Helping Women Plant Seeds Of Progress
In unequal Middle Eastern societies, women face great barriers to enjoying their human rights. SAT-7 ARABIC recently asked women a vital question: How do they feel about this? The answers were striking – and inspired by their words, Needle and New Thread is helping viewers bring about change.
Violence in the home. Discrimination in job markets. Harassment in the streets.
Women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) frequently face restriction and threat wherever they turn. But in a region where human rights are often routinely disregarded, how do women themselves feel about the pressures they face?
In preparation for the new season of the much-loved women’s show Needle and New Thread, the program’s team set out to find out.
A call for freedom
In the almost 10,000 responses the team received, female viewers showed a clear desire for progress to triumph over tradition.
A resounding 73 percent of women said that societal changes were needed for women to have greater freedom. Only 35 percent said they felt satisfied with the opportunities they had in their own lives.
A much-needed platform
However, many responses showed a gap between this desire for progress and women’s views on common real-life situations.
Two thirds believed women should not report domestic violence, for example, saying women should instead be patient and not put the family’s honour at risk. Less than one third of women felt it was unfair for a daughter’s inheritance to be half the size of a son’s.
Now, Needle and New Thread will inspire and equip women and men to apply their desire for change to practical situations in their own lives. The series will raise awareness of a range of human rights, with a special focus on freedom of religion and belief.
Learning and sharing
However, says SAT-7 Development Manager Nicoletta Michael, the program does not dictate to viewers. “Rather, it shares with them the true stories of how people have overcome challenges,” she says. “It gives them the strength and the power to advocate for themselves.”
The program also gives women a platform to share their own experiences – and in the show’s previous four seasons, many have courageously shared their deepest feelings and most difficult truths.
“Everybody has value”
“Every time somebody ventures to call us and tell a personal story, I am amazed at how brave these people are,” says Maggie Morgan, the show’s Producer.
“We have such a big responsibility to respect people’s stories and to speak truth to them,” she continues. “And the truth is that everybody has value – women and men, young and old … and everyone has potential.”
Individual episodes will cover topics including the rights to freedom of movement, to make choices without coercion, and to work in an environment free from discrimination.
Special segments will cover domestic violence, the right to choose a marriage partner, and the freedom to choose one’s own clothing.
The seeds of change
“We want to contribute to changing people’s attitudes and opinions,” says Nicoletta Michael. “It’s not that we are trying to break social laws, but some common practices, such as FGM, are harmful to women, so we need to inform our viewers.”
Nicoletta also acknowledges that programming such as Needle and New Thread is no “quick fix”.
“We want to plant a seed,” she says. “We are working on the individual level, enabling women to feel they have a safe place to hear this information. If the women of today, the mothers of today, are able to raise their boys and girls with a different mindset – that will be a huge achievement.”
EDUCATION BEYOND TELEVISION
Alongside the SAT-7 ACADEMY channel, SAT-7 has launched an e-learning platform on a new interactive website, www.sat7academy.com. Here viewers can watch programs on demand, customise their learning, and track their progress.