‘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...

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Behind The Headlines - Mar­i­ane Pearl is man­ag­ing editor of Chime For Change, which tells sto­ries of girls and women ris­ing from the ground to seek jus­tice and build peace

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'

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