Midwives of the World: Part 3

In order to reach a completely equal society, all basic human rights need to be secured. One of these is maternal health. The success of a country can often be traced back to successful maternal health programming. Therefore, my project partner Anna and I decided to create a documentary series about midwives around the world.

This is the final part of the documentary series, which also marks the end of Project Let’s Talk Equality. (You can still catch up with Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them!)

To create this documentary and to get a fair picture of the situation for mothers and midwives around the world, we have collaborated with the White Ribbon Alliance (WRA). The WRA is an incredible organization for maternal health, and a network for volunteers from all over the world. We decided to focus on White Ribbon Alliance Indonesia, or Aliansi Pita Putih Indonesia  (APPI), and visited their team in Jakarta earlier this year.

With the three parts of our documentary, we hope to do two things. One is to present a fair picture and comparison of the maternal health situation in Sweden and Indonesia. The other is to inspire people to make a change in their local communities, just like the volunteers of the White Ribbon Alliance do, or like midwives do in their daily work.

It has been an inspiring adventure, and we hope that our documentary series has captured some of the remarkable energy volunteers and midwives from both Indonesia and Sweden put into their work every day to help others. From when we first brainstormed our ideas for the project in September 2016, throughout our site visit half a year later, to completing our documentary series, we have been continuously overwhelmed by the wonderful people we’ve encountered and the great response we’ve received from sponsors, mentors and our audience.

Although the project has come to a close, we hope that it has sparked discussion that will continue for years ahead, and that it will encourage more people to contribute to work for women’s rights in their communities.

Feel free to share, comment and spread the word. Thank you for watching, and remember – let’s get together for moms, and let’s talk equality!

Do you want Girls’ Globe to be able to support young women to create inspiring material like this in the future? We are crowdfunding for 2018!

Midwives of the World: Part 2

In order to reach a completely equal society, all basic human rights need to be secured. One of these is maternal health. The success of a country can often be traced back to successful maternal health programming. Therefore, my project partner Anna and I decided to create a documentary series about midwives around the world.

To create this documentary and to get a fair picture of the situation for mothers and midwives around the world, we have collaborated with the White Ribbon Alliance (WRA). The WRA is an incredible organization for maternal health, and a network for volunteers from all over the world. We decided to focus on White Ribbon Alliance Indonesia, or Aliansi Pita Putih Indonesia (APPI), and visited their team in Jakarta earlier this year.

With the three parts of our documentary, we hope to do two things. One is to present a fair picture and comparison of the maternal health situation in Sweden and Indonesia. The other is to inspire people to make a change in their local communities, just like the volunteers of the White Ribbon Alliance do, or like midwives do in their daily work.

In this second episode you get to follow our very first days in Indonesia, featuring visits to health centers, a women’s empowerment group, and a class for pregnant and elderly. If you feel inspired- leave a comment and share, so that we can help make a change for mothers all around the globe!

If you missed our first episode, make sure to catch up here

Documentary ‘The Uncondemned’ Shatters Stigma on Sexual Violence

The persistence of rape in conflict, from a moral standpoint, represents a regression. Humanity better stand back up on that front if it wants to survive as a species.” Dr. Justin Kabanga, rape psychologist (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

When Godelieve Mukasarasi first began working with female sexual assault survivors of the Rwandan genocide, she described them as “the living dead.” Beyond shock and grief, they had shut down in order to make it through alive. One woman, Serafina, explained, “[rape] is the wound that you can’t cure among all wounds that you ever had.

As the Founder of Solidarity for the Development of Widows and Orphans to Promote Self-Sufficiency and Livelihoods (SEVOTA), Godeliève works to bring women together to break the silence on the pervasive sexual assaults that occurred with impunity in Rwanda. Nothing would erase the horrific violence inflicted upon them, but anything close to closure was impossible without justice.

After the United Nations established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, tribunal members reached out to Godeliève in the hopes of connecting with survivors. The testimony they heard allowed them to prosecute Jean-Paul Akayesu, under whose supervision Tutsis were systematically raped and murdered. His trial marked the first time in history that rape was prosecuted as a crime against humanity and also a crime of genocide.

The film The Uncondemned tells this remarkable story, following the international team of lawyers and activists that fought to bring Akayesu to justice and the brave women who came forward to testify against him. In honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, join Peace is Loud’s campaign to bring this film to colleges, universities and communities worldwide to strengthen support for survivors of sexual violence and torture.

