Spotlight on our network: from political activist to creator of stories

Spotlight on our Network: from political activist to creator of stories

Batoul is our local producer in Jordan. During one of our recent projects for Care, we had the opportunity to meet with her and talk about her experiences as a woman in the industry.
This is her story.

I was born and raised in Amman, Jordan, but my parents have Palestinian and Lebanese origins, so I’m never considered 100% Jordanian, rather Palestinian/Jordanian. My parents are very liberal compared to their family and friends. I was privileged enough to study abroad for quite some years even though the community questioned my parents for it. My international upbringing is not very typical for Jordanian women, but things are changing. A growing number of women, especially the younger generations, are studying abroad and then returning to Jordan. Just like me.
I graduated in 2013 and came back to Jordan during the Arab Spring. I really wanted to be part of the changes that were happening in the region.

I never thought that I would actually begin a career in film. I was very involved in the political scene. I have always been an activist. My desire to be part of the international conversation of politics was very intense. So I majored in political science but I was also fascinated by film and storytelling. I ended up doing both and luckily my parents were very supportive.

After graduating in Chicago I applied for jobs in the Middle East, specifically in Jordan and I got a job in communications at the International Organization for Migration (IOM). I would write stories and produce documentary pieces about Syrian refugees in Jordan, as well as other related items.

For me this was an incredible experience, because I got to be involved with human rights worldwide, and tell stories at the same time. It was an opportunity to learn about the people on the ground, while also learning the craft of storytelling.

“For me this was an incredible experience, because I got to be involved with human rights worldwide but also tell stories at the same time.”

I found that the refugee camps are a space where men feel emasculated. In this new country the refugee men are not allowed to work. They stay inside these small trailers where they rely on humanitarian support from organizations. The only people who could provide for their families were women who would volunteer for international organizations and make some money. Now the women were the breadwinners, they were taking care of the whole family!

When I walked into these households to create stories, women were the ones with powerful voices. They would accept me and so I was able to create very personal stories. I think my male colleagues found it more difficult to be welcomed intimately into these households.

“Still, I often find myself in a situation where I’m working with men and they underestimated me. They didn’t expect me to be so professional and fierce.”

As I started working in the field more independently I realised there is no big infrastructure for filmmakers here on Jordan. We’re a very small group, the’re maybe five or six major production companies in the country. While there are many female  employees in the industry, I still often find myself in a situation where I’m working with men who underestimated me. They don’t expect me to be so professional and fierce. Equal pay is another issue, because even if we enter a project as equal collaborators, men will negotiate unfair shares like 70-30.

On the other hand I think after the Arab springs there has been a tremendous growth in female voices and many platforms that support and empower women. Nowadays it’s easier to get support from other women around us, because this community is growing!

I see our field as a field of creation. For me it’s creating life! I see a producer as someone that creates. He/she is the womb for life.

For the development of my career I have a lot of questions which I am exploring right now. About love, spiritually, life, the human condition. I want to make mindful content, content that allows people to experience life through another perspective and explore the questions we may all have.

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In developing countries big steps have been taken by health partnerships in the areas of access to medicines and health systems. It is important that a broad audience learns about these initiatives and how pharmaceutical companies contribute to inclusive, equitable, economically productive and healthy societies. If nothing, these stories should offer a balanced reporting and change the view that people have of the ‘Big Pharma’.

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Does ‘mobile first’ change the way you create video?

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Mobile video is a great opportunity to interact with your audience and improve conversion rates. So when creating online video content, why not put mobile first?

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Official selection Women Deliver Film Festival

Official selection of the world’s largest conference on gender equality and the health and rights of girls and women.

We are very happy to announce that two of our films created for CARE Nederland & H&M Foundation have been selected for the Women Deliver Film Festival 2019 in Vancouver! The Makmende team is super proud, and therefor we share (one more time) these two incredible films on women empowerment with you!

Official selected 1: Unlikely entrepreneur?

Together with Care and the H&M Foundation, Makmende set out to break through existing stereotypes about female entrepreneurship. What image do we have of successful business women? How old are they? What colour is their skin? What part of the world do they live in?
Does a Guatemaltecan farmer fit the bill? Is she an #Unlikely Entrepreneur? Watch the video and see for yourself.

For the project ‘Unlikely Entrepreneur?’, we made a series of videos and photos produced in Guatemala, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Yemen, to show the reality of female entrepreneurship around the world.

Official selected 2: Collective power

Women in Ethiopia are changing the game. Through entrepreneurship they’re supporting their families and each other. These women have organized themselves in Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA). They give each other advice and receive trainings through the VSLA to improve their businesses. The idea of solidarity is the guiding principle for these films, because when we feel that someone has got our back, we dare to aim higher. The strength of the group allows the individual women to show their true potential.

This collective power is shown in a different and original film. The films are a rhythmic, sensitive and energetic, connecting the dancers to the women through image, speech and sound. We conveyed the feeling of what can be achieved by women who participate in such a group through a dance by the ethiopian dance group ‘Destino’. The film had a total reach of almost 100k online and generated an engagement of almost 1,5k and now is also in the official selection of the Women Deliver Film Festival 2019!

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