Watch This Film

As a mother who lost five children, would you be able to forgive the man who killed them?  What about the bomber who killed your father–could you see yourself being friends with him?  People who have suffered unimaginable tragedies share their stories in the documentary Beyond Right & Wrong:  Stories of Justice and Forgiveness.  Watch the trailer.

If you are interested in watching the film, you can do so for free.  The great thing about this offer is that you can donate to the charity of your choice without spending a dime.  To find out more about how this works visit:  http://filmraise.com/how-it-works/#instructions

International Women’s Day

Sunday, March 8, 2015 is International Women’s Day.  Gospel of Asia Canada is celebrating this day in South Asia by:

  • Giving new saris to widows
  • Encouraging women by sharing stories of women found in the Bible
  • Distributing food and blankets to poor children and families in the slums
  • Visiting women in prison and encouraging prostitutes with Christ’s love
  • Meeting the basic needs of some of the poorest women in society

I encourage you to watch a clip of the movie, “Veil of Tears” about a woman named Suhkwinder who almost committed suicide because her children were born girls. As you watch the clip and celebrate International Women’s Day, find out how you can help to change the life of a woman just like Suhkwinder’s. In a society where boy babies are preferred, the worst words a parent could hear are, “It’s a girl”.

In India girls are unwanted.  I read in an article that came out a couple of years ago that a three month old girl died from cardiac arrest at a state-run hospital in Bangalore after battling for life for three days.  Her father had battered her because he wanted a son.  Little Neha Afreen sustained head injuries, abrasions and bite marks all over her body.  This caused public outrage which led to her father’s arrest.  Her mother said, “My husband was enraged with me for delivering a girl,  He hated her. He wanted me to get rid of the child or abandon her as he wanted a son.”

Sadly, there are several horror stories of baby girls who have been abandoned, tortured or killed because they were unwanted.  We live in a world where there is gender bias.  As a Christian this is very hard for me to accept.  God created both man and woman in His image.  Little girls are as precious in His sight as little boys.  And if society keeps killing the baby girls, how will they have the boys they want so much?  And what about the boys when they grow up and want to get married and there is a shortage of women?  Many of them will have to go elsewhere to find wives. In Asia, baby girls are tossed aside as if they are garbage and women are raped.

There is the documentary, India’s Daughter, the story of the gang rape and murder of a young woman which shocked the world and sparked riots and protests all over India. Grieving parents and one of the rapists tell the story of the night six men brutally assaulted 23 year old medical student, Jyoti Singh while driving around Delhi, India’s Capital, in a bus.  Women should have the right to feel safe in their own communities. In Canada, you can watch India’s Daughter on March 8 on CBC or online for 30 days after broadcast.

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I know of some fathers who have daughters and adore them.  In fact, they want daughters.  God bless these men.  Jyoti’s parents were happy to have her.  She had dreams like everyone else.  One night, her dreams and life were brutally taken away from her.

On March 8, let us celebrate our mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces, friends, teachers, etc.  Let us celebrate women and reflect on the marvelous contributions they have made and will make to our society.  Each life matters.  Girls matter.  I pray that one day, the words, “It’s a girl” will be met with joy and acceptance.  Until then, let each of us who has a little girl of our own, encourage her to stand up and say, “I am a girl and I matter.”

Sources: http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/south-asia/baby-girls-killing-reveals-indias-crisis-of-gender-bias; http://www.cbc.ca/passionateeye/episodes/indias-daughter

The World Before Her

I saw that TVO aired a documentary entitled The World Before Her but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to watch it. It’s a Canadian documentary film written and directed by Nisha Pahuja and released in 2012.   The film explores the complex and conflicting environment for young girls in India by profiling two young women participating in two very different types of training camp — Ruhi Singh, who aspires to become Miss India, and Prachi Trivedi, a militant Hindu nationalist with the Durga Vahini.

The film won the awards for Best Canadian Feature at the 2012 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and Best Documentary Feature at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival, and was a nominee for Best Feature Length Documentary at the 2013 Canadian Screen Awards.

Here’s the trailer:

You can watch the entire video as it aired on TVO at this link: http://ww3.tvo.org/video/191988/world-her

You can visit The World Before Her website at http://www.worldbeforeher.com

Notes to Women encourages you to watch this film which captures  the choices and contradictions that young women in India are facing today.  Imagine being chased down and beaten because you are seen with a man in public or are caught in a bar.  Imagine while you are in grade 7, to teach you a lesson for lying about completing your homework, your father burned your foot with a hot iron rod and as a result you suffer for a month from the painful blister that formed.  How would you feel if your father referred to you as “our product”?  This is the reality for the women in India.

As you watch this film, be mindful that these women are not enjoying the same rights as you are.  If you have a career, be thankful.  If you have a father who is supportive of you and whatever career path or degree you want to pursue, be grateful.  We all want to live in a society where girls and women are valued, respected and treated equally.  India is a male dominated society and that needs to change. Until that happens, let us continue to stand with our sisters in India and raise our voices against inequality, violence against women, oppression and gendercide.

