Fatima Muneer is a student at Columbia’s School of Journalism. She is one of ten students providing on the ground coverage of SMWNYC- all from the student’s perspective. She is providing her report from 10×10: Educate Girls, Change the World held Monday evening at Big Fuel.
In a Northern Ethiopian village, 14-year old Melka arrived home from school one day to hear her mother say, “You’re getting married.” Before she knew it, she was standing next to an old man in her bridal dress, and was coerced into his bedroom after the wedding by his friends.
When she awoke in pain, she found herself in a hospital. The nurses found out what had happened to her and informed the police. Right after, her husband, stepfather, and mother, were jailed but released sometime after. She could not afford to go back to school so she stayed at home.
Today, she is twenty years old, and with help from World Vision, she has started her own school in Ethiopia where she educates girls about their rights. “No one asked me to do this. I’m doing this because I can’t let what happened to me, happen to anyone else,” says Melka. Since then, she has been involved in numerous forced child marriage cases. Her story has been shared to many organizations through this video and continues to inspire many till today.
The short movie finishes and the crowd at the Big Fuel headquarters who have gathered to attend the Social Media Weekend, applaud. Justin Reeves, manager of NGO partnerships at 10×10, is dressed sharply in a black suit and a grey shirt. Two giant Mac screens on his left and right play videos from 10×10 every now and then, during his speech. 10×10 is a campaign to reach support from a global audience and to help underprivileged girls all around the world. “10×10” refers to the upcoming motion film that will combine 10 different stories about 10 girls, coming from 10 developing countries, and written by ten globally acclaimed female writers from those 10 country, to create a powerful story of hope and change.
“How sustainable is this work because you are working from here to Ethiopia and how do you change deep-rooted traditions that have existed for generations?” asked Mohammed Ademo, who is from Ethiopia, who now lives in the U.S. and is pursuing a Masters degree in digital media journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
“It is indeed a very long process,” Reeves replied. The plan is to acquire grassroots help for the field like in China where the practice of binding feet of girls was eliminated in one generation by getting the support of religious leaders, who educated men about it.
What happens in this campaign, which has support from diverse NGOs, is that it gets to approach these girls from a holistic perspective as the girls get different kinds of help from all these organizations. Some get formal education while others get awareness lessons etc. The idea is to make that story into a video, and then share it. Every video needs to be edited by locals of that country so that the message is understood on all sides. The organization aims to convert “Challenges to opportunities” by offering hope to these girls.
Manhattan has now become home for Fatima Muneer, who is an international student from Oman at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and is focusing on digital media. While at Columbia, her articles for class have been picked by numerous online publications and include news wires from Forbes magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Morning News, and USA Today. She is a 2011 graduate of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and holds a BSFS in International Affairs. In her free time, she loves weaving the streets of New York to find new subjects for photography, watch documentaries, and google places around the world to figure out where she wants to travel next.