African Women Speak Out: A documentary film project created by Blue Planet United/Population Press

December 29, 2010 • Family Planning, Reproductive Health, Africa, Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Marilyn Hempel for this announcement.

African Women Speak Out
A documentary film project created by Blue Planet United/Population
from Marilyn Hempel, Executive Director of Blue Planet United

The Population Press, and its parent organization Blue Planet United, are pleased to announce the completion of a video project – African Women Speak Out. We hired a young student from Kenya, Michelle Odhiambo, to interview five young women from five different African countries, and to produce short video films of these interviews. The entire series is now showing on our website –

Michelle Odhiambo is an undergraduate student at Webster University in Leiden, the Netherlands. She is getting a degree in Media Communications and plans to return to Kenya to work in the television industry there.

The project is explained in more detail in Michelle’s essay following this report. The videos can be seen at

The interviews are personal, fascinating and give great insight into the power of education. The questions focused on these young women’s perceptions of the changing role of women in their countries. Topics included education, careers, family planning, marriage and children, and more.

No one was coached or encouraged to talk in a certain way or to give any specific answer. They spoke for themselves. And they spoke to all of us who are working to ensure a better future for the world’s women and girls.

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African Women Speak Out
by Michelle Odhiambo

“What’s your name and where do you come from?”
“I’m Annie and I’m from Tanzania.”
“Do you use contraceptives?”
“Yes I do.”

This is just one of many inquiries I asked a group of women from a vast range of countries across Africa. As I sat there-with a video camera, lights, and my list of questions-I couldn’t help but contemplate how far African women have come in the world. They have moved from being wives, mothers and slaves to become students, professionals, activists, and shapers of their own future. During the course of the interviews I was assured that many African women have taken control of their lives both in the private and public sphere and aren’t letting it go.

With the help of Blue Planet United and Webster University (in Leiden, The Netherlands) I made documentary films with these wonderful, inspiring, courageous and uplifting African women. I call the project “African Women Speak Out”. It can be seen and heard at

I started on a windy and cold day in Leiden, and it seemed like we couldn’t have been farther from our homelands. But the women were happy to answer all my questions forthrightly and thoughtfully, and to have their voices heard. Issues about marriage, family planning and contraceptives were important to all of them. These women knew when and how many children they wanted, which was amazing knowing that men had a final say on these issues just a decade ago. Subjects that used to be taboo such as sex before marriage were also talked about in detail.

Educated African women have taken control not only in the private sphere but also the public sphere. These women knew exactly what they wanted to do after their studies and where their careers were headed. They had plans, goals, dreams and aspirations which they were working towards. They were not just attending university or careers to make money, they were all instilled with a purpose to make a difference in the world. On the one hand the progress African women are making may seem unsurprising to many people in Western countries because in the west women have had some level of empowerment for some time. On the other hand, these women are completely counter to the images of Africans that the Western media usually presents.

Far from being primitive, tribal and submissive, these women are intelligent, independent, sophisticated, urban and worldly. It’s true that poverty and oppression is still far too prevalent in much of Africa, and for any African woman to step from these shadows is a huge milestone that they are proud of. But the trend towards urbanization that we see in the West is also happening in Africa, and the women I spoke to represent the new African woman who lives in the city, attends university, has a career, marries later in life, has fewer children, and is in control of her own life. She is aiming for senior positions in politics and business, and she is getting there.

I see myself as part of this new class. I am from Nairobi, Kenya. I worked in the television industry there before moving to the Netherlands to get my bachelor’s degree in Media Communications at Webster University. When I finish my degree I plan to go back to Kenya to be a television and film director. When talking to the other women about their dreams and aspirations, I could understand and identify with them. Although they were incredibly diverse, representing the countries of Kenya, Mozambique, Ghana, Tunisia, and Tanzania, and comprising complexions from very dark to very light skin (yes, there are white Africans!), we all shared things in common, both as women and as Africans. The collection of short films I made called “African Women Speak Out” is a selection of our conversations about the issues we care about.

The Films:
• Film 1: Did you grow up in a city or a village?
• Film 2: Are you planning to have a career?
• Film 3: Do you think women in your homeland want more choices?
• Film 4: Would the world be a better place with more women leaders?
• Film 5: How many brothers or sisters do you have?
• Film 6: When you were young, what did you see women doing?
• Film 7: Is there one woman or man who inspired you to seek more education?
• Film 8: What do you want to do with your life?
• Film 9: Marriage and children
• Film 10: Is it easy for you to get contraceptives?
• Film 11: Do African women want more family planning?

To see and hear the interviews, go to and clink on the image “African Women Speak Out”

For more information about this project and about the Population Press, contact Marilyn Hempel, email: or telephone: 909-307-6597.

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Marilyn Hempel, Editor
Pop!ulation Press
PO Box 7918
Redlands, CA 92375
Tel: 909-307-6597

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