We have just started a funded women’s project in the provinces teaching filmmaking focused on sexual health. This came out of a film that Susan Kargbo was making about domestic abuse and how the law protects women but culture does not, especially in the provinces,’Abused‘. The women involved begged Susan to go back and teach them to make their own films so we got funding and began.
The women will make films about sexually transmitted diseases, FGM, child marriage etc and play them to neighbouring villages. WAYout is collecting data from local hospitals, clinics and organisations working in these areas to assess what impact the films have.
The WAYout for Women programme is managed by Susan Kargbo and aims to build upon WAYout’s strong work to date, in setting up and running women-specific training and facilities programme at the WAYout Centre and in the community. The Women’s room opened at the WAYout Centre in February 2015 and was equipped, with the support of The Mercers Charity 600, with basic film-making and computer equipment.
Susan Kargbo took part in the Prince Claus Funded project Unseen, Unheard and produced a short film about domestic abuse in the provinces –Abused. It follows the remarkable Hawa Jalloh as she tries to raise awareness of women’s rights in an environment where the law protects women but culture does not. We now have funding to support Susan to run a project in the same village, teaching media skills and using film to explore sexual health.
We now aim to conduct outreach, employ female trainers, set up training programmes, conduct a baseline study for evaluation, look for job opportunities for trained women and plan films they will make to raise awareness of women’s issues or celebrate women’s lives. This programme aims to increase the number of women already participating in WAYout activities to a target number of 30% of all participants. This project is part funded by The Evan Cornish Foundation.
WAYout has demonstrated that giving disadvantaged young people access to equipment and training in media and music – re-engages even the toughest street youth with learning and community. For the women it is harder. They have to overcome prejudice and cultural attitudes towards women such as low expectations. Many of them support families back in the provinces and are forced into sex work by poverty, trafficking or abuse. On the streets they put up with beatings and theft and they risk contracting HIV or sexually transmitted diseases. Other female members of WAYout come from very poor backgrounds and could not complete their education. And yet, given the chance, these women are bright, enthusiastic and determined to compete in a man’s world.
WAYout has learnt through delivery over the last 11 years in Sierra Leone that our women participants need a safe, nurturing environment where they can develop ideas and stories that are important to them. Despite our strict booking policy, in a male dominated culture, the women tended to step back and ‘let the guys get on with it’ – no matter how often we tried to stop that happening.
The womens’ room was an attempt to encourage women and provide a space where they do not have to compete for equipment and can have their opinions heard. It has proved very successful – the increase in the number of women who come in and stay all day was immediate and they are proving themselves very focused and capable.
For women, having their own space has meant they can talk freely about the issues that affect them. Out of this have come a documentary about FGM, a feature film about Ebola and teenage pregnancy, a short love story, a project supporting Ebola orphans and so on. This in turn has led to increased confidence and improved self-esteem, networking and job opportunities.
The Women’s project will train women to work in the media. In addition, WAYout will set up gender discussion groups, to tackle misconceptions held between WAYout participants – male and female – around gender differences. We aim to produce six completed films by December 2019- documentary or drama- that challenge expectations of women, both in storyline and behind the cameras; that raise awareness and, above all, give confidence and voice.
Watch FGM in Sierra Leone
Supported by The Mercers Charity 600 and Evan Cornish Foundation