Friday, 17 March 2017

India's Wushu Warrior Girl - Witness

Fareeha comes from a conservative Muslim community in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad where traditional gender roles still exist, with women mainly being in the home. Her Muslim faith-based school, nestled in the midst of this traditional community, subscribes to progressive attitudes towards women. The teachers at the school would make it a point to inspire their female pupils during their morning assembly and let them know that their education and career were just as important as those of their male counterparts. The school also introduced wushu solely to their female pupils so as to increase their confidence and also so that they could learn to defend themselves against the violence towards women in the country.
Having spent time in the community, I could definitely sense that there was a fear for girls' safety. On occasions I heard Fareeha's neighbours talk about cases of violence within the community and there were regular television reports about cases of sexual harassment across the country. This created a situation in which families within the community would not allow their daughters to venture out alone, in part to safeguard them against any potential violence. This also curtails their freedom and independence, however, and to an extent accentuates the stereotypical gender roles within the community. Thus, places such as Fareeha's school really stood out for me, as they were not only trying to find a solution to the rising violence against women, but also doing it in a way so as to maintain their pupils' freedom.

Although the film centres on Fareeha's fight to attend and attempt to win the

national championships, at the heart of it lies a coming of age tale of a young women trying to challenge conservative traditions to gain her independence and her own identity.

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