Africa & Middle East
Among the Numbers
Fifty-eight year old Mary Musa is the first woman Chair of New Sembehun Town Council in Koidu, in the heart of Sierra Leone's conflict-riddled diamond industry in Kono district. Brought up in a poor farming family where boys, not girls, were educated, Mary's mother encouraged her to finish her schooling and win a college scholarship and a higher teacher's certificate. One of the few women in Sierra Leone to have risen to leadership through the grassroots, Mary is a widow with five children of her own - who is also raising another 15 children orphaned during Sierra Leone's bitter civil war.
Picking up the Pieces
Thirty-two year old Comfort Adongo is in the first year of junior secondary school - a class for 13-15 year olds - in Bolgatanga, capital of the Upper East Region in northern Ghana. Comfort was just 14 when her education was disrupted after a stranger kidnapped and sexually abused her. Despite being illegal, abduction and forced marriage of young girls is a growing phenomenon in this part of Ghana: widespread poverty has made poor families more willing to marry off their young daughters in order to receive the 'bride price'. Comfort's one of the lucky ones. Now back home with her parents, she is determined to finish her schooling and rebuild her life.
Production company links/email: email Producer and Director Loretta Vanderpuye
Love of Indigo
Nike Okundaye is an internationally renowned artist specialising in adire, the traditional Yoruba indigo art from western Nigeria. She attributes her strength and success to her own early life - losing her mother at six, escaping forced marriage at 13, and overcoming a polygamous marriage, physical abuse, and poverty. Today Nike's work is shown in museums around the world, and she trains disenfranchised young Nigerian women - including former sex workers in Italy - in adire, pottery and weaving, giving them the skills to earn their own, independent living.
Seventy four year-old Ma Grace Masuku is a community health worker with a mission. She works with young women in South Africa's rural areas, passing on the traditional knowledge she learned from her grandmother to encourage entrepreneurship and self respect. While South Africa has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world on women's rights, 150 women are raped every day, HIV/AIDS is killing a fifth of all young women, and one in four are unemployed. And the rural areas are hardest hit. "You know we are so rural," says Grace, "if we don't just stand up and do things for ourselves, we will die."
Production company links/email: email Durga Shaki Films
Musician Dudu Manhenga grew up in a violent family. For years after she married, Dudu wouldn't let her husband touch her neck because it brought back nightmares of her father choking her. Today, as singer in popular band Color Blu, she sings about violence and bad relationships, how women can overcome them - and how Zimbabwe today needs more women decision makers if it is to break out of the economic and political crisis that is killing its citizens and crippling development. Over half Zimbabwe's population are women - but they hold only 12 per cent of political positions.
Who is the Rwandan Woman?
Sula Karuhimbi and Godelieve Mukasarasi are two of the exceptional women leading efforts to rebuild Rwanda following the 1986 genocide. Eighty-seven year old traditional healer Sula shielded her Tutsi neighbours from the Hutu killing militias and is now testifying against the perpetrators at the International Criminal Tribunal. Godelieve, a social worker whose family was killed by the militias, is the founder of Sevota, which brings together women survivors traumatised by the conflict. With women now occupying 40 per cent of seats in the new parliament, Rwanda has the second largest percentage of women parliamentarians in the world, after Sweden.
Grace Lwemamu is manager of the family business Mulya Maize in Uganda. Mary Kaddu runs her own supermarket business. But both felt their lack of management expertise was holding them back. "The people I work with - they didn't ever recognize me as their manager," says Grace, "I don't know whether it was because I'm a woman or because I was young." Mary adopted the parent-to-child approach, issuing orders to her workers from on high. Now they have taken part in a new national mentoring scheme, pairing experienced business women with would-be entrepreneurs in Uganda, equipping them with new confidence and negotiating skills.
Production company links/email: email Producer Irene Zikusoka
Related links:The British Council, Uganda
The Power of her Voice
Njoki Ndung'u is one of just 18 women MPs who sit on Kenya's 222 strong, male-dominated National Assembly. In 2006 she made history when she won approval for a new Sexual Offences Law in Kenya, finally outlawing violence against women. In Kenya there's a sexual assault against a woman every 20 seconds. After homicide, sexual violence, rape and assaults are the most common crimes in the country. Previous attempts to legislate had foundered on a lack of political will. This is the story of how Njoki and her supporters won through.
Production company email: Ace Communications
Visions of a Woman
Dr. Nawal Al-Faouri is a local councillor and one of only seven women senators in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Most Jordanians, men and women, have a high standard of education. But women still make up only a quarter of the workforce, and just three per cent of managers. One explanation, a recent survey suggests, is that women in Jordan lack confidence in themselves and other working women, don't have strong career goals, and view work simply as a means of earning money. To challenge this, Nawal set up her own school, the Ibn Taymaih, 40 kilometres outside Amman, aimed at educating a new generation of young women about their rights.
Production company links/email: Jordan Pioneers
In the Eye of the Storm
Journalist and single mother Fadia Bazzeh was working as a news producer for the Lebanese channel New TV when Israeli warplanes bombed southern Lebanon in July 2006. Despite the danger, she volunteered to go and report from the frontline. When a colleague was killed in the bombing, Fadia was shocked but said it increased her determination to show what was happening in her home region. "I live alone with my son," says Fadia, "It isn't easy to carry this responsibility as a woman on her own. I need to work around the constraints of my society so I can stand on my own two feet and live my life as a journalist and a mother."
Production company email: Producer/Director Mai Masri