Highlighting the struggle with regard to female education in Pakistan, filmmaker Shehzad Hameed’s documentary Flight of the Falcons has made to the final list of 2015 Asia-Pacific Child Rights Award for Television.
The documentary delves into the journey of one Pakistani schoolteacher Sister Zeph and her three students as they struggle to fight against child marriage, corporal punishment and societal pressures against all odds to ensure that women acquire education.
Speaking to Images about Flight of the Falcons, Shehzad sheds light upon the most rewarding part of his journey to bring to light a pressing issue in the country: "I began working on the concept of girls’ education in Pakistan because I was fascinated by women defying the odds so bravely in this country. But once I was deeply immersed in filming while in Gujranwala, I could see myself transitioning into a mode where characters and their goals align. Sister Zeph always wanted to do a lot for the girls in her village but always lacked the financial strength to back her vision.”
He explained how girls studied in rented, open roof houses and his documentary helped Sister Zelph in getting monetary support which became a turning point in her life: “She won the Lyn Syms Prize in 2014 which honours a grassroots leader who is elevating the concerns of her community and serving as an inspiration to community leaders elsewhere. With additional resources now at her disposal, Sister Zeph is ready to lead change on a large scale."
The award led Sister Zelph to expand her school further and accommodate more girls: “She has not only expanded the infrastructure to about 200 girl students, but has also hired more teachers to initiate additional classes such as martial arts for her girls. Without a doubt, this development was the most rewarding part of making this film.”
Given that his work paved the way for many other women, does he plan to aid Sister Zeph and her foundation from the funds he might receive?
“I'm not sure if there is a cash component or not but if that happens, I would happily donate it to Sister Zeph's foundation. And since Sister Zeph's focus is on primary education for girls, I would love to initiate an endowment fund that can propel her students for degree programs in leading universities of Pakistan. Educating women has a force multiplier effect and I'm confident that this investment will bring a multifaceted change in Pakistani society for the better," he assures.
10 TV documentaries about children and their rights have been shortlisted for the 2015 Asia-Pacific Child Rights Award for Television this year with focus on issues like online sexual abuse, migrant children amongst others.
The award has been run by the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), CASBAA and UNICEF since 2001. It recognizes the efforts of broadcasters and producers in pursuing high quality children’s television and better coverage of children’s issues.
The 45-minute-long documentary can be viewed at the 2015 Asia-Pacific portal.