Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Maya Evans with refugee children in Afghanistan.

Film focus on giving birth in Afghanistan

Local film-maker Janey Moffatt is shortly off to Afghanistan to document the difficulties faced by women there in giving birth. She will be aided by peace activist Maya Evans, who already has two trips to the war-torn country under her belt. They briefed Nick Terdre on their trip.

It was Janey’s own difficult birth experiences which inspired the project. But for the NHS, one of her two little boys might well not have survived, she says. It made her wonder about the ordeal faced by pregnant women who give birth in countries where there is little or no help.

“I wanted to turn the difficult things that had been happening to me into something positive,” she says. She decided on Afghanistan after feeling inspired by hearing Maya talk about her trips there.

“We hope to raise consciousness here of the conditions there,” she says. “We want to get British women, and Western women, to connect and learn about other women who, but for an accident of birth, could be them. When you’re living in a country like this, you’re blessed, and it can be very difficult to get an idea of what is actually happening in other parts of the world.” Janey intends to publicise the issue by taking the film around secondary schools and arranging public screenings and talks. BBC South-East plans to cover it.

Planning for the trip has been under way all year. It recently included Janey and Maya going on a survival weekend. Having survived, they are next face hostile environment training.

Maya distributing duvets on a previous trip.

The two plan to spend up to a couple of weeks in Kabul in the early part of December, taking advantage of Maya’s contacts with Afghan Peace Volunteers, a local peace group, and hopefully working with local female film-makers. “We want to interview ordinary working-class Afghan women who are pregnant or new mothers, and midwives too, and get their testimony about what it’s like to give birth in Afghanistan,” says Maya. “Bear in mind that in rural areas 87% of women give birth alone and one in 11 dies in childbirth.”

The result will be a short film, but Janey hopes this will lay the groundwork and help raise the funds for a second trip to make a longer film.

The project also provides an opportunity to counteract the constant emphasis in media reports on the fighting and atrocities which colour our perceptions of Afghan people. “Our main aim is to bring women in Afghan to life and humanise them so that people here know that they are just ordinary women, they face trials every day, just like us, and to promote that we’re all human and should be looking out for each other,” says Maya. “It’s pretty basic but we forget that sometimes.

“I’d like to highlight that the last 12 years of aggressive intervention by the US and the UK hasn’t helped women there, though this is one of the main reasons why this country backed the war in Afghan.”

Fund-raising under way

Fund-raising is under way for the trip – a page has been opened on the crowdfunding site IndieGoGo with a target of £5,000 by the end of October. Some money has already been raised, but the two would like to donate this to projects in Afghanistan. They would also be happy to receive gifts of equipment, such as hard drives, SD memory cards, cameras, laptops, microphones and batteries.

An enthusiastic knitter – she was a leading light in the recent Knitting for Change project at Hastings museum – Janey will also be packing her knitting needles. Maya has promised to hook her up with another acquaintance in Kabul – “she can’t read or write but she’s phenomenal at knitting.”

But the emphasis remains on “the hell of giving birth,” as Janey puts it. “We want to make the film in a way that doesn’t bludgeon people over the head. We are going to have some optimism and make it uplifting while at the same time delivering the message – we think women can do more and be more and help the world. Ultimately the film is about women, made by women, and it’s for women.”


IndiGoGo page

Knitting for Change

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Posted 17:20 Thursday, Oct 10, 2013 In: Hastings People

Also in: Hastings People

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