The University of Arizona, in partnership with local activists and philanthropists, is shining a spotlight on the issue of women’s empowerment and human rights by hosting a series of events from Nov. 14-18.
Through a play, a documentary, and a series of workshops, the organizers hope to raise awareness about critical human rights issues affecting large numbers of women and girls around the globe. The events coincide with International Education Week, coordinated by the Office of Global Initiatives.
“We want to present positive stories of how families survive and even thrive in the most difficult situations as well as humanize those who are too often marginalized by society,” said William Simmons, professor in the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies and director of the newly created online graduate programs in Human Rights Practice.
The events are being organized by people at the UA and in the community who share a passion for women’s and girl’s empowerment, for the arts, and for the culture of India. These include the Human Rights Practice Program; the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; and philanthropists and activists Neelam and Gulshan Sethi; Myrian and Dominic Ortega; Joanna and Bill Wescott; and Elise Collins Shields and Creston Shields. Additional sponsors include the Tucson Medical Center, YWCA, UA Center for Documentary, The Loft Cinema, the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry, and a new human rights production company based in Tucson called Split Seed Productions.
“Gulshan and I love what the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences does,” said Neelam Sethi. “We are honored to play a small role in helping them bring about awareness regarding what so many women around the world have to face, and to help empower them with the confidence and skills they need to change their lives and make a difference.”
The first event will be a screening of a documentary film by Nilima Abrams, titled “The Tent Village,” on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. The documentary provides a rare view of roadside dwellers filmed by their children; and an exploration of innate worth. The teenaged filmmakers provide nuanced perspectives on child marriage, caste stigma, and addiction. Though unflinchingly honest, the story is gently hopeful and cross-culturally relevant.
The documentary will be shown at The Loft Cinema, located at 3233 E. Speedway, as part of The Loft Film Festival. Tickets will be available starting Oct. 20 through the Loft ticket office. The documentary includes a post-show Q&A with the filmmakers.
On Nov. 17, at 7 p.m., Dipti Mehta will perform her one-woman play, “Honour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan,” which raises awareness and break down the social stigma that exists around sex workers. Mehta, who received her Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology from the UA in 2006, works in New York City doing medical research. She is also an internationally known actress, playwright, and voice personality, who has received numerous prestigious awards.
The play will be held at the Temple of Music and Art, located at 330 S. Scott Ave. Tickets are $20 for reserved seating, $10 for students. A $50 VIP ticket includes a post-show dessert reception. Tickets can be purchased here.
Proceeds from both the documentary and the play will be split among: Apnee Aap, a leading anti-human trafficking organization in India; the Tent Village Fund, which helps the families of the teenage filmmakers in India; the Tucson chapter of the YWCA; and the UA Human Rights Practice Program to fund tuition reductions for students working on women’s rights in developing countries.
Various workshops are being planned to teach people about women’s empowerment, social justice, creativity, filmmaking, and activism:
- “Empowering Youth Though Participatory Filmmaking” – Friday, Nov. 17, 2:30-4:30 p.m., Marshall 211 – This UA DocScapes workshop with Nilima Abrams and two of the Indian filmmakers of “The Tent Village” is for graduate students, faculty, and community members interested in documentary filmmaking. In the workshop, Abrams will delve into the filmmaking process, including how the film came about; the challenges and opportunities it presented; and general participatory filmmaking approaches. Discussion topics will include privacy and safety, creative control, finding narrative in found footage, and drawing out stories that are “empowering” versus “shaming.” Abrams and participants will also discuss how to start teaching basic filmmaking to youth, including exercises and strategies. To reserve your spot, please contact Professor Beverly Seckinger at firstname.lastname@example.org
- A women’s empowerment workshop for underserved communities at the YWCA led by Dipti Mehta
- A UA workshop on women’s empowerment at the Women’s Resource Center
“This exciting week of events combining human rights and the arts brings together the passions of a wide range of folks from across campus and in the community,” said Simmons.