance. Based on these outcomes, we will ensure that subsequent projects provide a platform to address these concerns,” concluded Obioma.

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