There's a cool organization based in Seattle that tries to empower girls through the use of a camera. They're called Reel Grrls and the effects of what they're doing appears to have 'reel' staying power.
According to their site, by the time a girl is 16, she'll have spent more time watching t.v. than going to school. Part of what a girl sees each year are thousands of commercials that don't portray women in a very realistic, or even healthy, way. This bombardment of images of perfect, runway model-like women has been proven to have an impact on girls' self-esteem and body image. What Reel Grrls is trying to do is open a discussion with girls about how what they see on t.v. effects them, while giving them the tools they need to create their own media. As they put it, Reel Grrls "if women and girls are to achieve equality and advancement in today's world they must be taught to be media literate." Right on!
Since 2001, they've been helping girls learn how to produce their own videos in after school programs taught by female media professionals. Their DVDs, which are available on their site for purchase, cover a wide-range of topics affecting their young, female filmmakers. Subjects such as body image, violence against women, race, parents with addictions and many more bring to light the opinions and experiences of the filmmakers in an engaging way. The organization has received much praise for their work and the girls' films have been shown at film festivals around the world, including the Sundance Film Festival-Gen-Y studio.
Just today, my hometown paper the Chicago Tribune ran a story about three refugee teens from Africa who made a video about the violence and alienation they've been facing in their adopted home, Chicago. In some cases, it's a kind of violence they never witnessed nor feared in their home countries. You can read about it here. Sponsored by software maker Adobe, they made a documentary that helped to empower them in situations where they felt there was very little they could do. Visual media can be powerful; it's great that there are organizations willing to give youth a chance to make their opinions and voices heard. By doing so, they will make a difference!
If it's true what they say: a picture tells a thousand words, imagine what a film can do. So good work Reel Grrls! You go grrls!
To learn more about Reel Grrls, visit their site at www.reelgrrls.org.
'Til next time,