Long Read
6 March 2020

Women of Gold

The documentary ‘Women of Gold’ tells the story of Anna Elias, a woman from the Buziba village in Tanzania. It navigates through the various gender-related challenges women face in the village’s artisanal and small-scale gold (ASG) mines.

The film – directed by Jerry de Mars – depicts a reality of a world that for us seems fictional. Confronted by the poverty and gender-inequality that haunt our golden jewellery, viewers are persuaded to ask the same questions about the origin of our gold as that we ask about our coffee and chocolate.

“Trust is key”  

Per his arrival, Jerry was immediately introduced to the patriarchal structure that characterise the relation between women and men in Buziba. The men of the village rejected the notion of a film about the women in and not them.

As a matter of fact, the moment he pulled out his camera, Jerry and his team were stopped and checked by secret services, under claims that their paperwork needed to be verified. Given the numerous institutions that had no interest in this story being told, it didn’t come as too much as a surprise to Jerry.

While this opposition made it challenging to be accepted and trusted by the community, Jerry could fortunately count on Anna’s trust. A trust that stemmed from the conviction that he was there to tell her story.

Documentary maker Jerry: “To be able to tell in-depth stories – specially in these communities were many don’t want these stories told – trust is key”.

We see this trust reflected in the various moments Anna opens up to the camera to tell us her story – about her work, her financial discrimination, her ex-husband, her children and the Mshikamano group.

Still, it is the latent activity that unfolds in the background that completes Anna’s story. Moments like when Anna exclaims “I am a man now” to some of the men in her village, where purposely added by Jerry to enrich this “collection of scenes of her daily life” that make this documentary.

The Mshikamano group 

Unfortunately for many of us, the extent of Anna’s courage and strength goes far above our head to grasp. Societal, economic, academic and political autonomy and independence are terms we have long become familiar with.  In the Buziba village, on the other hand, women face gender inequality. Anna murmering: “you don’t want to be on the women’s side” directly to the man undermining her call for action, is a fearless leap into the right direction for change.

Socio-economic empowerment is essential to achieve true independence – an empowerment that results from having your own source of income and the possibility to manage it yourself. Which perfectly describes the importance of the Mshikamano group in this village.

The Mshikamano group is described by Jerry as a “solidarity network” that offers these women economic and mental support. The women of this group not only support each other but are also “proud to know”. They are proud that they know about HIV/AIDS preventions, proud that they know about sexual reproductive health, and proud that they have knowledge that further empowers them towards their independence and making their own decisions.

Change the way we tell stories  

“Everyone can identify with Ana to some extent” according to Jerry. Portraying someone people can identify with is necessary for behavioural change towards committed efforts. A mother can identify with her through motherhood and potentially even through the challenging relationship with her children.

Placing us at the intersection of Anna’s adversary and strength, Jerry makes progress on his aim to change the way that we tell stories in the industry.  A way that enables viewers to connect with the strong, courageous and outspoken Anna – prompting the question: “what can I do for women in ASG communities?”. Because when telling in-depth stories, strength is a powerful trigger.

Numbers and excel sheets are not the only way to convey the work that is done. Jerry and Simavi are firm believers that storytelling that puts the people to the front line and allows them to tell their own story – illustrate the sustainable change and the impact that organisations like Simavi, Solidaridad and Healthy Entrepreneurs create through programmes like the Golden Line.

To Jerry, Women of Gold is an introduction to a much larger story. The metal industry, the Buziba village and these Women of Gold have far more stories to tell. In conclusion: to be continued.

Women of Gold will be aired on NPO2 Extra with Dutch subtitles and available on NPO Start


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