Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation

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The WLUML-WELDD Butterfly Effect: Go Forward, No Matter the Circumstances

Published Date: 
Monday, September 28, 2015


For years, Awa* of Senegal has been passionate about the world of films. The sheer fact of other lives, other worlds, other cultures; the exposure to ways of being different from her own have drawn her to cinema most out of everything.

Her family however has always had different plans. They were not as keen on her pursuing her dreams, and had never accompanied her to films.

“A few years ago, I was selected to film and photograph the Avignon Festival,” she says. “That was the moment I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.” After attending the WELDD Feminist Leadership workshops, she was inspired to continue in this vein; ignoring the possible hurdles, she went ahead and applied for a cinema school abroad—in Marrakesh, as there are none in Senegal.

“I participated in their competition, and came fourth out of seventy-four contestants. I was actually the only person coming from Senegal!”

Awa* was over the moon about this. Here was her dream being handed to her on a silver platter—but she still had some hoops to jump through.

“When I talked about it to my family, they were at once reluctant. My brother is a little backward like that: he’s convinced men are superior to women. He was convinced that I should study English and become a teacher instead, as that suits my role more. He was outraged that I dare go abroad as a single woman, without a man; moreover, a sound recorder—which is the course I was going to study—is much more a man’s job than a woman’s. He was just completely against the idea.”

“After the workshop,” Awa* says, “I gained a whole breadth of perspective that I never would have otherwise.” Awa* met women from Mali, for example, who shared their experiences about the Touareg rebellions, and she realized how minimal her problems were compared to theirs. “Without that exposure, I never would have gained the strength to confront my family and tell them what I really wanted to do—a “man’s” job, in a country abroad, to study something so unconventional for women.”

“My father, unlike my brother, has always been one for equality,” she says. “He sent both his daughters and his sons to school, and he used to say that if my daughter washes the plate, then my son has to dry and put it away. However, he has now passed, and in Senegal if the father dies, it is the son who takes charge of the family.”

But with her excellent track record, her clear passion for films, her amazing placement in the competition and the fact of her being the only person selected from Senegal, she approached her family with the newfound strength she had gained from the workshops. And, she’s been happy to announce, her family was convinced!

Awa* has had some realizations about the social structure around her. “The problem in Senegal is that people do not trust the youth with any sort of responsibility. When we have to make a decision, we underestimate ourselves and we let others decide. And then we are the ones who suffer.”

“I would have been miserable if I had become an English teacher. Now, I have gotten a bursary for the school fees and I am so happy!”

The world is about to see some a driven, ambitious cinemaphile rise up, and we can’t wait! 


*Name changed for the sake of privacy

Political and Public Participation
Culturally Justified Violence Against Women
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