Bringing Hope to the world, via film

Earlier in 2020 we were joined by Liz and Alex as they concluded their round the world trip. They came to Hope to share their skills by producing a film that would reflect the determination, energy and compassion of the team and the work delivered here. We will be releasing the film in the coming months, with snippets already appearing on our social channels.

Read on to learn more the about why Liz and Alex chose Hope for this important part of their trip.

The film is about an amazing Tanzanian woman, Rhobi Samwelly, and the organization she founded that is rescuing young girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage in the Serengeti district of Tanzania. It highlights the stories of girls who have fled FGM, as well as the staff and community leaders involved in this effort. We learn about Rhobi’s story and what led her to create the nonprofit, Hope for Girls and Women in Tanzania. The organization manages two safe houses among many other initiatives and programs, such as school and community education, and community mapping. In this film, we sought to highlight the individuals involved in this effort to rescue the girls, and to show the audience all the amazing collaborative work they are doing.

Alex and Liz with the Hope team
Alex, Liz, and Herry Kasunga of the Hope for Girls and Women team

My husband Alex, and I (Liz) were taking a career gap to travel around the world full-time when we learned about Hope for Girls and Women in Tanzania. When first planning our around the world trip over 5 years ago, we knew we wanted to spend some time working with a nonprofit in Sub-Saharan Africa. Having both spent time volunteering in Sub-Saharan many years prior, we knew we only wanted to volunteer if we were able to bring a unique set of skills to the table that would have a lasting benefit to a nonprofit.

We both have had an interest in video creation for years, but had only put together a few videos for fun mostly related to travel before we left on our around the world trip.

We created a YouTube channel to document our travels and develop skills that would enable us to create documentaries, which has always been an interest of ours. I have spent most of my career working in the nonprofit/public sector so while I was learning editing and video creation, I immediately saw the potential to utilize these skills to benefit nonprofits by highlighting the amazing work they do which could then be used to reach additional funders and donors. While not everyone can visit rural Tanzania, we thought a film that brings to life the work being done would be the next best thing. 

We had a very strict set of criteria for the type of organization we were looking to work for and we both could not have imagined a more perfect organization than Hope for Girls and Women in Tanzania. We were looking for an organization that is:

  • community run;
  • working to improve a human rights issue;
  • focused on women and children.
The Hope team
Liz (right) joined the wider Hope team including FGM survivor and Hope founder, Rhobi (middle)

Hope for Girls and Women not only met, but completely exceeded all of our criteria. We loved that it was founded and led by an amazing, passionate Tanzanian woman, Rhobi, who was such an inspiration.

I had some background knowledge about FGM in Tanzania, having written my final cumulative paper on it while completing my Master of Public Health.

So not only did it align very well with my interests, I also was able to see that they were implementing all of the best practices I had learned. They were the first and only organization we reached out to, while we were living in a van and exploring New Zealand. We had a quick phone call with Janet and Rhobi after sending a few samples of our work. We were then invited to come to the remote town of Mugumu in the Serengeti district of Tanzania. Getting to Mugumu from New Zealand was quite the experience! Our total travel time was over 60 hours consisting of 5 flights, and a very long car ride.

Our experience in Tanzania at Hope for Girls and Women will remain as my favorite experience on our around the world trip.  The entire team was so welcoming and accommodating to us following them around with video equipment. Without their language translation, logistical support, and the stories shared by the girls, the film would not have been possible. We really appreciate the kindness that was shown to us by the whole team while we were in Tanzania. 

While we were in Mugumu, COVID-19 was declared a global health pandemic. American citizens were urged to come home or plan to stay away for an indefinite time period. We were so torn and heartbroken about this, but made the hard decision to return home. As a result, we were unable to finish filming everything that we had set out to film. However, while quarantining in the United States, we had enough footage to compile and edit the film over the next two months. 

We are extremely grateful for this opportunity to highlight the work of an organization that truly deserves it. We were so inspired by the girls and all of the staff there. We will forever cherish this experience. 

