As water poured from the skies, a group of 30-40 hardy souls gathered at Stanford University to watch a screening of the documentary Where the Water Meets the Sky. Narrated by Academy Award-winning actor and patron of girls’ education, Morgan Freeman, this film tells the story of a group of women in the Zambian town of Samfya who come together to learn filmmaking, tell their stories, and produce a film about the impact of HIV/AIDs on a young woman. Hosted by the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford, the event also included a panel discussion of the film. I had the honor of serving on this panel, which was moderated by the Global Fund for Women’s founder, Anne Firth Murray, and also featured Brooke Hutchinson, US Director of CAMFED, the organization that produced the film and which supports girls’ education in Sub-Saharan Africa, and Jeremy Goldhaber-Fiebert, a professor and health policy researcher at Stanford.
Conversation following the film picked up on the themes that the Samfya Women Filmmakers raised themselves: the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on women in Southern Africa, property rights and the experience of widows, the role of education, and women’s right to bodily integrity. Within this we discussed the struggle by women to increase their personal power within intimate relationships, not merely to access more information about AIDS. This struggle is illustrated by a 2002 UNFPA study in Zambia, which found that just 11% of women interviewed felt that it would be okay to request that their husbands use a condom, even if they knew their husbands had recently visited a prostitute and could have been exposed to HIV.
On a hopeful note, women and girls are making strides in some areas in Zambia. Maternal mortality rates are down over the past five years, girls’ education rates are up and women’s rights activists have succeeded in securing some changes in laws and policies that attempt to rectify discrimination against women. However, these laws, particularly around property rights, often are not enforced. Implementation is the next step for many women’s groups. As Marsha Moyo, the UN MDG Advocate in Zambia recently stated, “we must go beyond goodwill and start to act.
Visit the film's web site: http://www.watermeetssky.com/