After the film was screened, we all sat – only a few strolled out of Westminster University along Marylebone road, North West London. It was time for questions and photos and mingling. Time for
Canadian director, Giselle Portnier, and anti FGM campaigner, Rhobi Samwelly to answer and pose and re clarify. In the Name of Your Daughter is in Swahili a brilliant film, yes indeed. A masterpiece.
Made in Tanzania art. And the humble, hardworking, tall director told the audience, the participants,
including crew, were all Africans, Tanzanians mostly.
A beautiful collaboration...
Based in Mara, the docu-drama focuses on one emotion: fear.
One idea: fleeing danger. Three aims: escape, education and resolution. Fear of being cut. Cut in the most sacred of all human organs. Where reproductive eyes sleep and wink. That cruel word, cut, is repeated many, many times. We see blood stains, watch the Mara police, so modest, even though armed and led by a woman police officer helping to secure the young girls. A police so casual, plainly firm but humane, speaking to parents, arresting parents, protecting communities, that we forget this is the law in motion.
We see young people taking charge of their lives. No wonder the badge for the film has a logo of girl running - with the Swahili word UJASIRI! In caps.
No wonder Ms Portnier has won over ten film awards. No surprise. The film is not about Canada. Not about Tanzania. Not about governments and companies and flags and policies. It is about the children.
We as an audience even end up really liking the two most charismatic girls: Rosie Mung’oha and Neema Genga. They eventually went to the first screenings of the film in Denmark and Zanzibar.
Rosie’s natural wit captivates viewers and it is her hidden seriousness, potential and intelligence that
this whole saga has helped liberate, dramatise, remind and empower.
The film has made future professionals. Rosie for example says she not only wants to be a doctor but also own her hospital.
But how is the story told?
In The Name of your Daughter uses narration through, mostly, Ms Rhobi Samwelly - shown throughout
the film interacting with almost everyone: police, Kuria villagers, girls and boys, parents and now at the Hogg Lecture Theatre auditorium, flanked by Giselle Portnier. Both likeable, with superb, interesting records and experiences. This is not the first film in Africa for ex BBC lady, Ms Portenier. She has walked the earth and her consistent steps include Congo (Congo’s Forgotten Children, conflicts that has affected over 3 million youngsters) and Kenya (about Mau- Mau victims – a film called White Terror).
Rhobi Samwelly experienced trauma very early. First (as she says in the film) her best friend died due to FGM then was tossed in the bushes without a proper burial. Her mother was not allowed to cry or grieve. Then it was Rhobi’s turn. Soon as “I finished class seven I was cut...” She bled and was sick; thought she will die. Yet she survived and now helps children settle at Mugumu Safe House while running the Hope For Girls and Women foundation. A true spokesperson for FGM. Over the years I have seen Ms Samwelly flourishing: getting articulate, in three languages: Kuria, Swahili and English.
Giselle and Rhobi were introduced by campus hostess Michaela O’Brien.
I have been to many film screenings and never seen such eagerness to know more. The leading question was safety. Safety. Safe Houses.
Giselle Portnier reiterated: “We need more safe houses...”
The film reminded us again and again. Whaaat? WE ALL NEED TO BE INVOLVED. WORLDWIDE.
Giselle reminded us that FGM is practised in North America, Australia, Europe. Everywhere. Recently, the UN has declared over 200 million women have been affected by FGM, globally.
The film and even Rhobi kept repeating that President Magufuli and government have outlawed FGM.
“However not all politicians are ready to enforce the rule...”
It is a challenging situation, she said, quietly. Some politicians might reinforce or turn a blind eye but use the issue to earn votes during major elections.
As Giselle told the Citizen in March 2018: “I made the film, to make a difference, to help give young
girls a voice and a future; to help the community understand that girls who are uncut will be able to make better contributions to their communities...”
It has already been translated into Swahili and started being beamed across grassroots Tanzania. The Tanzanian Development Trust (TDT) in London has been heavily involved for many years and one ofits fervent members, Janet Chapman was present at the screening too. Show your support by helping this inhumane practise end. As the logo at the screening said FGM is My Issue Too.