What was the last movie that has left a lasting impression on you? A movie that has touched you emotionally and made you think about its characters or storyline for days after? A movie that inspired passionate discussions among your friends? I am sure all of us are familiar with the great influence cinema can have on our lives. As a medium, it both reflects and shapes society. A film can mirror your own life, validate your personal experiences, but also present entirely new perspectives, expose issues and question your ingrained beliefs. With our Her&Now campaign, we want to tap that immense potential: Using the entertaining power of short films to change mindsets[1] around women entrepreneurship in India – where only a fraction of all businesses is women-led, where traditional gender roles and expectations often keep women from considering a career as an entrepreneur, and where biases and social structures make it harder for them to succeed as one. Tackling those prevailing attitudes is as essential for the promotion of women entrepreneurship as providing technical support and advancing policy.

The Her&Now short films

With that goal in mind, Indian film makers produced 4 thought-provoking short films for Project Her&Now:

1. A woman from a conservative context, married early and with little formal schooling cannot run a highly profitable business? Watch ‘Ritu Goes Online’ and let the documentary shatter your prejudice. [Trailer]

2. Women from dramatically different backgrounds will never understand each other’s hardships and personal victories? The interwoven stories in ‘Pahal – An Initiative’ celebrate the beauty of and power of diversity in women’s entrepreneurial journeys. [Trailer]

3. The husband runs the business, while the wife stays at home taking care of the children? The protagonists in ‘Kashmakash – The Dilemma’ show how mutual support and respect can enable women to thrive. [Trailer]

4. A widowed elderly woman neither has the courage nor the business skills to start all over and stand on her own feet? ‘B. Selvi & Daughters’ will convince you otherwise. [Trailer]

Find out more on the four short films and directors here.

Launching our film campaign

The Her&Now film campaign was kick-started in 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a digital premiere of the films on the International Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, November 19th, 2020. With the support of our associates at Filmbooth, this premiere resulted in our films being watched from audiences in over 50 countries! Apart from this, various partners ranging from film clubs, governmental institutions, NGOs and private companies conducted over 20 online screenings. Despite the restrictions on physical events during the pandemic, our short films were showcased at 17 national and international film festivals – among which the Bengaluru International Short Film Festival, New York Indian Film Festival, Arthouse Asia Film Festival – and garnered 5 awards as well as prestigious nominations at the Critics Choice Awards!

Gearing Up

Towards the end of 2021, the films were brought to the masses the way it had always been intended: On-the-ground events where people come to watch a film together, followed by an open exchange. Our screening partner Tattva Creations / Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival took the films to the North East of India: They organised 12 screenings in Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Sikkim with a total of over 380 participants.

Currently, the films are travelling with CMS Vatavaran through tier II and tier III cities in Rajasthan and in Uttar Pradesh as well as Delhi – with 11 screenings completed and 340 people reached so far, we will be covering 21 more locations in the coming weeks!

Audience response

From the 700 participants in over 20 physical screenings, we realised that whatever the audience – college students and faculty, film buffs, women’s self-help group members, (aspiring) entrepreneurs, or random café visitors – they all have a similar reaction: They thoroughly enjoy the films! And this has proven to be a great starting point for a discussion. With the help of our moderation guideline, the appointed facilitators steer the conversation from immediate responses to the screened film to deeper questions about underlying concepts of gender and entrepreneurship. In these screenings, once the ice is broken, many participants start to speak up. Women (and a few men) of all ages share their own experiences- of how they had struggled to convince their family to further purse their studies, of being a role model to the next generation, of supportive husband or fathers, of braving ‘rooms full of men’ when being the only woman, of the sense of accomplishment when travelling alone for the first time – and many more.

At the screenings that I personally attended, I was impressed by the incredible openness and mutual encouragement among the participants. If they carry that inspiration and attitude further, the films might have just sparked a reflection process for social change.

Stay tuned

So far, well over 7,500 people have seen the films at 70+ screening events. In order to make our films accessible to everyone, we are planning their digital release on OTT platforms later this year.

If you would like to be an active part of the #CinemaForChange journey, get in touch with us at [email protected] and become a screening partner.

Author Profile

Stephanie Mumenthaler

Stephanie has been an advisor at GIZ for the past 6 years. Born in Switzerland, she moved to Bonn, Germany to take up her first position for German development cooperation in 2016, with a focus on the prevention of gender-based violence. Since 2019, she is part of the GIZ project Her&Now promoting women entrepreneurship in India, where she leads the project’s film- and media campaign as well as its monitoring and evaluation activities.

[1] Is Entertainment Education a Smart Investment? (worldbank.org)