Thursday, October 11, marks the first International Day of the Girl Child. The United Nations General Assembly resolution declaring the day highlights “empowerment of and investment in girls,” as a crucial factor in economic development and the elimination of poverty. Girls sadly still face significant barriers to receiving education in many parts of the world, and often do not meaningfully participate in decisions that affect them directly and for life.
Investment in girls – particularly in education — pays huge dividends both for the individuals involved and for the broader society in which they live. We have seen this ourselves firsthand and believe strongly that providing equality of opportunity for girls is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.
How are we celebrating Day of the Girl Child? We are reflecting on the ripple effect that reaching out to one girl or woman can have for generations to come. We are reaching out to share with you a story that inspired us so much that we are making a documentary film about it: THREADS: The Art and Life of Surayia Rahman — and we would like you to become part of our community to bring this story to the world!
Surayia is a Bangladeshi Muslim woman, a self-taught artist, and a teacher and inspiration for hundreds of young, non-literate women. Over 30 years ago, Surayia began working with women, often single young mothers, teaching them to embroider elaborate works of art that were inspired by a centuries-old quilting tradition of Bengal called nakshi kantha. These works have been presented to royalty and heads of government and are now in museums and private collections around the world. Over the years and against the odds, these talented artisans have been able to educate their own children as a result of their own work and determination and the training they received. Some of these women who came to Surayia with only a small clump of puffed rice tied in their saris for a day’s meal, have now sent their children through university! Impact for generations — and it all started with belief in opportunity for girls and women.
One person can truly make a difference for many by sharing skills and the gifts that lie inside each of us. A mother herself who needed to feed and educate her own family, Surayia had little formal education but she had a vision of art and beauty and an inner determination that helped her overcome many obstacles as she helped others improve their own lives. You can learn more about this remarkable and inspiring woman and her collaboration with girls and women here.
Let us all be part of the global celebration on October 11 – and every day — to help girls and women realize their dreams. As we reach out and share our skills with others (boys and men too!), life indeed becomes more human.
We welcome you to join with us now to bring this extraordinary story of Surayia and talented women of Bangladesh to the world. To find out how you can help and be part of this film project to inspire, follow this link to the film website. Together, let us bring conversations about the importance of investing time and resources in girls and women and the power of art in society to film festivals, universities, museums, television, and theatres where we plan to start showing the film next year.
You can also contribute by spreading the word on Facebook, Twitter, and signing up for our quarterly newsletter.
Please also read: Accidental Saint at HandEye Magazine
Thank you for your support!
Cathy Stevulak and Leonard Hill
Watch The Film Trailer For Threads
Photos by Cathy Stevulak & Leonard Hill – All Rights Reserved
Guest Author Bio
Cathy Stevulak & Leonard Hill
Cathy Stevulak, formerly on the staff of the United Nations Development Programme in Dhaka, is leading the effort to produce the documentary Threads: The Art and Life of Surayia Rahman, and a catalogue of Surayia’s work. With her husband, Leonard Hill, a US diplomat who first met Surayia when he was posted to Bangladesh, Cathy has assembled a team of award-winning filmmakers who are excited by the story and the prospect of telling it to the world. In cooperation with Surayia and her family, they are committed to produce an inspiring documentary about a remarkable woman, and to show the stunning beauty of embroidered tapestries created by women in Bangladesh.
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