On the 25th November 2019, Ciné-ONU screened ‘The Daughter Tree’ in partnership with the European Commission, UN Women and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) at Cinéma Galeries in Brussels to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
In many villages in India there has been a disappearance of women resulting in all-male populations. The Daughter Tree follows a midwife struggling to encourage women to bring baby girls into the world. In the Village of Men, where no baby girl has been born for two decades, families are left in a womanless existence. However, in the Village of the Daughter Tree, we discover something quite magical has been going on in a remote corner of India. Every time a baby girl is born, a tree is planted.
Caroline Petit, Deputy Director of UNRIC, and Chris Cooter, Chargé D’affaires for the Mission of Canada to the EU introduced the event to a full house. Following the screening there was a panel discussion with Chiara Adamo, Head of Unit of Gender Equality, Human Rights and Democratic Governance, DG DEVCO, European Commission; Dagmar Schumacher, Director of the UN Women Brussels Office; and Sietske Steneker, Director of UNFPA Brussels.
Sietske Steneker commented on the importance of the midwife in the film explaining that, “this village is lucky to have a midwife who uses her expertise and weight in the community to change social norms and advocate for preventing gender biased sex selection – she is a hero”. Ms Steneker highlighted that in India the role of women and girls is engrained in society and is closely related to legislation, inheritance and dowry, but this needs to change. Dagmar Schumacher agreed with this statement and expressed concern that there are currently 32 million more men than women in India.
All of the panellists recognised the importance of working with community leaders, religious leaders, men and women to change social norms and encourage a cultural shift. Chiara Adamo commented that “strong men usually are those who do not buy into social norms and challenge stereotypes”.
Ms Schumacher informed the audience about the upcoming 16 Days of Activism which call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls and encourage everyone to raise awareness that there is zero tolerance to violence against women and girls as part of the Orange the World Campaign. “The colour orange symbolises a positive and brighter future for girls and women, boys and men, and all of society.”
The discussion also focused on this year’s theme of the Orange the World campaign, ‘Generation Equality Stands against Rape’. Chiara Adamo expressed concern that in a survey of European people, 27% felt that rape could be justified in certain circumstances and she encouraged people to talk about these shocking statistics during the 16 days of activism and to break the silence on this topic.