It’s hard to see people use religion to perpetuate violence against others who don’t share their beliefs.  It’s especially hard to see young Hindu girls carrying guns and knives as they marched down the streets of India and chanted, “Mark your foreheads with blood and welcome your enemies with bullets.”  Who are their enemies?  Muslims and Christians whom they believed have ruined the Hindu religion.  One girl was clear about their mission–“we will use our guns and kill people.  We will never let them take our India.” These girls are graduates of the Durga Vahini, a militant training camp for girls.

The Indian government believes that that these camps are promoting terrorism and is trying to ban them. Personally, I find the idea of children carrying weapons and talking about killing people very, very disturbing.  This world is already a very violent place, we don’t need any more blood shed in the name of religion.

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World_Before_Her

Service: When Women Come Marching Home

Last month, my husband and I watched this documentary about women veterans who bore the scars of war.  They suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome, sexual assault, rape and homelessness.  CPL (ret.) Sue Downes lost both of her legs and was struggling to get the help she needed to integrate back into life.  She had her legs blown off above the knees and she got no support from the government.  We watch these women as they struggled to regain their lives–normalcy.  There was nothing there for them.  There were no jobs–most of them are incapable of finding jobs.  They had psychological problems.  They were physically disabled.

It was hard to watch these women who served their country–the double amputee went through both Iraq wars–not getting the support in integrating back into civilian life.  One woman who had a psychological problem and it took three months for her to be assigned to an officer who would actually listen to her case.  One woman who was physically injured and didn’t want to be a burden to her husband, was yelled at because she had a service dog in a grocery store.  Sue Downes encountered problems when she went into a fast food place with her service dog.

It was heartbreaking  to see that one of these incredible women still felt like a failure in spite of the fact that she was doing her Masters after completing her Undergraduate Studies.  It was encouraging though, to see two of the women who suffered from psychological problems take charge of their lives by venturing out instead of being isolated in their homes.  One of them who graduated from college.

I watched a documentary on the rape and sexual assault of women in the US military on Independent Lens and the lack of support they receive.  They are treated like they are the criminals and it broke my heart to see one woman’s husband actually break down and cry because his wife was raped by her commanding officer and his friend.  The women who tried to file reports on what happened were made to feel that what happened was their fault.  One was criticized for the way she was dressed.  Another was told that she would ruined the life of the man who raped her–he was married.

Many of these rape victims find themselves forced to choose between speaking up and keeping their careers.  Very few cases that are reported are prosecuted.  Women are left with the shame of what happened to them and not being taken seriously.  Their rights are violated again when they come forward with their stories and they are reprimanded or treated like the enemy.  These women who gave their lives to serve the military have to struggle to rebuild their lives and fight for justice.

I hope that bringing to light this shameful secret of the US military and the stories of these brave women in the Oscar and Emmy nominated documentary, “The Invisible Warwill make a difference.  “We hope the film will affect lasting changes in the way the military investigates and prosecutes sexual assault crimes and supports and cares for assault survivors,” said Kirby Dick. To that end, “The Invisible War” is a call for our civilian and military leadership to listen — and to act.

To find out more about the makers of this movie, check out their website at http://servicethefilm.com/filmmakers.php

I hope that those of you who have not watched the movie, will find a way to do so and spread the word.

Source:  http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/the-invisible-war-premieres-on-independent-lens-on-monday-may-13-2013-on-pbs-1789562.htm

It’s a Girl Documentary

I saw this on WordPress and just had to share it.  This documentary deals with the very disturbing and heartbreaking topic of gendercide.  Imagine that being a girl in some parts in the world can be fatal.  Imagine being a girl brings death to many innocent babies.  Girls are devalued and seen as a burden to their families.  Boys are given preference.  When will those who murder baby girls realize that they are jeopardizing the future of their boys and their country?  If they continue to get rid of girls, the boys will have no one to marry when they grow up.  And how will they be able to bring into the world the boy babies they are so desperate to have?

Something must be done to stop this senseless act of gender killing.  Girls are precious and valuable.  They too are gifts from a heavenly Father who created both men and women in His image.  In His eyes we are equals.

We need to speak out and continue to raise awareness of gendercide.  In my opinion gendercide is a criminal act and the governments of China and India should treat it as such.  Those who kill and abort girl babies should be arrested and charged with murder.  This has been going on for too long and it’s time these governments take action and protect the rights of these innocent victims.

On their website, Causes.com explains that the “It’s a Girl” campaign is all about empowering activists to help tell the world that gendercide is real, it’s happening now, and there is something that all of us can do to put an end to it.  Here are all the steps you can take to get involved with the movement:

To fight gendercide in China:
– Sign the petition urging world leaders to help end forced abortions, sterilizations, and coercive family planning under the One Child Policy in China
– Donate to Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, an organization fighting gendercide on the ground in China.

To fight gendercide in India:
– Sign the petition demanding that the Indian government take immediate and effective action to protect its female citizens.
– Donate to Invisible Girl Project, an organization with multiple initiatives to save young girls and provide for their basic needs in India.

