Women's Rights

Syrian, Lebanese teens tell their own stories through film

By Nohad Topalian in Beirut

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Minister of State for Displaced Affairs Mouin al-Merhebi speaks at the 'Girls for Change’ launch on March 29th. The project is helping Syrian and Palestinian refugees and Lebanese girls make their voices heard through film. [Nohad Topalian/Al-Mashareq]

Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian teenagers taking part in UNICEF's "Girls for Change" initiative will eventually turn the camera on themselves, sharing their struggles and aspirations with the world in their unique voices and style.

But first, they will learn how to use a camera and audio-visual tools.

The initiative, launched March 29th in co-operation with the Notre Dame University-Louaize International Film Festival, the Beirut Film Society and Canon, seeks to empower girls and encourage them to make their voices heard.

It is directed at girls from Lebanese communities hosting Syrian refugees, Syrian refugees and Palestinian girls between the ages of 14 and 21, according to Amira Alamuddin, the UNICEF official in charge of the project.

The short films the girls produce together will be screened at Lebanese and international film festivals, Alamuddin said.

'In their own voices'

Before filming begins, facilitators will encourage the girls to talk about the problems they face and will discuss gender-related issues, such as domestic violence, in various awareness-raising workshops, Alamuddin said.

The Beirut Film Society will then teach the girls how to use audio-visual tools and techniques to tell their stories, as well as how to use a camera.

In the final phase of the project, which will commence in mid-April and continue through October, the girls will film the stories they create together, she said.

"Lebanese girls from host communities and Syrian refugee girls will be able to break the barrier of fear and silence, and recount their hardships in a short film that will be screened to the public in Lebanon and at film festivals," she said.

The initiative "will open the door for girls to raise their voices and tell the world about their day-to-day lives and experiences within their communities", she added. "The world will become acquainted with the problems and difficulties in the girls’ own voices, and this is the goal of the project."

'Change for the better'

"The aim of the project is to train girls on the use of audio-visual and cinematic tools to express their opinions and problems, to bring about change for the better," said filmmaker Sam Lahoud, a professor at Notre Dame University-Louaize.

The technical training includes "training the girls on the use of the camera in filming, sound, montage and editing", he told Al-Mashareq.

Girls for Change will be implemented in the north, Mount Lebanon, Beirut, the Bekaa Valley and the south, he said, with about 20 girls participating.

The training will be conducted by specialists and will culminate in the production of a three- to four-minute film by each regional group, Lahoud said.

"We will showcase [the films] at the Beirut Film Festival, the Beirut International Women Film Festival, and international festivals in which we take part as the Beirut Film Society," he said.

The girls' work also will be circulated on social media sites.

As well as teaching participants a new skill, he said, the project carries additional significance as it provides "a space for convergence between Lebanese and Syrian girls, and opens the door for dialogue and coming together".

Bringing hardships to light

Girls for Change is important "as it encourages girls to address their problems and hardships freely", said Minister of State for Women’s Affairs Jean Oghassabian.

Through the films they produce, "the girls will put forth solutions to their problems", he told Al-Mashareq.

The initiative provides an opportunity for girls, especially Syrian refugees, to develop their skills to build their future, said Minister of State for Refugee Affairs Mouin Merhebi.

"The most important factor is that the project opens the door for girls to boldly express their problems and fears," he told Al-Mashareq.

This project will help in the fostering of creative ideas, he said, as the stories they tell will bring certain issues to light which can then be addressed by society.

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2 Comment(s)

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I want a Syrian wife from among those refugees. I'm Iraqi.

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I hope to be one of those who take part in changing the world's view of different societies and classes now.

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