As part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness on the issue of Child, Early and Forced Marriages (CEFM), the Embassy of Canada in Ankara invited Canadian journalist and filmmaker Nadia Zouaoui to Turkey to screen her documentary, Nadia’s Journey. The documentary tells Zouaoui’s personal story of being forced into an arranged marriage at the age of 18 with an Algerian living in Montreal. The man, who was twice her age, chose her from a photo. The film depicts Nadia’s return to her native village 18 years later, to see if things have improved for the women living there.
The film was met with considerable interest by the Turkish audiences, mostly comprised of women and girls, women’s rights groups, and the diplomatic community. The film was screened in Eskişehir and Ankara to full-house attendances, and was followed by question and answer sessions. The Embassy partnered with a prominent Turkish women’s organization, Flying Broom, for the organization of the two events.
Nadia Zouaoui is a journalist and filmmaker who was born in Algeria and has lived in Montreal since 1988. She studied literature and journalism at the University of Montreal and McGill University and currently works for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the National Film Board of Canada, and for the Aljazeera Documentary Film Channel.
Her film turns the camera on women of different generations – her mother and her friends, other older women, school friends, and younger cousins – seeking to compare the status of women, both past and current. She discovers that the lives and movements of young women are still restricted, despite recent improvements in education rates among girls and women in her community. Although the topic of early and forced marriage dominates the film, what Zouaoui highlights in particular throughout the narration is the oppression of women by Algeria’s patriarchal system.
The first screening of Nadia’s Journey took place in Turkey’s northwestern city of Eskişehir. The area is known for being a progressive province keen on raising awareness of social issues, including of efforts to end child marriages in Turkey. Teenage girls with their mothers were among the attendees for the screening and the question and answer session that followed the film.
The second screening took place in Ankara, at the city’s Cermodern Art Gallery. The discussion after the film focussed on strategies for eradicating CEFM not only in Turkey but globally. Nadia was proud to tell the audience that Turkey is the first Muslim country to screen Nadia’s Journey, either through an embassy or as part of a film festival.
In what can be a difficult local environment, both events were a great success thanks to the outstanding support of the Flying Broom women’s organization. Flying Broom has been working since 1996 to enhance gender equality and provide training to empower women. Recent program funding through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) has allowed Flying Broom to publish a book on CEFM, compiled from the organization’s reports, publications, photographs and testimonials.
The screenings of Nadia’s Journey highlights Canada’s efforts to end the practice of Child Early and Forced Marriage. Canadian Embassies around the Middle East and Africa have also been hosting the ‘Too Young to Wed’ photo exhibit, reinforcing understanding that CEFM is a widespread issue regardless of region or religion. The screening of the film is an important step in the fight against CEFM, as is our continued partnership with organizations like Flying Broom. The Embassy of Canada in Ankara will continue to champion these values and support women’s and children’s rights.