In a day and age when female empowerment is taking centre stage, four female journalists from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have made the country proud and put Pakistan at the forefront, bringing laurels to the country by winning international awards in filmmaking on topics revolving around women empowerment and religious freedom. The winning journalists are Zeenat Bibi who clinched the first position and won the grand prize, and the second position was bagged by Khalida Niaz of Tribal News Network. Jamaima Afridi of Khyber District submitted a film titled 'A Helping Hand Across Faith and Countries’ which received the `Inclusion Award’ and Fatima Nazish’s film also obtained the first position. The Women Empowerment and Religious Freedom Fim Competition was sponsored by Empower Media Women and the took place in Washington DC, USA.
According to the press release by Empower Media Women, the grand prize winner received a $3,000 cash prize, while the first runner-up collected $1,500, and second runner-up took home $500. But more than the monetary compensation, it is the pride and prestige which the win brings to the country. The media projects submitted to the film competition came from thirty women who took part in Empower Women Media’s Pakistan Media Training Fellowship. The competition is currently in its fifth cycle and has been sponsored by Empower Women Media in association with the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation.
Speaking about the quality and level of submission, Shirin Taber, Director of Empower Women Media, said: “We were amazed to witness the tenacity and creativity of the Pakistani women filmmakers.” As the accolades kept pouring in from all over, Network of Women Journalists for Digital Rights also congratulated Khalida and Zeenat, in their tweet which read, “NWJDR is proud to share that our two members, Zeenat and Khalida have won grand prize and first runner up in 2022 Women’s Empowerment and Religious Freedom Film Competition for their films, ‘She Stood Against Religious Extremism’ and ‘Peace Promoters’ respectively.”
“Their films have the potential to change lives and shift the culture at large,” she added in the press statement. The grand prize winner, Zeenat Bibi, who hails from Peshawar submitted a film titled 'She stood against religious extremism,’ which tells the story of a young woman in a war-torn region of Pakistan who starts an initiative to counter religious extremism and sectarian violence by holding dialogue sessions with youth from different beliefs and religions. The second prize was won by Khalida for her film titled ‘Peace Promoters’. Talking about it, Khalida said: “Peace Promoters is about a network established by two Muslim sisters from Peshawar. The network comprises of 200 members, including Hindus, Muslims, Christians and people from other religions too. They go to places of worship of different religions to promote peace and inter-faith harmony. In the process, they also come up with commonalities between the various religions, bringing the people closer together.”
Khalida also said that even the second prize has more than made up for the nine-year journalistic struggle that she had to endure. “This award is an example that women journalists can do reporting on every subject,” she said. “I believe this award will inspire other women of my area to do what they want.” To decide the winners, Empower Women Media invited nine highly respected judges to review the short films, including Katrina Lantos Swett, President of the Lantos Foundation; Dr. Brian Grim of the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation, Ed Brown, Secretary General of Stefanus Alliance International, and other leading voices for religious freedom.The winning films were screened before civil society and faith leaders at the IRF Film Festival and Roundtable in Islamabad. Furthermore, selected films were showcased at the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit in Washington, DC between June 28-30.
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