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Read, watch, listen: women’s works to engage and inspire you

Ilawd Elman, Wanuri Kahiu and Suzanna Owio.
Ilawd Elman, Wanuri Kahiu and Suzanna Owio.

The arts are engrained in our everyday lives. We all have our preferences – whether it’s turning on the radio while your morning coffee is brewing, getting comfy on the sofa in front of the TV, or curling up with a good book – but we’re all engaging with cultural products that are fundamental to how we see the world. 

The cultural and creative industries contribute so much. Beyond straightforward economic value, they harness the power to drive sustainable development and  “the reflection and shaping of national and individual identities.” However, when we consider a women’s place in this realm it becomes apparent that in every society, women are guardians, creators and consumers of culture, but they still face barriers that prevent them from playing an equal role in the cultural sphere (UNESCO).  


Yet culture can be a powerful factor in establishing gender equality. If more women are given the opportunity to flourish as creators, not just ‘muses’, particularly in resource-poor areas, this inclusion would contribute to poverty reduction by empowering women to express themselves and earn money by using their skills. 


So, to celebrate women embracing this role we have curated a list of works for you to discover – each created by women around the globe.  We have included films, books, music and podcasts by women from some of the world’s poorest communities in which we operate: each thematically overlaps with the pressing issues of our time, at the intersection of gender equality.  

Must watch

Between Rings by Jessie Chisi

If you’re a documentary lover, this Zambian documentary about the country’s first female boxer Esther Phiri will leave you with a new perspective on family responsibilities and cultural obligations. Concern Worldwide’s Executive Director Danny Harvey, lived in Zambia, working alongside Zambian women. She says: “It is amazing that people only need a little support and follow up to unleash their potential. In Zambia, I met women who went from growing nothing to becoming the most incredible farmers and kitchen gardeners.” 

Capernaum by Nadine Labaki

An Oscar-nominated docudrama by Lebanese director Nadine Labaki, Capernaum focuses on the refugee crisis through the eyes of a lost, young boy; intertwined with a poor host community. While the subject matter is dark, the endearing humour woven throughout is a key personal takeaway. 

Grandpa’s Tale (working title), directed by Maryama Neneh Bah

This last recommendation is one to add to your reminder list as it’s still in production. Grandpa’s Tale is the first full-length feature film to be directed by a Sierra Leonean woman, so excitement is justifiably high. The film’s production company has been rather mysterious about the details, but news sites tell us to expect “a mix of contemporary and archaic aesthetic about an old man who uses a folktale to reconcile his grandchildren”. 

Must read

A Bigger Picture by Vanessa Nakate

In this groundbreaking book, leading Ugandan climate-change activist Vanessa Nakate draws our attention to the lack of African voices in climate discussions, ironic, considering the continent continues to suffer most from the crisis. We feel her commanding political voice on each page, but there’s also a sense of vulnerability and humanity which makes this a particularly stirring read.  

The Girl from Aleppo by Nujeen Mustafa with Christina Lamb

The inspiring true story of Nujeen Mustafa, a teenager in a wheelchair fleeing Syria, shows the refugee crisis through a new lens. It’s a tale almost impossible to put down, taking the reader on unimaginable journeys through Nujeen’s eyes. A favourite, but harrowing quote from the book sums it up well; “I felt like Belle in Beauty and the Beast heading into the white unknown”, she said, referring to her favourite movie, “only in my story there were sinking boats instead of singing teacups and dancing chandeliers.” 

We Are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai 

We are displaced book front cover.
We are displaced book front cover.

At least 82.4 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes (UNHCR). We see the scale of displacement in the headlines, but we rarely get the chance to see the faces behind these staggering figures and they rarely get the chance to tell their truth. This part-memoir from Nobel peace prize-winner Malala does just that in the most eloquent way. 

Lucky Breaks by Yevgenia Beloruset

This topical short story collection from Ukrainian author Beloruset explores the stories of anonymous women living in one of Ukraine’s most impoverished regions, as they navigate living through conflict. Described as “Aflame with breathtaking symbolism”, these heroines’ stories explore the intersection of revolution and feminism.  

Must listen

Podcast: Dr Rania on the frontlines of delivering global humanitarian responses

The rise of podcasts has brought new voices to our headphones and Dr Rania Abdalla Abu Elhassan is certainly one who deserves to be heard. An obstetrician and gynecologist with a career spanning over 20 years in Sudan working with national and international NGOs, she has unparalleled insights into the need for healthcare gender parity. Listen to the podcast here.   

Anyango ‘Pod Itin’ - Suzanna Owiyo

You might not have heard of this Kenyan singer or be fluent in the language of her songs, but the beats in her music are guaranteed to get you up dancing. This song, sung in Dholuo with a mixture of Swahili, is about a young girl called Anyango who is being encouraged to go to school and get a good education so that she can better her life. Watch on Youtube here

Tackling gender-based violence in Somalia with Ilwad Elman

Somali-born Ilwad Elman.
Somali-born Ilwad Elman.

Somali-born Ilwad Elman and her mother Fartuun Adan have been empowering marginalised communities through the Elman Peace Centre. This interview with Ilwad Elman at the Global Media Centre deserves wider listening and recognition, not only for exposing the reality of gender-based violence in Somalia, but also to learn from her as a shaper of culture using creative communications and media engagement to drive change. 

It's time to see, read and listen to women

These recommendations only scratch the surface of the incredible wealth of content by women creators writing, directing and designing their way to a more gender-equal world. 


It’s well-established that women have unequal access to opportunities to thrive creatively, and the evidence shows that the creative outputs produced by women tend be less valued and appreciated compared to men across the cultural and creative industries. Yet, culture and creativity are powerful agents of change and the cost of excluding half of the world’s population from this sphere would be catastrophic - threatening social inclusion, cultural diversity and development of all kinds. 


It’s a complex space, but in order to change this narrative and widen our perspective, engaging with works by women from around the world is a great place to start. 

Now you’ve seen our list, we want to hear from you. Get in touch and share with the Women of Concern community a recommendation of a film/book/podcast that truly inspired you this year.  

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