‘Hope is a vital organ’
Mariane Pearl was six months pregnant when her husband, Daniel, was abducted and murdered by terrorists in Pakistan while working for the Wall Street Journal. Now she campaigns tirelessly for women’s rights...
In northern Iraq, there is a group of women who reside at the very bottom of the ladder. They are the Yazidi refugees, and they are a minority within a minority – within their country, their gender and their community. As one woman put it, ‘We are nothing. We are absolutely nothing.’
met these women when I led a journalism workshop in Iraq. The aim was to give them the tools and confidence to talk about what happened to them. All too often, stories are told by the people who hold the power; our aim was to give a voice to the voiceless.
Working with Chime For Change – a platform that tells stories of women and girls bringing about change in their communities from the bottom up – since 2013, I had been meeting many women. The idea behind Women Bylines is imagining what you could achieve by equipping women with the skills to tell their own stories. It is a series of documentaries that offers an alternative narrative to the one we are used to hearing and watching.
The pilot documentary, Women’s Voices Within, is an account from the Yazidi women in Iraq, who were forced to flee ISIS. Those women had every right to be consumed by revenge. Instead, they chose to use their voices, to stand up and be counted – and, ultimately, to help eradicate the pain of others. That is the real objective of Women Bylines: to show how women’s resilience and response to trauma are the only reliable counter-narrative to the evils that drive our world. Since then we have gone into many more communities, and have worked with some incredibly talented women and girls. The truth is, with rolling news coverage and social media, we have almost become accustomed to hearing tragic stories on the news and seeing appalling images. But hearing people tell their own stories, in their own words, is authentic and powerful.
This is so much more than a journalism project for me. It’s about increasing our access to powerful stories; it’s about the sharing of the human experience, and about realising that we all have more in common than we think.
We’ve witnessed a huge amount of change throughout history. We’ve had revolutions in technology, industry and politics. What we haven’t had yet is the human revolution – and until we do, history will continue to perpetuate the same tragedies. My hope is that by empowering women to affect change within their own communities, one day soon, that revolution will come.
In my own life, I’ve lived through a great deal. But meeting resilient women who have endured so much, I understand now more than ever that hope is a vital organ; it is the thing that drives you forwards.
‘We all have more in common than we think’
Mariane:‘women can affect change – that’s the message I want to spread’
'We're equipping women with the skills to tell their own stories'