Occupied Palestinian Territories > Audiovisual and Media / Gender

Breaking the wall of silence
n The Masarat project included not only the production of four films but also 58 screenings, like this one in Beit Fajjar village

www.enpi-info.eu

Women in the occupied Palestinian territories have long lived in the shadow of their male relatives, often suffering untold abuse. Now, an EU-funded film project, ‘Masarat’, has given them a voice, shattering taboos in the most dramatic way.
Text by Elias Zananiri Photos by Elias Zananiri, Masarat East Jerusalem - When local Tulkarem TV station Al Fajr Al Jadid showed Golden Pomegranate Seeds, a short film made by Ghada Terawi under an EU-funded project to promote Palestinian women film directors, the impact was immediate. Just minutes into the film, furious viewers began to call in protesting that “the film had crossed red lines” says the channel’s Raja Nafee. “I told my staff not to respond but simply to ask the viewers to wait until the end and then talk.” By the time the film was over, 15 minutes later, the mood had changed. “People were encouraged and many demanded that similar films be made in the future.” “I think we broke the wall of silence.” Golden Pomegranate Seeds juxtaposes the folk-tale of a girl whose silence in the face of what she saw would always haunt her, with real stories of real women, who dare to speak out about the sexual abuse they have suffered in the family. The message from the women is stark: “If you’re silent once, you’ll stay silent forever.” A taboo had been shattered, said Nafee: a few days later, a police ENPI Info Centre – Feature no. 13 officer called to tell her that in less than 24 hours, 14 cases of This is a series of features on sexual abuse by relatives had been reported by girls to the local projects funded by the EU’s police station. Regional Programme, prepared by

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Snowball effect
What happened in Tulkarem was repeated all over the occupied

journalists and photographers on the ground or the ENPI Info Centre. ENPI Info Centre/EU 2010©

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n Dr. Alia Arasoughly the director general of Shashat and Masarat project director

n The poster of the Masarat film project

Palestinian territories, where the film was shown at community centres and on local channels. Farha Abu Alheija of Farah TV in Jenin said people called her afterwards asking that such cases be addressed more in the future. And secondary schools have taken up the challenge, asking to show the film to their students, while the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) and the Palestinian Ministry of Health have asked to use it in their gender outreach and counselling programmes. Golden Pomegranate Seeds was one of four films made by Palestinian women under the ‘Masarat’ project, fully funded under the EU’s Regional Information and Communications programme with €120,000. The project has been a spectacular success for Shashat, a Palestinian cinema NGO with emphasis on capacity building for Palestinian filmmakers, mostly women. Not all films touch such a raw nerve, but they do thrust women to the fore, in a deeply conservative, patriarchal society. In Far from Loneliness, Sawsan Qaoud draws on the inspiration of an accidental meeting to follow three old farming women on the tough pre-dawn journey from their fields to the market. Mahasen Nasser-Eldin tells the story of Samia, a feisty, active and committed 71-year-old woman, whose struggle to remain in Jerusalem and to promote girl’s education marks her personal and professional life. The fourth film, Dima Abu Ghoush’s First Love, tells the story of tender love blooming in the lives of young girls, who speak of the importance of their parents’ role in dealing with their emotions and dilemmas. Dr. Alia Arasoughly, the director general of Shashat and Masarat project director, says women should be given the chance not only to consume, but also to create culture. Culture, she explains, goes far beyond knowledge, entering deep into emotions and feelings. Women, therefore, can and must play a major role in cultural outreach. The EU funding for Masarat included not only the production of four films but also 58 screenings, 25 showings in community and cultural centres in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and some 168 local community TV broadcasts, followed by live talk shows. Following every showing, feedback forms were distributed to the audience. Out of 7,790 responses, 7,285 were positive (2,139 said the showings were excellent, 2,934 very good and 2,212 good). With such a result, Shashat feels Masarat is important enough to produce every year.

“People were encouraged and many demanded that similar films be made in the future. I think we broke the wall of silence.”

Reaching out to a wide audience “From the outset, I thought the festival should not be directed exclusively to the elite intelligentsia… but reach the largest audience possible.”
“From the outset,” said Arasoughly, “I thought the festival should not be directed exclusively to the elite intelligentsia of society nor concentrate its activities in the centre of the West Bank, but reach the largest audience possible.” She wanted a wide platform, through screenings in multiple and socially diverse locations, accompanied by discussions. For the EU, the project has “exceeded all expectations in touching people's hearts and prompting debates on difficult, even taboo subjects,” says Alix de Mauny, who as Press and Information Manager at the European Commission Technical Assistance Office for the West Bank and Gaza Strip was closely involved with Masarat. “Because the local women film directors themselves came up with the subjects and decided how to approach them, they were able to tap into the real issues facing Palestinian women, and found a way to ask searching questions without ever preaching to their audience.”

n A scene from Golden Pomegranate Seeds

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“The films have helped to open up a debate on the role of women – and we have much to learn from how they managed to raise such difficult issues so positively and constructively.”

Masarat has given women a voice: “It exploded in us what we do not say, and gave us the confidence to think that there are options!” one Bethlehem woman said after a screening of Golden Pomegranate Seeds. “These things should be talked about.” Indeed, De Mauny is struck how many of the issues raised find echoes in other parts of the world, including Europe. “The films have helped to open up a debate on the role of women – and we have much to learn from how they managed to raise such difficult issues so positively and constructively.”

n Ghada Terawi on the set of Golden Pomegranate Seeds

Regional Information & Communication Programme
Aims at boosting public awareness and understanding of the EU and its relations in the ENPI area, through support to journalists and media outlets for material production, as well as training
Participating countries Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine (East) Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Occupied Palestinian Territory, Syria, Tunisia (South) Timeframe 2008-2011 Budget €19 million (€12 million ENPI South, €7 million ENPI East) Objective The Programme seeks to increase public knowledge and awareness of the EU and its relationship with the Neighbourhood countries and create a local sense of involvement and shared ownership. It clarifies policies but also highlights the development aid implemented by the EU in the region It facilitates cooperation between journalists and media organizations, helps build sustainable communication networks and assists the continued development of free opinion and freedom of expression in a bid to contribute to the creation of an environment conducive to dialogue and mutual understanding. Find out more Shashat website - http://www.shashat.org/ Regional Information & Communication Programme fiche http://www.enpi-info.eu/mainmed.php?id=247&id_type=10 European Commission Technical Assistance Office for the West Bank and Gaza Strip http://www.delwbg.ec.europa.eu/

ENPI info centre info ce t e
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The ENPI Info Centre is an EU-funded Regional Information and Communication project highlighting the partnership between the EU and Neighbouring countries. The project is managed by Action Global Communications.

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