Saturday, 16 January 2021

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Ciné-ONU: The Poetess

On 7 March 2018, Ciné-ONU screened ‘The Poetess’ to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, and SDG 5 – Gender Equality. ‘The Poetess’ tells the story of Saudi Poetess, Hissa Hilal, who made headlines around the world in 2010, as the first woman to ever make it to the finals of an Abu-Dhabi-based reality television show dominated by men, with an audience of 70 million. This film was shown in partnership with UN Women and UNFPA at Cinéma Galeries in Brussels.

Cinema Galeries | ©UNRIC

The screening was followed by a conversation on the issues highlighted within the documentary. The guest speakers included: Dr Malika Hamidi (Muslim Feminist); Tiina Astola (Justice and Consumers, EC); Sietske Steneker (UNFPA); Dagmar Schumacher (UN Women); and moderated by Deborah Seward (UNRIC).

The discussion initially focused on the integral role of Muslim feminism in creating real global change to achieve gender equality – particularly in places like Saudi Arabia. Dr. Hamidi begun the conversation, sharing how “we are facing a silent revolution within the Muslim communities on the role of women: politically, socially, and religiously.” In ‘The Poetess’, she continued, “Hissa is a role model. She is representative of a new generation of women who are religious experts. They are promoting a new interpretation of the scriptures from within.”

Deborah Seward introducing the film | ©UNRIC

Continuing on the theme of female empowerment from within, Ms. Astola stated: “I think it is a lot about seeing, about opening people’s eyes, and then taking action. If you see yourself represented on a public stage, this makes a huge impact.” “As the saying goes,” Ms. Steneker added, “‘Women hold up half the sky,’ and a society cannot be whole if half are prevented from participating. It affects the economy; it affects the culture; and it affects many social aspects of society.”

On the topic of equality, Dr. Hamidi stressed the importance of: “promoting men and women together; working towards eliminating discrimination,” emphasizing how: “we need to struggle for equality and justice hand-in-hand. Otherwise society will just become more fractured.” Whilst in agreement that men are integral to achieving gender equality, Ms. Schumacher was keen to add that: “First we need to redress the balance and inequalities with regards to men’s lack of respect for women. Then we can work together.”

Speaker Panel with Sietske Steneker speaking | ©UNRIC

During the discussion, Ms. Schumacher also engaged the audience in an interactive quiz asking them to choose out of three options, which answer they believed represented: (1) the global gender pay gap: 23%; (2) the global figure for women who have experienced gender-based violence: 33%; (3) the name of the new UN-EU joint initiative for female empowerment: ‘Spotlight’; and finally asked: (4) ‘What is the proportion of women represented in parliaments around the world?’; which she revealed to be 23.4%.

Finally, Dr. Hamidi hypothesized on: “The EU and the UN: what can they do?” Once again highlighting how “it is a question of empowerment: religiously, socially and politically. The voices of Muslim women have to be amplified.” In response to this, Ms. Schumacher urged everyone to get involved with our #heforshe campaign: “You can prepare a small video addressing two issues: (1) am I a #heforshe; and (2) how can I commit to preventing sexual harassment? This is how you can amplify your voice to make a difference: both men and women!”

To conclude, our moderator, Ms. Seward asked the audience to: “Tell somebody where you were tonight, and what you were doing; this has to happen at the social level to really take root.”

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