And the Crowd Roared…March 06, 2009
In celebration of International Women’s Day, last night I had the pleasure of attending a sold-out screening of A Powerful Noise. This acclaimed documentary takes you inside the lives of three women — Hanh, an HIV-positive widow in Vietnam; Nada, a survivor of the Bosnian war; and Jacqueline (“Madame Urbain”), who works to empower girls in Bamako, Mali — to witness their daily challenges and significant victories over poverty and oppression. More than 450 theaters across the United States participated in this historic event. Twitter and other social media were also used to garner support for the film; a Tweet-a-Thon about the film raised $2,800 for CARE .
The evening began with a sense of anticipation and buzz as I rushed through the motions of aftercare pickup, homework, and dinner. I arrived at a theater filled with women (and two men), many of whom seemed to have come in groups. I began a conversation with my seat neighbor, who indicated that her daughter was part of a group of 21 women who had all gone to dinner together before coming to the theater. The previews rolled stark, painful statistics about the state of women and girls around the globe: illiteracy, poverty, displacement. We also saw the powerful video The Girl Effect, which demonstrates the tremendous contributions of girls in their communities and their unlimited potential as women.
The film’s producer, philanthropist and businesswoman Sheila C. Johnson, introduced the evening and reminded us that the purpose of International Women’s Day is to “recognize the accomplishments of women and reflect on the work that remains to be done.” She expressed her firm belief that by galvanizing the power of women we can start a revolution that cannot be stopped.
No stranger to the developing world and women’s issues, I was still overwhelmed by the women’s stories — simultaneously heartbreaking and inspiring. Each woman has tapped her own power and used it to effect change in her community. That one person can make a difference was starkly evident. Despite the devastation of war, HIV/AIDS, poverty, and exploitation of girls, these women found hope.
AAUW branches across the United States participated in the event. Jane Edwards, AAUW International Affairs Chair in Iowa, reported:
A diverse audience enjoyed A Powerful Noise last evening in Ames, Iowa. Two high school exchange students from Nigeria and their host came because they saw the promo at the movie theater in January. Several members of the Ames branch and AAUW of Iowa President Diane Patton and two members of her branch were there as a result of the AAUW message. Additionally, Iowa State students, faculty, and staff, employees of the Meredith corporation, members of ONE, members of Friends of International Women in Ames, and other community residents attended. Comments included “a high-quality production,” “can we see this again with additional members and friends?” “inspiring,” “what a well-spoken and well -informed panel!” “a thrill to be a part of such a presentation,” and “there is some hope.”
The film was followed by a live town-hall discussion in New York moderated by Ann Curry and featuring Madeleine Albright (2005 AAUW Achievement Award winner), Christy Turlington Burns, Natalie Portman, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and CARE CEO Helene Gayle. Questions were taken from the audience and online. The panel participants provided insight and challenged us all to be a “voice for the voiceless.”
The world will never change if we continue to expect someone else to step up. Women need to work together to break the cycle of poverty and oppression. What a world this will be when we all accept this challenge! Find out how YOU can make a powerful noise.
This post is part of a special Women’s History Month series.