Rape is a crime that feeds on silence, and it takes a rupture in the status quo to affect change. After the success of the Akayesu case, local Rwandan tribunals ruled that rape was a “category one” crime, in the same grouping as murder. This was a tremendous step forward, setting a lasting precedent for the severity of sexual assault.

The story of rape used as a weapon of war is sadly a universal one—but we’re working to make the story of justice for survivors a universal one too. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, described by UN officials as the “rape capital of the world”, we will be partnering with organizations working on the ground to bring The Uncondemned to safe houses for female survivors of sexual assault; and to mobile court judges and medical, law enforcement and legal experts to demonstrate effective, survivor-centered strategies for documenting and prosecuting rape on a local level. We’re particularly pleased to be working to integrate the film into a mandatory training for Congolese soldiers on gathering evidence in gender-based crimes.

The Uncondemned demonstrates unwaveringly that women feel the devastating impact of conflict the deepest, yet are underrepresented in peace talks. To reverse this trend, we’ll be working with global grassroots organizations who are looking for tools to help implement and localize UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820, which highlight the urgent need for women’s participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

Within the U.S., we’re working with universities and student groups to integrate The Uncondemned into classes and trainings that strengthen support to survivors of sexual violence and torture. We’ve developed film-accompanying discussion guides for law schools and medical schools which address the legal, medical and psychosocial aspects of sexual violence and present scenarios how to best respond to disclosures of sexual violence.

It is our hope that each screening of The Uncondemned will bring us one step closer to bringing justice and support for survivors of sexual assault and torture around the world. These crimes perpetuate as long as they are allowed to; it’s up to each of us to say, “no more”.

As for Godeliève, she’s still hosting her weekly SEVOTA meetings for survivors, including the three women featured in the film. “The fact that rape was taken into consideration in the prosecution of Akayesu [on screen] has had a worldwide impact on the issue of the rape of women”, she says. “In spite of being a rural woman with little means, I helped denounce injustice and fought for humanity”.

Please join us in bringing The Uncondemned to your campus or community. Learn more about the film, host a screening, and be a part of our global community.

 

Activism in Indonesia: a movement for change

It has been a couple of weeks since I got back home from an intense week in Indonesia. With our project Let’s Talk Equality, my project partner Anna and I visited several organizations and doctors in the suburbs of Jakarta and Bali. The objective of the trip was to gather footage for our documentary on maternal health in Sweden and Indonesia.

I was completely blown away by the positive energy present in every office I visited. Despite facing a lot of resistance, people were determined and confident that it was worth all the work. Having tried to understand the slow and difficult process for change in Indonesia, I will try to share some of my observations here, before the launch of our documentary later this spring.

Having grown up in Sweden, I was raised under the impression that certain privileges were certainties. Like legal abortions. Low maternal mortality rates. Free contraception. Paid paternity leave. The right to love regardless of gender. In Indonesia, none of these “certainties” exist. In fact, abortion is illegal. As is homosexuality. Parental leave is exclusive for mothers and limited to 3 months only. Not everyone have access to contraceptives. The lifetime risk of maternal death is 1 in 210.  Also, child marriage is still legal; the legal age of marriage for girls is 16 but 18 for boys. To me, these facts seemed surreal. How can it be legal for a man to marry a child, but not another man?

On a happier note, there are plenty of organizations working to change these facts and we had the privilege of visiting some of them. One was the White Ribbon Alliance (or Aliansi Pita Putih Indonesia), who welcomed us to busy Jakarta. Their mission is to improve the situation for mothers and families all over the country by working and educating communities in what they call “Alert Villages”.

One of these villages is called Mekarsari. Mekarsari is a densely populated and poor village a couple of hours outside of Jakarta. The village has over 60 000 citizens and was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The streets were narrow, fitting only some street vendors and motorcycles. The climate was incredibly humid, and despite the large population the pace was slow and sleepy. The mayor is a woman, which I was told was a rarity. Although she did not speak English, she showed us her office and the demographics of the city. One of the main programs for improved health in Indonesia is free healthcare for the poorer citizens – an important step for a country with big economic inequalities.

We participated in a local class for elderly and pregnant women, held every second week. In the class, a midwife explained some common signs of pregnancy. Although we did not understand her words, it was clear that the audience enjoyed the light-hearted way she delivered the information. Women of all ages, including kids, were sitting on the floor and watching patiently in the small and hot room.