Thank you!
Liz & (Alex) Clark

Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival (CPH:DOX)

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Canadian filmmaker Giselle Portenier’s new documentary ‘In the Name of Your Daughter’ about our director Rhobi Samwelly’s work to end FGM premiered this past March at the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival! The premier was attended by over 200 people, followed by two more screenings with Q & A sessions and screenings for students at Virum Gimnasium and St. Joseph’s Catholic Institute. Rhobi along with two girls featured in the film, Rose Makori and Neema Chacha, were able to travel to Copenhagen with Giselle to attend the screenings.

Below is a trailer of the film, which also played at the NorthwestFest Documentary & Media Arts Festival in Edmonton, Canada earlier this month.

 

Rhobi says what she enjoyed most about their trip to Copenhagen was meeting so many different people interested in learning more about FGM, including the ambassador of Canada to Denmark Emi Furuya, the Minister for Development Cooperation Ulla Tørnæs, and MP Trine Bramsen. The film’s positive reception has encouraged her to continue working hard to help communities in Mara and she said that many people in Denmark were surprised parents could do such a practice to their children.

What Rhobi found most surprising about the trip was learning during a Q & A session after the film that male circumcision isn’t a social norm in Denmark, unlike in many parts of Tanzania. In addition to speaking out against FGM at village community outreach events, Rhobi also encourages boys to get circumcised in hospitals rather than as part of traditional Kuria initiation.

International Women’s Day

To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March and raise awareness of the importance of gender equality, we held an event in Nyansurura in collaboration with the local Serengeti District government. Five girls staying at our safe house in Mugumu were presented with sewing machines at the event. These girls are in our vocational training programme and will use the  machines as part of their training. After they complete their training and are safely able to return home, the girls will take their sewing machines with them.

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Our social worker Neema Meremo

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The event’s slogan was “To head for an industrial economy, we should strengthen gender equality and women’s empowerment in villages”.

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The event’s guest of honour, District Administrative Secretary Qamara Cosmas, can be seen here presenting a sewing machine.

 

Celebrating 16 Days of Activism

The annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign originated out of the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991 at Rutgers University in the United States. One initial goal of this campaign was to emphasize that violence against women is a violation of human rights. This point seems obvious today, but was a matter of contention at the time.

The American feminist and founding director of the Center for Global Leadership at Rutgers, Charlotte Bunch, argued in 1990 that, ‘despite a clear record of deaths and demonstrable abuse, women’s rights are not commonly classified as human rights… The narrow definition of human rights, recognized by many in the West as solely a matter of state violation of civil and political liberties, impedes consideration of women’s rights’. The two-week long institute and its campaign against gender-based violence sent a powerful message that issues such as rape, female infanticide, genital mutilation, compulsory sterilization, forced marriage, and discrimination against girls are violations of human rights.

To celebrate 16 Days of Activism in December 2017, we officially opened our safe house in the village of Kiabakari in the Butiama District and organized a march against gender-based violence. Girls from the new Butiama safe house and students from Kukirango Secondary School marched together to raise community awareness.

 

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Here Rhobi Samwelly, our Director, speaks to the crowd at the opening celebration.

 

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Rev Canon Francis Sender addresses the crowd. Behind the table stands Titus J Kamwaga (acting as District Executive Director), Dickson Mwandala (acting on behalf of the District Commissioner), and Major EP Mkama (head commander of the Kiabakari Tanzania People’s Defence Forces).

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This banner reads: Safe Houses Are One Strategy To Fight Gender-Based Violence and FGM.

 

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This banner proclaims: Butiama Without Gender-Based Violence Is Possible.

 

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This banner asks: How Will You Take Steps to Empower Girls to Stay in School?

 

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These young men hold a banner declaring: Wage War Against FGM, Educate the Girl Child

 

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Men played an active role in the march. Dickson Mwandala and Major EP Mkama are shown here leading the way.