Phil is in Liberia documenting the work of Foundation for Women (FFW), an organization that strives to continually support and encourage impoverished women, both globally and locally, by funding and creating microcredit programs. A longtime supporter of Phil and his work, Kevin Castner is traveling with him and reporting back to us from the field. They are also, along with the WTYSL team, helping young women leaders attending a “Women’s Leadership Conference” put on by FFW make a movie for their community.
“If I strive today I can be somebody tomorrow.” Martha Daniels, 31, the first Foundation For Women in Liberia university graduate.
Phil tells the girls if we’re going to make a movie we have to have a theme. He says it is their movie and they have to decide on the audience they want to reach and the message they want to send. In surprisingly short order, these ten girls who’ve never met each other, decide they want to make a movie about teenage prostitution. They want to direct it to at risk girls or girls already ‘on the street’ engaged in prostitution. The message they want to convey is summarized by Melvina Duo,19, of Buchanan in Grand Bassa, “We want to show them there is another way to a better life”. The twin solutions are faith and education, not necessarily in that order. Our girls want to inspire other girls to succeed and be leaders!
The wheels are turning fast. Before the day of the big Women’s Conference we need to reach the girls ‘hero’s’ they will be interviewing. We also need to get some stats on prostitution in Liberia, find some prostitutes for them to talk to, write a narration track, interview each of the girls one on one, and a myriad of other tasks. It seems daunting. But hey, we have five and half days! With the help of FFW staff and the WTYSL team I think we will pull it off.
Theresa Tyee, 27, from nearby Red Light in Paynesville, has the interesting idea that one of them needs to dress up as a prostitute and then the others can tell her how to change her life. Things get giggly, as the girls look each other over to see if anyone will volunteer to dress up as a prostitute. Phil explains this would be a docudrama, not a documentary.
Next, the girls think of questions for their ‘hero’s. They come up with ‘what was your struggle; your journey?’, ‘How did you achieve your dreams?’, ‘What were the problems you faced?’, ‘Were you rich, or poor?’ ‘What kind of school did you attend’ and ‘What did you have to do to get a good education?’. Each girl faces challenges every day and they want to make sure their hero’s really had to work, struggle and sacrifice to get to where they are.
When the girls get back from lunch Phil goes out to scout locations for their interviews. There is a place across the street that looks promising but they want $20US so that’s out. FFW HQ is too confining and anywhere close to the street is too noisy. Finally, he finds a place……down the street, along a muddy, garbage strewn creek, in a clearing behind some hovels. It’ll work.
Our last interview of the day is with Hawa Seysay, 23, now living in Montserrado, Monrovia. She had said the major obstacle to achieving her dreams was war. During the Liberian civil conflict her family fled into the bush to escape the violence. They hid, but ran out of food. Hawa cries as she tells us how her father went to a village simply to try to get them something to eat, and was never seen again. We have all read stories like this in the press; it is much more ‘real’ hearing it from a dead man’s daughter.
As movie production continues the girls interview local teenagers involved in prostitution. Stay tuned!