Under the leadership and guidance of Eric Kabera, Kwetu Film Institute alongside Rwanda Cinema Center produced and brought to life a documentary film titled “The Woman in Me”. Among other things, Kabera shared that the decision for the documentary to be screened in Rwanda before crossing borders was not made in haste, and he intended to break the stereotype of sending projects to film festivals before sharing them with one’s community. Kabera also said that the film is a portrayal and celebration of the lives and journeys of African women, and its mere existence is an outlet to shed light on topics like women's emancipation, cultural differences, and gender norms. “This is a tribute to our mothers, sisters, and daughters that also reflects the current women's emancipation journey. This tool is not just an educational tool but rather a reflection of our collective journey that comes with challenges. The film aims to create a dialogue not only in Rwanda but also around Africa and beyond,” he said. ALSO READ: Tracking Rwanda’s movie industry progress through the eyes of pioneer filmmaker Kabera The film portrays the storylines of different women and through the reiteration of their personal journeys, sheds light on cultural norms, gender-based violence, discrimination, and accepting, loving and becoming oneself. Through documented personal journeys, the film has with the help of themes and motifs questioned and redefined the role of a woman in a household and marriage as perceived by men and women alike. To complement the documented stories, the film exhibited a serene set of music from the likes of Mike Kayihura, Malaika Uwamahoro, Peace Jolis, and others that add up to an exquisite soundtrack that made the documentary film more compelling. ALSO READ: About Eric Kabera, Rwanda Cinema Centre founder More than two stories in the documentary highlighted the conflicting cultural norm that enables men to perceive women as inferior, and in most cases, not allowing them the “luxury” of a life outside their role as a wife and a mother. In the case of Auxiliatrice’s deeply moving story, for example, getting married at the age of 19 to someone that abused her physically and emotionally was tragic, more so the fact that he did what he did when she was with child. Looking back on her experience, the mother-of-two maintains the view that marriage shouldn’t be done in haste but rather treated with the candour of a lifetime deal. One of her biggest takeaways from the experience is that abuse should not be inflicted, endured, or kept silent in a marriage or otherwise. “Women are not designated, housewives. They deserve to dream and live a life beyond their homes,” she said. Another inspiring story was that of Carine, a hairdresser who walked out of a marriage to a significantly older man who kept her from truly living. Carine got married young, and she was content with her decision at the beginning, up until years later when she realised the lack of communication in the marriage and the loneliness she felt when the children were at school. She told her husband she was leaving and he argued that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the life they were living, and mockingly asked how on earth she would fare on without him, which is an eminent theme in the marriages and lives of African women. Carine eventually established herself as a hairdresser which not only enabled her to provide for her family but was also therapeutic, because the interactions she had on a regular basis kept her from the crippling isolation in her past life. And appreciation messages from clients for a job well done, as well as quality time with loved ones, is one of the joys she finds in life presently. According to Moreen Gihozo, an audience member at the screening, telling the stories with a then-and-now perspective speaks to how powerful change can be and disputes the “niko z’ubakwa” (loosely, ‘enduring violence and adversity’) narrative that is used to excuse gender-based violence and keep it quiet. “The difference between the women we saw in the documentary and the ones at the event was powerful, and the fact their healing is visible speaks volumes about how impactful storytelling and finding yourself can be. I especially enjoyed Auxiliatrice’s realisation that keeping things silent and enduring mistreatment is not the way to go, despite being the only route endorsed by the culture,” she says. Dean Kwizera, a member of the production team expressed that aside from creating and amplifying awareness of the themes in the documentary, the film aims to start dialogues that affect the kind of change success stories are made of. “Starting dialogues about the topics highlighted in the film is important because the way women are treated has to improve, and we hope the film will at least help start those conversations,” said Kwizera.