Technologies Shift: Women and Girls Lead – by Deborah Levine

The Independent Television Service (ITVS) is a global asset for women and girls. ITVS supports a dynamic field of independent media makers whose programs creatively engage audiences, expand cultural awareness and catalyze civic participation. Filmmakers from around the world came to ITVS with incredible stories about women and girls. Using a holistic approach, ITVS created Women and Girls Lead, a multi-year initiative with documentaries about women and girls. After launching the domestic initiative, the project went global. Combining the expertise in international broadcasting, storytelling, and on-the-ground knowledge of its partners: USAID, the Ford Foundation, and CARE, ITVS recently launched Women and Girls Lead Global.

There were five “test cases” in Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Jordan and Peru. Three major strategies from efforts to promote conversations, encourage education, and boost efforts to reduce child marriage and gender based violence. 1.) a succession of three film screenings with the same audience can be effective in moving people from understanding to individual action to collective action. 2.) creating incentives through contests motivate people and institutions everywhere. 3.) combine world-class documentary films, television partners, and local engagement campaigns to impact communities around the world by supporting ongoing NGO (non-governmental/nonprofit organizations) efforts to lift up women and girls.

The local “call to action” content, live events and social media combine to connect individuals, mobilize communities, and multiply NGO impact. The outcomes of these initiatives have meant a change in the role of women as this sample demonstrates.
• Child marriage rates in partner schools fell 20%.
• Girls’ dropout rates in partner schools fell by up to 60%.
• 80% increase in number of schools offering girls’ complaint boxes.
• 29% increase in schools forming violence prevention committees.
• Companies donated $5000 in goods to schools to support girls.

Tamara Gould, Senior Vice President of National Production and Strategic Partnerships at ITVS, describes the diversity of participants in all five countries.
• Peru’s indigenous populations in the Highlands and Amazon basin.
• Bangladesh’s Muslim and Hindu populations.
• Jordan’s Bedouins, Syrian refugees, and Muslim and Christian Jordanians and Palestinians.
• Kenya’s Maasai, the Mijikenda, the Swahili, and Bantu tribes.
• India’s farmers, auto rickshaw drivers, daily wage laborers, and domestic servants whose illiteracy rate can be as high as 90 %.

In Jordan, WGLG works with transnational migrants and refugees living in camps and depressed neighborhoods via NGO partners JOHUD (the Jordanian Hashemite Fund) and CARE. The focus in Jordan is gender-based violence. Raising awareness about laws and resources is vital for refugees, who, as newcomers to the country, are often unaware of laws that could protect them or services that could support them.

Tamara stressed that the traditional role of women is rarely contested in these marginalized communities.  She notes that, “WGLG films and the conversations they stimulate are providing an entry point, often the first and only entry point, for communities to talk about the role of girls and women and the ways in which they are being oppressed, devalued, or discriminated against. In Bangladesh and India, these conversations led to girls playing sports and taking on leadership roles at school. In general, WGLG partner communities accept shifts in gender roles more readily when they’re proposed for young people.”

An adult role model is essential.  If a teacher or a sports coach is part of the initial conversation, they can bring the ideas to the larger community. Gradually, communities and cultures evolve and allow women and girls to lead.


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