Happy International Women’s Day… Women’s what?!
IWD isn’t too popular in the U.S. In fact, I probably would have never heard of it but for the lovely Eastern Europeans I worked with at the IRC Boston. IWD’s roots are socialist, it began 100 years ago as part of the workers rights movement in 1911. Today, the holiday is less political and more about recognizing and protecting women’s human rights.
My favorite moment of the day was at the metro. Security in India is super tight and in order to get on the metro there are metal detectors and a pat down. Women are patted down behind a screen and my screener took my hand, looked me in the eyes and wished me a sincere happy women’s day.
In the spirit of IWD, the Mera Haq photo exhibition premiered at the Alliance Francaise in Delhi last night. Two films were shown as well–I stayed for the first and was really happy I did.
The Return told the story of four young women’s return to Bangladesh after harrowing experiences being trafficked in India. One woman had been sold to a brothel by a maternal aunt, another held hostage as a housekeeper for six months without wages–and they courageously faced the camera after all this.
It wasn’t a happily ever after story or a simple one. After being home for three months, one woman shared she wished she’d stayed in India, that there was no place for her in Bangladesh. On the other hand, one woman was proud of her successful sewing business.
I particularly liked how rough around the edges the film was. Through the camera, the women shared their anxiety, their joy, their fears and their hope. They were so brave and so honest, motivated-one told the camera-by the hope that their stories may save other girls from the same fate.
After finding safety, it took each girl over two years to be able to make the trip home. Repatriation young women who crossed the border without documents, is difficult and expensive and more so because India and Bangladesh have no formal agreement on this issue.
‘The Return,’ was directed by Roop Sen & Uma Chatterjee (50 min) and featured the work of the Rescue Foundation.