Tanzania: 10th Annual Zanzibar International Film Festival

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Source:  ZIFF
A ‘Women’s Panorama’ will include workshops, film screenings and discussions, designed to “celebrate the achievements of Swahili Women – Past and Present”.
“Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) is a non-governmental, non-partisan, non-profit organization established in 1997 in Zanzibar. It is a unique initiative for the sustained preservation and development of the region’s rich cultural heritage and the work of contemporary artists. ZIFF’s main activity is the organisation of the annual Festival of the Dhow Countries that takes place around the first two weeks of July.”
Women’s Panorama (Workshops, Film Screenings & Discussions)The objective of the Women’s Panorama in this strategic period is to “celebrate the achievements of Swahili Women Past and Present”. Necessarily this entails unearthing and their contributions and detailing how they have contributed to the Swahili cultural heritage. Essentially, it involves making women subjects of historical accounts where they are not only the protagonists but also the authors.

ZIFF expects that by implementing these interventions in a coherent and consistent manner it will achieve the following outcomes:

– Document distinct women’s her-stories in Zanzibar e.g. profiles
– Create alternative leadership models and spaces
– Enhance the economic status of women arts and cultural entrepreneurs
– Catalyze transformative social agendas.

Implementation Strategies

A number of methodologies will be applied to achieve the outcomes anticipated and therefore the objectives set for the Panorama during this period. These include;

Research: a number of research methods will be applied to collect information about women pioneers in different fields in Zanizbar history. These will include action research, oral histories and literature review.

Documentation: the ultimate goal of researching women’s histories is to document them so that they are preserved and are readily accessible. Documentation will involve compiling profiles for exhibit; publications of literature and audio-visual documentaries.

Capacity building: the aspects related to building technical and leadership capacity will be realized through formation and skills building sessions. Likewise business know how will be enhanced through training sessions and exchange programmes.

Mobilization: community involvement will be facilitated via deliberate recruitment of influential persons and change agents to lend support to local development efforts. Alternatively it will concern soliciting oral and buried herstories for further consideration.

Advocacy: a number of advocacy strategies will be applied to push and sell the ideals propounded in this proposal. Media advocacy will be instrumental in keeping the issues alive nationally. Dialogues will be particularly important to push the women’s agenda locally. Documentation will make advocacy material accessible more widely.

Specific programme Components

1. Documenting her-stories: Women, History and Zanzibar

ZIFF is be a cultural repository for the Dhow culture and specifically of the Swahili Culture through holding cultural dialogues, publishing the ZIFF Journal and documentation of film products; it is necessary to provide a platform that will give women visibility and voice.

1.1. Literary and creative project

There are not many Swahili women writers published and those that are published are not as well known as male writers. The dearth of local female writers makes it increasingly difficult to solicit women writers with culturally relevant material to literary sessions.

ZIFF wants to encourage local women to express themselves via creative writing. One way this could be done is to develop research ideas from studies undertaken by students and activists that otherwise remain undeveloped or unpublished. Alternatively, it could be done by issuing calls to the general population for creative submissions on topical or thematic areas; or collecting narratives emerging from capacity building sessions related to creative writing and artistic productions. This can be facilitated by commissioning research on specific areas related to women in local history in collaboration with local and regional universities as well as local researchers.

1.2. Internships in Technical Production

For some time now ZIFF has been running an innovative programme that provides local youths with an opportunity to enhance their production capacity in specific areas related to the film and arts industry. ZIFF began this intervention to address unemployment among youths which is facing critical proportions. Other than providing these women with employment opportunities ZIFF expects that it will compliment the literary and creative project described above in that more women are able to document local stories and more specifically the realities of local women offering more representative and inclusive accounts of women’s herstories.

