It is 2021, and the fight for equal rights and freedom of movement is far from over. From illegal abortions, child marriage, human and sex trafficking, casteism, sexisim - we listed down some of the most heart wrenching documentaries that speak of women’s issues at length, if we are willing to listen and understand. These documentaries span developed and developing economies, and geographies from around the globe.
It’s A Girl: The Three Deadliest Words In The World
It is 2021 and women have more rights and agency than ever before. Yet, in India, China, and several other parts of the world, unborn girls are aborted and new born girls are killed or abandoned. The power equations and cultural dynamics causing gender disparity have not changed in many circles, even the seemingly elite and educated ones. That is the story and the underlying message of It’s a Girl: The Three Deadliest Words in the World. The documentary is shot in India and China, and dives deep into the reasons behind this striking gender disparity that actually eliminates women from many circles of life. It pointedly asks why not enough has been done to save girls and women. Horrifying real-life stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, women who face dowry-violence, mothers who have fought to save their daughters, and mothers who would literally kill for a son, interviews with experts and activists who have devoted their lives to advocate for social change through empowerment, education, and several other paths out of this injustice doled out to women and girls every single day of their lives, make up this documentary.
Defenders Of Justice
In Defenders of Justice, we meet Lucia Xavier, who is part of a movement of powerful women activists who are reframing reproductive rights as an issue of women’s rights and racial justice, as she and others work to address security threats against activists fighting for reproductive rights. We also meet Daniele Duarte, an Afro-Brazilian lesbian activist who participates in protests and marches against the rise of the extremist president Jair Bolsonaro. Lucia, Daniele, and others are part of a vibrant and intersectional feminist movement in Brazil, mobilizing what some are calling a “Feminist Spring” in the country, as the Supreme Court considers decriminalizing abortion.
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
The documentary is based on a 2009 non-fiction book of the same name, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Half the Sky travels to 10 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Kenya, India, Liberia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and Vietnam, to chronicle stories of gender-based oppression like trafficking, violence, rape, maternal mortality, and education. It also tells the stories of inspiring women who have risen against the odds, and discusses meaningful and lasting solutions through better healthcare, right to education, and economic empowerment.
Katie Couric, Gloria Steinem, Condoleezza Rice, and others shine a light on the most pervasive distributor of sexism: the media. Everywhere we look, the mainstream media tells women that their worth is measured by their beauty, desirability, and youth — rather than her intelligence, ambition, or character. That has a very real impact on the girls — and boys — who grow up seeing these images every day, and believing that it represents their value and place in the world.
Rights Not Roses
In Rights Not Roses, we hear directly from Zarmina, a survivor of early marriage, and a network of community activists fighting to end the scourge of child, early, and forced marriage in Pakistan, where 21 per cent of girls are married before the age of 18 years. These include Rukhshanda Naz, a human rights attorney and long-time women’s rights leader who is fighting in Pakistan’s courts to extricate girls like Zarmina from early and forced marriages, and whose passionate advocacy for ending child marriage is informed by her family’s own experiences.
The Holy Wives
The Holy Wives is the story of the lives of Devdasi women in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, who are molested in the name of tradition, some even as minors. It dives deep into the struggles and psychology of these Devdasis, also known as Jogins, Basavis, Kalawants, Paravatis, or Mathammas, as they fight to maintain their self-respect and earn livelihoods in the aftermath of the Devdasi system getting banned in the two states. The ban did not bring any credible alternatives and has eventually led to the increase in trafficking of children and women, just to earn two square meals a day. The Holy Wives also touches upon the struggles of three other communities that have suffered at the hands of caste-based violence against women.
This controversial film looks at the prejudices faced by Black women, and women with dark skin, in all corners of the world. Those biases are deeply rooted in racism and classism, as well as the dissemination of the Western ideal of beauty in the media. For example, skin-lightening products are a multibillion-dollar worldwide industry. The addition of popular actor Viola Davis's story proves that no dark-skinned woman is immune to this prejudice.
Period. End of Sentence
Even today, the topic of menstruation is considered by many to be a taboo subject. The Oscar-winning documentary seeks to fight against this stigma by focusing on a group of Indian women who fought for better access to secure sanitary products, and began manufacturing their own sanitary pads as a result. The film also highlights how important it is for men to be allies on this issue, and why the shame surrounding menstruation needs to be put to an end once and for all.
Girl Rising is a documentary about nine girls from different parts of the world and their journey to basic education. The girls hail from Haiti, Nepal, Ethiopia, India, Egypt, Peru, Cambodia, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan, and have braved horrifying injustices such as child marriage and slavery as well as circumstantial ones like geographic isolation and poor facilities. Girl Rising is the touching story of these girls and how they found their voices. It showcases the powerful and inspiring spirit of these girls, and at the same time, relentlessly advocates for the right to education as a powerful tool to empower girls around the world.
Girls At The Heart Of It
Girls at the Heart of It follows two young women from Akili Dada, a women-led grassroots organization focused on empowering girls and young women ages 13-22 years to become leaders in Kenya, including through sexual and reproductive health advocacy. Through high school- and university-level programs, teenage girls and young women at Akili Dada are building skills to raise awareness about sexual and reproductive health and rights in their communities, and challenging norms and perceptions to help their peers take better control of their bodies and their futures. Alongside their stories, audiences meet Purity Kagwiria, Akili Dada’s Executive Director, whose own personal experiences have led her to a lifelong commitment to support women and girls in her community.
Honor Diaries is the story of nine brave women’s rights advocates who are part of the gender equality discourse in the Middle East. The documentary also exposes the problem of political correctness that stops this extreme inequality from getting identified and addressed on a global scale. Honor Diaries delves deep into the psyche of a Middle East that has failed to provide basic rights to its women, such as freedom of movement, right to education, agency and choice in matters of marriage, and any opposition to institutionalised abuse, like female genital mutilation. It is an attempt to move from storytelling to initiate a movement of sorts. Honor Diaries creates awareness about the issues of women in Muslim-majority societies, and seeks the international solidarity needed for the lives of these women to change for the better.