To pledge your support to the “It’s a Girl” campaign:
– Take the pledge to take a stand against gendercide.

Take action now and join the fight against gendercide.  The future of girls in China and India are at stake.

Summer News: SOC Films Documentary Series

I wanted to share this email from Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, the first Pakistani woman to win an Oscar for her film Saving Face in 2012 and one of TIME Magazine’s most influencial people of the world.

Dear Friends,

A lot has happened since the Academy Awards in February in LA…I have begun work on a new series of documentary films which are being aired for the first time on TV Channels across Pakistan-

In a unique partnership with Coca-Cola, my production company SOC Films has launched a 6 part documentary series titled “Ho Yaqeen” featuring Pakistanis doing extraordinary things and transforming their communities.

The first episode of the series launched 2 weeks ago: Please do tune in to watch it, links are below:

Part1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMO2M9s4Lxs
Part2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uZXt3hJBno

Please do share these links with friends and family….

In other news, i was very fortunate to have been named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most Influential people in the world- (http://goo.gl/OFVhZ)
This positive reinforcement helps us get the message of our Academy Award winning film Saving Face out.

As more episodes of Ho Yaqeen become available i shall send them out on this mailing list. I am also involved in two more exciting documentary ventures outside of Pakistan which i shall share with you later in the summer….

All my very best
Sharmeen

You can check out Sharmeen’s website at:  http://sharmeenobaidfilms.com/bio/  I will keep you posted on Sharmeen’s exciting ventures. 

Breakdown in the Closet

MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe, explores the realities and ideas of a new global generation of mothers through art, stories, and powerful new voices. The exhibition aims to turn inspiration into action helping fuel a worldwide movement of advocates for mothers’ human rights and advances in maternal health. Just recently I got an email from them to vote for our favorite community piece. The voting ended February 29.  The finalists were very impressive.  They were as follows:

Each of these stories represents an important, and unique, aspect of motherhood around the globe.  I voted for Birthmarkings because it explores self-image and how our bodies change after we have children.  Some women feel self-conscious and unattractive.  I never felt unattractive because of my husband.  He always made me feel beautiful.  My self-image after birth has not changed.  My changed body is a reminder for me of how blessed I am to be a mother.

The winner of this competition is Humaira Abid’s Breakdown in the Closet.  What a concept.  Six wooden hangers in a closet–two of them bare.  These two hangers depict the pain and disappointment that comes along with miscarriage—a frequently unspoken part of many women’s experiences of pregnancy and motherhood.  The clothes look so real.  It’s hard to believe that they are made of wood.  We see the mother’s dress and the father’s pants and shirts.  This is a family wardrobe.  A husband and wife are expecting a child but tragedy strikes.  On the floor between the mother’s and the father’s clothes, we notice something that stands out in sharp contrast–the red baby shirt.  This is meant to represent the mother’s miscarriage and both parents’ loss.

Humaira explains that this work is a part of a series called “RED” named such because the color red represents love, passion, blood, anger, and loss–all strong emotions. Yes in the subcontinent, red is the traditional color of bridal dresses, and often is associated with love, sexuality, and fertility. Yet in some parts of Africa, red is a color of mourning and death-often associated with the color of blood. She herself suffered from miscarriages so she knows how tough this can take both a physical and emotional toll on women.

As the winner, Humaira Abid receives a US$1,000 prize, with $500 going to the artist and $500 going to a nonprofit charity of her choice!  Notes to Women congratulate this amazing artist who uses her work to a very painful experience for women.  Unfortunately miscarriage is very common, occurring in about one in five pregnancies.  Some women feel a strong sense of guilt, even though it is not their fault. These are natural reactions.

Breakdown in the Closet brilliantly and skillfully addresses a topic that is very difficult for women.  Humaira’s work recognized internationally for its originality and excellence has earned her a gold medal. Her work has been exhibited in Malaysia, India, Mauritius, Nepal, Kenya, Dubai, Bolivia, Germany, Russia, UK and USA. Humaira graduated from National College of Arts Lahore, Pakistan with Honors in the year 2000. She majored in Sculpture, with Miniature as her double minor.  We salute this internationally renown artist who uses her art to take action against the issue of gender inequality.  Brava Humaira.

We are pleased to announce that last month Humaira had her first child.  Congratulations, Humaira.  We wish mother and baby all the best.

If you are interested in seeing more of Humaira’s art, check out her website at:  http://www.humaira.com.pk/

I am from a country and society where showing your emotions and expressing your opinion is not welcomed–especially if you are a woman. Many experiences and roles of women are not properly appreciated. They are simply considered to be their duty or part of life.

I am trying to raise these issues through my work, which counters the stereotypical image of women in a male dominated society. In an environment where women have a considerable way to go to become full partners of men, I want my work to reflect the aspiration for gender equality.

Source:  http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/diseases/facts/miscarriage.htmhttp://mama.imow.org/yourvoices/breakdown-closet