2. Alternative leadership models and spaces

Art has many expressions and forms each uniquely imbued with inner power. Art is unimposing yet, powerful medium. The ability to communicate deeply and movingly makes art effective. Art persuades rather than coerces; it encourages reflection and action rather than action alone; Art makes connection between the individual and the bigger picture and does not consider issues in isolation. Certainly art provides an alternative leadership model which can enrich leadership styles locally. Thus, ZIFF wants to draw on the qualities that make art a revolutionary medium for social development to introduce alternative leadership models in communities divided by partisan politics and extreme poverty.

3. Young Women Mentorship Programme

As the name suggests ZIFF proposes to institute a Young Women’s Mentorship Programme (YWMP) in specific communities it runs social programmes to address the continued under representation of women in key social sectors. The aim of the mentorship programme is to nurture the leadership potential of young women in the specific areas of ZIFF’s mandate. Already ZIFF has made contact with a number of young women in schools and in communities via the Children’s Panorama. ZIFF plans to recruit 3 young women from each region in two installments totaling 30 graduates by the end of the programme. The expectation is that by having multiple representations from each region participants will support each another in the challenging task of community building.

3.1 Entrepreneurship Development Programme

Influenced by women’s organizations like the Association of Women in Development (AWID) and the African Women Development Fund (AWDF) ZIFF wants to run programmes to strengthen the business skills and operations of women participating at the Festival. This will consists of pre-Festival training sessions where women will be oriented in basic business concepts, the regulatory and legal framework and provided with specific business and production skills relevant to their type of business. In terms of support to business operations ZIFF will provide small grants to exceptional business ideas; or to business recording outstanding performance in sales and inquiries in order to motivate good business practice among programme participants. The programme will extend beyond the Festival and also support women to obtain business exposure through participation in local and regional business fairs.

3.2 Artistic and Cultural Exhibitions

Local Swahili cultures is predominantly showcased by the arts and cultural exhibitions hosted in the Women’s Panorama. ZIFF wants to focus on improving the quality of the exhibitions as well as what is exhibited so that local products will attain a better standard and penetrate international markets thereby expanding business opportunities for locals.

4. Women and Law and Policy & Social Development Agenda

4.1 Advocacy Project

Operating in a traditional Islamic society has its challenges particularly considering ZIFF’s work. Other than the screenings and festive atmosphere, the “freedoms” the Festival provides women is a potential cause for concern, at least of conservative voices. There is thus need for close monitoring of community perceptions of the Festival and responding appropriately.

ZIFF forums raise a number of important women’s rights issues annually. These include legal issues, social practices and policy questions that militate against women’s enjoyment of her human and legal rights. Most regressive practices are justified under the rubric of culture, limiting discussion on such violations. ZIFF provides an appropriate advocacy platform to challenge cultural accounts and interpretations. Screenings from different parts of the Muslim World and the Dhow Region will provide a sound basis for comparison as Zanzibari women contemplate how to move forward in realizing their rights.

4.2 Community Dialogues

Traditionally, disputes in Zanzibar are settled through dialogue not via violence. Dialogues are intended to gauge community perceptions on key policy and social issues and to discuss pertinent issues. Similarly it allows appropriate strategies to be formulated in response. More broadly, community dialogues are meant to open conversations with other communities from the Dhow Region and beyond. It has been a tradition in ZIFF to hold open dialogues on an array of community questions e.g. environmental challenges, access to basic services, employment challenges and the like with the aim of acknowledging community struggles and finding collective solution to community concerns.

4.3 Social Development Outreach

ZIFF wants to initiate development projects that will form part of its social development and outreach programme. An array of community initiatives are envisaged intended to alleviate the burdens faced by women and to increase opportunities to local communities e.g. exploiting avenues foe cultural tourism, running environmental preservation schemes, or providing critical social services. After all, the objective behind this project is to support development initiatives in local communities rather than making ZIFF become a development agency! The expectation is that ZIFF presence in these communities more palpable. Projects being considered are within ZIFF mandate e.g. supporting community resource centres; introducing community media for development; and supporting local agents of change through exchange visits and capacity building.

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