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     Volume 7 Issue 12 | March 21, 2008 |

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Stories of Success

Hana Shams Ahmed

Director: Kamar Ahmad Simon, Executive Producer: Sara Afreen, Camera: Bayzid Kamal, Duration: 55 Minutes
Want the horse, not the prince,” says Kamala, one of the protagonists of the documentary 'Stories of Change'. When her father narrates a fairytale and asks her if she wants to meet her prince too, this is her response. Kamala was a child when she said this, but her vision about what she was going to do was quite clear. She was going to break conventional customs of a woman's role in society and make a life for herself by following her dreams of independence. It was tough, in different ways, for all five protagonists of this documentary, but in the end they all came out with stories of success.

'Stories of Change' is broken into five parts - five women from five age groups overcoming obstacles slightly different in dynamics, but with one common theme, a harsh, patriarchal society where women are expected to conform to the norms set by a gender who by misinterpreting and abusing religious, social and cultural decrees have over the ages maintained control over the thoughts and actions of women.

'Stories of Change' sends a very strong message through the stories of each of these individuals-- a strong and uplifting message that no matter what the circumstances, no matter how considerable the challenge, the human spirit is strong enough to overcome anything and come out victorious with patience, resilience and vision, even from the unlikeliest of places.

Champa Chakma, a successful spin bowler at the age of 16 from Rangamati in the Chittagong Hill Tracts plays for the Bangladesh National Women's Cricket team. From a very young age she was interested in sports. Despite everyone's rebukes she went ahead and played outside with boys and eventually decided to take up professional cricket. She was part of the team that won the ACC championship in 2007. There is another parallel fight that is underlying her fight against social norms - she also talks about how difficult it was for her to find out the results of the player selection because there is no cell phone network in the Hill Tracts region. Here our political problems in CHT intersect with the challenges of gender.

Dipaly Goala is 22 years old and a schoolteacher and field worker at the Tea Labourers Union at Lakkatura Tea Estate in Sylhet. Instead of getting married when her parents wanted her to: she works day and night with tea labourers teaching them their rights and teaching children basic language in the mornings. Her work involves going to houses of the tea labourers and finding out what their problems are. She proves her power in taking up those complaints and successfully bargaining for the workers' rights with the managers at the tea plantations.

Bilkish Akhter Sumi is 29 years old and the Chief Photo Journalist of the Daily Sabuj Sylhet in Zindabazar. Anyone who is familiar with the patriarchy of Sylheti society would understand that this is no easy achievement. Despite everyone frowning on her choice of profession she knew what her calling was and took up her career as a challenge. When some religious politicians complained about her presence at a public meeting, she talked to them and explained how important it was for her to take photos of them for publishing in the newspaper. They were so impressed with her; they insisted that she continue to cover all of their future meetings.

Kamala Rani Ray the 32 year-old goldsmith from Chandaikona Bazaar never felt intimidated by the fact her father, the owner of Durga Jewellers, did not have a male heir. By looking after her family business, Kamala has already married off three of her five sisters, a role generally for the son of the family. With her powerful appearance she unafraid to face any trouble - she narrates how she scared a group of robbers out of her jewellery shop.

The oldest protagonist of the story is Begum Rokeya. At 60 she has spent her whole life fighting for human rights of people. She now works as a social activist at Sabalamby Unnayan Samity in Netrokona. When a religious teacher forcibly took some children away from a school, Rokeya was enraged and went to rescue the children. She rebuked the imam and took the kids back to school.

Kamar Ahmed Simon graduated in Architecture from BUET and attended several workshops on film making before launching his first documentary. He has documented stories of personal struggle that are inspiring not just for women, but all people who face adversity.

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