ENDING VIOLENCE, DISCRIMINATION, AND FGM
Cruelty in classrooms, shaming those with disabilities, and female genital mutilation (FGM) are all too commonplace in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Informative programs and documentaries on SAT-7 ACADEMY aim to change minds and attitudes.
There are many inherited cultural practices that have a strong and harmful hold on society in parts of the MENA. SAT-7 ACADEMY’s mission, beyond meeting the urgent and desperate needs of refugees and internally displaced persons across the region, is to address the physical, emotional, relational, and intellectual needs of all children, parents and teachers in the region, with its holistic programming. This mission includes creating awareness and challenging attitudes towards traditional practices, taboos, and inhumane practices.
COMBATTING SCHOOL VIOLENCE
Violence in School is a 14-episode program which addresses the issues of bullying, teachers using violence to control students, and aggressive behaviour between pupils.
SAT-7’s Arabic Channels Programming Director, George Makeen explains:
“Violence in schools in the Middle East is a huge issue. If we approach teachers with an accusatory manner, they don’t know how to respond. Sometimes they are in a classroom with sixty to eighty students, and they don’t know how to control them without being aggressive.”
Violence in School aims to provide helpful advice to teachers on how to deal with students and manage chaotic classrooms without using physical force. The program also promotes tolerance between students and discusses the negative long-term effects of bullying. Makeen explains that violence sometimes starts at home from parents, influencing students’ behaviour at school. The program challenges parents’ habits and emphasises that violence at home has additional negative repercussions in other areas of their children’s lives.
BREAKING BARRIERS AND TABOOS
Middle Easterners are a proud society. Unfortunately, within this society, disability and disease are regarded as weak and shameful. Work in Progress tackles the issues facing families dealing with disabled children or persons in their home. These families feel ashamed and guilty for having a household member with a disability. They are hidden from society.
This mentality also makes it difficult for young women, who are relatives of a person with a disability, to marry. Her family are afraid that the groom’s family will reject her if they know she has a disabled sibling. It is common for an engagement to be cut off, as people fear disability is genetic and may be inherited by the couple’s offspring.
“There are many issues regarding this topic,” says Makeen.
“Society is not developing in a way that encourages parents or helps them to understand or support their disabled children.”
This 14-episode short movie program aims to equip parents with the right attitudes towards their disabled children, and the knowledge to help their children live a good life despite the issues they face.
PUTTING AN END TO A HORRIFIC PRACTICE
“Female genital mutilation is a practice that will take time and efforts by us to constantly address it, to start seeing people’s beliefs about this practice begin to change,” states Makeen.
Female circumcision is a tradition followed mostly in Egypt and Sudan. It is not a religious practice but is followed by both Christian and non-Christian families. It is a cultural belief that women need to be circumcised to stay pure. It is believed that if a woman does not experience sexual pleasure, she will be less demanding toward her husband and is less likely to leave her husband or to have an affair.
The FGM campaign that SAT-7 ACADEMY broadcasts is a series of eleven short documentaries. Each one presents testimonies from young girls and women who have undergone FGM, and how this horrifying experience has affected their lives. They discuss what it means to have their bodies and rights violated. They feel unprotected and unsafe as a result of the procedure.
These short movies also provide insight and facts about women who have been circumcised. Over 95 percent of prostitutes in Egypt and Sudan are victims of FGM. Such information helps people understand that the tradition does neither preserve a woman’s purity or curb her sexual desire: FGM is not the answer.
“We want people to know that FGM has nothing to do with women’s purity,” says Makeen.
“This practice doesn’t help the family and it doesn’t help to create a happier marriage.” The movies show that sometimes it is women, not men, violating other women and forcing their daughters to undergo FGM.
“Despite laws being put in place, somehow the mindset has not yet changed,” says Makeen. “There has been an improvement, but the majority still practice FGM. This is why we need to campaign against this horrific practice continually.”