Saturday, 23 January 2021

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Ciné-ONU: Jaha's Promise

On the 4th December, Cine-ONU screened ‘Jaha’s Promise’ at Cinema Galeries in Brussels, in partnership with OHCHR and the European Commission, to mark Human Rights Defenders Day.

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‘Jaha’s Promise’ follows the story of Jaha Dukureh who, like most other girls in Gambia, experienced genital mutilation when she was very young. Her marriage was arranged when she was eight, and as a 15-year-old she got married to a 40-year-old man in New York. ‘Jaha's Promise’ is a touching story about a young girl's struggle to take control of her own body, and about having the courage to confront her father, the politicians and the community that surrounds her.

The screening was followed by a powerful panel discussion with Patrick Farrelly, Co-director of ‘Jaha’s Promise’, Chiara Andamo, Head of Unit for Gender, Human Rights and Democratic Governance (DEVCO), and Veronica Birga, Chief of Women’s Human Rights and Gender Section, (OHCHR). Caroline Petit (UNRIC) moderated.

Veronica Birga began the discussion by explaining her reaction to the film: “I think it’s a beautiful tribute to this beautiful woman, Jaha, and a powerful reminder of the important role young women play in such social movements Culture can never be used to justify human rights abuses- this is very important in a time where there are arguments floating around about cultural traditions that attempt to justify human rights abuses.”


Chiara Andamo then spoke about her response: “The first thing I thought was that we need to share this film as much as possible. From schools to governments, everyone should see it. I think we should be hopeful in the fact that we will end the practice of FGM, possibly in my generation.”

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Patrick Farrelly added to the conversation by explaining how he came across Jaha: “I first met her when doing work for The Guardian, when she was campaigning for a petition that was delivered to the White House against FGM. The worse trauma in her life was not FGM. It was in fact the forced marriage that she had to deal with, not in her own country, but New York city. I just felt that someone had to tell her story. Jaha is a powerhouse. She has an extraordinary ability to understand the people who oppose her and an ability to help people come round to her own opinion.”


He continued: “Jaha used to say to me ‘well no one wants to see a film about female genital mutilation, we need to make this film into a date movie, if possible.’ I was talking to her today and she said: ‘people have no idea how important it is that grassroot movements like those in Africa now are supported.’ Resources must go to the people who are actually trying to change the world. I really believe that there is a big youth movement in Africa. There are an awful lot of individuals like Jaha- support the Jaha’s in the world. They are the people that will change the world, they are the agents of change.”


Chiara Andamo empathised with Jaha, and said, “Human rights activists face particular obstacles. She is in a constant battle, she fights for everyone. That is why the only long term, sustainable solution is to take an approach that is not limited to caution the law, but you need to implement the law. You need to train individuals, you need to change cultural ideas and traditions. This is vital. The role of both male and female education is really important to comprehensively tackle gender-based violence.”


Finally, she brought the discussion to a close by saying: “We must give equal access to opportunity, which means giving girls equal access to education and support. We provide these organisations who are on the ground with safe spaces so that human rights defenders can get out there and make a difference.”


To see pictures from the evening, click here.

For more information about the film, click here.

To watch our Facebook live interview with Patrick Farrelly, co-director of 'Jaha's Promise' click here.

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