Series with a Purpose
While countries in the Arabic-speaking world differ in prosperity, population, and resources, they share strong similarities in cultural terms, and in governance and social structures. Many countries in the region find women in economically dependent positions within the family, with no or little decision-making power, and exposed to some form of violence.
Issues that affect women, such as their role in society, their rights and responsibilities, and the problems they face in private and in public, are taboo and rarely discussed. Consequently, there are few public platforms for an open dialogue to address them and discuss ways for women to maintain their cultural identities while pursuing their aspirations and realizing their full potential.
Consequently, many Arab women are becoming more actively involved in the public, professional and political spheres, and are role models for their peers. However, these experiences are limited and women continue to remain too often bound by societal customs, with little space to challenge them directly.
Media offers a unique way to overcome women’s isolation, to enter family homes and put women’s and societal issues on the table, stimulating debate and providing information and knowledge.
In particular, ‘edutainment’ strategies, especially in the form of fiction series, can enact stories that closely relate to real life, where characters experience the same concerns and pressures of the listeners, leading the audience through a learning process towards positive behavioural changes.
With this in mind, Womanity and its programme partners produced an exclusive Arabic radio fiction, Worth 100 Men (Be 100 Ragl in Arabic). The series follows the story of Noha, an intrepid young radio journalist, who confronts gender discrimination in the workforce, in family, and the social sphere. Noha challenges prejudice and oppression, and becomes a role model for the whole community. The series covers divorce, domestic violence, sexual harassment, women’s access to education and professional careers, the status of single women in traditional society, and healthy romantic relationships.
The first edition was aired between March and October 2014 throughout the Arab world.
In 2015 Womanity and its project partner Lapis Communication undertook to produce the second edition of Be 100 Ragl designed as an animation series in ten episodes. The second season is an animated video story destined for online broadcasting and will be released online from June to August 2016. Noha is played by leading Jordanian actress Saba Mubarak, and the theme tune ‘’B100 ragel’’ is performed by the Saudi based Iranian singer Alaa Wardi.
The Womanity Foundation was established in 2005 by Yann Borgstedt, a successful businessman and entrepreneur who believes the best way to build sustainable growth lies in collaboration between the social sector and the business world.
Originally called the Smiling Children Foundation, Womanity began work in Morocco helping girls (some as young as 6) working as domestic laborersto return to their families and attend school. The Foundation also supported rural communities there to professionalize their olive oil production and increase their exports.
In 2007 Womanity expanded its work into Afghanistan in the biggest girls’ school in Kabul, the Al-Fatah School for Girls. Womanity trains teachers, rebuilds infrastructure, and provides equipment to enrich the curriculum and improve the quality of the learning. Al Fatah became a model school in the country.
2008 saw fast growth for Womanity with five new projects to encourage people in underprivileged areas, or from minority groups, to access education, training, and employment. The work in Morocco, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories, focused on girls’ education and self-development, job-creation for single mothers, and support for rural communities.
During 2009 and 2010 Womanity’s key focus developed further with the launch of the WomenChangeMakers Fellowship and Radio Nisaa FM. These built on the strategic decision to invest in social entrepreneurs who have the capacity to change societal norms for women and girls, through high impact programs.
2010 saw the appointment of Antonella Notari Vischer as Director, and experts in the fields of social enterprise, philanthropy, and sustainable development joining the board.
In 2012 the new name was officially adopted with The Womanity Foundation expressing a determination towards the empowerment of women for the greater good of all humanity.
2013 and 2014 saw great developments with the launch of two new programs. In 2013 the Arabic radio fiction series Be 100 Ragl (Worth 100 Men) was produced for broadcast in 2014 by 10 radio station in 9 countries across the MENA region. In 2014 the pioneering Womanity Award for the Prevention of Violence Against Women was launched, the world’s first award for innovation in the field of preventing gender-based violence.
To date the Womanity Foundation has supported 9 social entrepreneurs, over 23,000 school girls (and boys) in Afghanistan, brought messages of women’s empowerment to hundreds of thousands of radio listeners and provided an ecosystem of business support for its WomenChangeMakers Fellows.
The Foundation continues its work in Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Palestine and across the Middle East and North Africa region. It is based in Geneva, Switzerland with an office in the United Kingdom and a presence in the USA under the auspices of the King Baudouin Foundation.