Palestine Pulse

Palestinian students look at gender equality through cameras

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Article Summary
A short film project in the West Bank urges high school students to examine gender issues through the lens of a camera.

RAMALLAH, West Bank — A West Bank project uses cinematography to create awareness of a wide range of gender issues, from the barriers faced by girls to practice sports to underage girls dropping out of school to get married.

The project, launched in August 2018, focused on state secondary schools in the marginalized areas in the West Bank under the slogan “local communities spearhead defending women and girls’ rights by using audiovisual production.” Carried out by the Teacher Creativity Center in Ramallah, the project was implemented in coordination with the Italian GVC organization as part of the regional, European Union-supported Medfilm project in 11 schools in the West Bank. Another part of the project is underway in nine schools in the Gaza Strip.

Amal Barghouthi, coordinator of the project at the Teacher Creativity Center, told Al-Monitor that the project sought to raise gender awareness among students ages 14-16 by using a camera to highlight a problem and even seek a solution. The project is part of the vision and strategy of the Teacher Creativity Center to use new and modern tools in teaching values such as equality and justice.

In the first phase of the 100,000 euro ($112,600) project, teachers received basic training for several days days on gender equality and how it could be tackled through audiovisual methods. A team from the members of the center and professionals from the Departments of Gender Equality and Arts at the Ministry of Education trained the teachers.

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In the second phase, the project established cinema clubs in the selected secondary schools. These clubs set the stage for student initiatives and for producing films and audiovisual work. Students, working in teams, selected the issue they wanted to work on, created a script, conducted interviews and shot them with their own cellphones and then used basic online tools to edit the footage.

The resulting works, screened and evaluated by a jury on June 19, showed the different problems Palestinian girls face in their daily lives.

An eight-minute film by the Bardala Secondary Girls School in the village of Bardala in Al-Aghwar in Tubas governorate, which has won first place in the project’s competition, tackled “the culture of shame” regarding girls and women practicing sports.

Fidaa Bani Odeh, a teacher of artistic education at the school and supervisor of the cinema club, told Al-Monitor, “The girls decided to highlight female students’ [obstacles and difficulties] to practice sports in the school playground when they exercise in their sports clothes. The playground is visible from the street and the girls do not want to be seen in sports clothes. Even if some girls are OK with that, their families are not.”

Odeh said that the cinema team conducted interviews with the students and prepared short sketches. Thirty-one students from 8th to 10th grade participated in this project, either as interviewees or filmmakers.

She said after the film's screening that the community decided to do something about the problem because it was obvious that the girls wanted to practice sports but did not want to be seen from outside during the practice and games. The local community has collected 12,000 Israeli shekels ($3,380) so far to build a closed playground, and the local community council has pledged to fund the rest.

Issues tackled by students of other schools included child marriage and school dropout among girls, and girls not having a university education. One of the schools tackled the discrimination faced by girls and women in social media. 

The Teacher Creativity Center project also complements the Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s establishment of the Department of Arts, Music and Theater last March. “Along with the ministry, we are hoping in the coming year to organize summer camps for cinema clubs to train students to tackle bigger issues and integrate cinema clubs both in the school curriculum and extracurricular activities,” Barghouthi said.

The head of the Department of Plastic and Expressive Arts and facilitator of the Department of Music, Arts and Theater at the Ministry of Education, Riyad Sawalha, told Al-Monitor that the ministry aims to develop filmmaking and cinema in schools because it would help start a dialogue on key issues in the local communities. He described the cinema club project as “a seed planted in local communities" that would have a positive effect in the medium term.

“Students have already changed their approach toward filmmaking and are adopting initiatives to put their issues forward and analyze the problems of their local communities through films and try to solve them — all with a camera,” he said.

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Found in: Women’s rights

Ahmad Melhem is a Palestinian journalist and photographer based in Ramallah for Al-Watan News. He writes for a number of Arabic outlets.

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