IMG_4995Afterwards, we were asked questions about Sweden, and everyone found it amusing that there are 10 million people in such a big country – a number equivalent to the population in city of Jakarta. We were told that after Indonesia gained independence, the president installed a policy banning family planning and contraception, since “a big country should have a big population”. Now, Indonesia works in many ways to promote family planning in their overpopulated country. People were also amazed by the fact that we had access to free contraception, and that us Swedes could get abortions as many time as we wanted without even having to give a reason for it. We finished up by taking some pictures, and left the clinic with a lot to think about.

Entering into a different society like that is a very special thing. Seeing the dirty streets of the town made me value the clean and spacious environment I live in, and even though I had read of the differences, it was completely different to see them for myself. Never have I met so many inspiring people and learned so much in so few days. My experiences are too many to fit into one single blog post, so I will continue my story in a short series. Until the next post, you can be inspired by White Ribbon Alliance’s important work here.

Photo credits: Tilde Holme

Zero Tolerance for FGM

This post is written by: Paula Kweskin, Human Rights Attorney and Documentary Filmmaker

Imagine a surgery performed with dirty instruments, without anesthesia, and no doctor. No one dresses your wounds and there are no follow-up appointments. This is not a description of a medieval medical procedure; it is a practice which takes place every six minutes around the world. 140 million girls and women have been affected by female genital mutilation (FGM), the cutting and/or removal of a girl’s genitalia in order to preserve her “honor” or “purity.”

FGM violates several human rights principles, including rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

FGM is not prescribed by any particular religion, and yet it is often advocated by religious and community leaders who believe the removal of a girl’s clitoris is necessary to ensure she marries well, brings honor to her family or clan, preserves her virginity and limits her sexual drive.

FGM is a horrific practice; it should never be excused by culture, religion, or tradition. Though the procedure may take moments, a girl is scarred for the rest of her life. She will likely endure serious physical and emotional trauma, including problems menstruating and urinating, complications during childbirth, and a higher risk of sexually-transmitted diseases.

FGM is primarily practiced in African countries, though women throughout the Middle East and parts of Asia have also been exposed to the practice.

And, while shocking to many, more girls than ever are at risk of the practice in the United States.

A recent report by the Center for Disease Control revealed that at least 500,000 women and girls are at risk of FGM in the United States. This number is up three-fold from a previous study conducted fifteen years prior. Experts attribute this rise to the increase in immigrants to the USA who practice FGM.

As activists and human rights advocates, we must be shocked into action by the half a million women who have undergone – or are at risk of – a barbaric practice in the US, and the hundreds of millions who suffer from it globally.

On this day – the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM – please take a moment to educate yourselves and then share this video with your friends and family. It is a clip about the practice of FGM taken from my documentary film, Honor Diaries. Feel free to check out the full film on Amazon, iTunes, and Netflix.

Let’s educate ourselves and all work together to #endFGM this generation!​​

 

Cover Photo Credit: Fixers, Flickr Creative Commons

Girls Talk: A Documentary Film

As The International Day of the Girl approaches and the international community shifts attention to the unique challenges faced by girls around the world, The SEED Community asks: What does it mean to be a girl growing up in South Africa today?

Answers are offered through a documentary film that will follow the SEED girls on an intimate road trip into the rural heartland of Limpopo. It will capture the distinct voices of girls, both urban and rural, as they navigate the realities of their daily lives and share the hopes they have for the future. The film will put faces to the overwhelming statistics that threaten to suffocate the voices of girls in every community of our country.

Over two weeks, the SEED girls will engage with girls from 3 communities in a local to local exchange of knowledge and ideas, raising the issues girls face from an individual and communal perspective. The problems of teenage pregnancies, exposure to violence and the stigma of sexuality will be explored through dialogue, theatre, song, poetry and dance. Through these ‘expression platforms’ we will capture the rich,vibrant musical culture inherent in South Africa as the girls give expression to the realities of their lives.

The documentary film is an extension of our commitment to give girls a platform to share their voices, to share their stories, and to engage a wider audience through these girls’ voices. It is to send a clear message, that yes, there are deep rooted, tough issues that present every day challenges in every community – but if we don’t give girls a voice, if we don’t listen and let their spirits shine, how can these challenges ever be truly overcome?

For it is when we listen that we connect, and it is when we work together we that can bring forth positive change in people’s lives.

Click here to follow our journey.