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U-M School of Education, filmmaker encourage classroom discussion on violence against women

By Laurel Thomas

Jhulan, a dance movement therapist and survivor, dances at Kolkata Sanved’s 10th Anniversary Celebration. Credit: “Little Stones”

As the United Nations conducts a 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence Campaign Nov. 25–Dec. 10, the University of Michigan School of Education and an award-winning filmmaker hope to shed light on the global problem of violence against women.

The U-M Center for Education Design, Evaluation, and Research and Washington, D.C.-based documentary film nonprofit Driftseed are offering free resources to schools, encouraging them to view and discuss the film “Little Stones” by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Sophia Kruz, a U-M alumna. Following a Dec. 6 public screening, teachers are invited to a professional development event Dec. 9 at the School of Education.

Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Sophia Kruz, a U-M alumna.

Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Sophia Kruz, a U-M alumna.

“Little Stones” introduces viewers to Brazilian graffiti artist Panmela Castro, Senegalese rap-singer Sister Fa, Indian dance therapist Sohini Chakraborty, and Africa-based fashion designer Anna Taylor as they use art to combat violence against women and to empower women and girls globally.

Kruz’s film shows how four women use artistic expression to help other women overcome domestic violence, human trafficking, cultural practices like genital mutilation, and extreme poverty.

The film title is based on a quote by suffragist and women’s rights activist Alice Paul, who in 1974 said: “I always feel the movement is a sort of mosaic. Each of us puts in one little stone.”

The resources were the result of a two-year collaboration among university staff, students, Driftseed and the filmmakers. U-M School of Education leaders hope to teach students about global gender-based violence and the power of art to create social change.

“By preparing and supporting effective teachers and leaders who facilitate deep and thoughtful student engagement, we at the School of Education are sowing the seeds of change by empowering others,” said Dean Elizabeth Birr Moje. “As each of us contributes our own little stone to our mission of educating for a just society, we create something bigger and better than each of us could achieve alone.”

The Educational Toolkit includes:

  • 8 lesson plans and final project for high school and undergraduate students
  • 2 art workshops on poetry and graphic design for social change
  • Classroom and community screening film discussion guides
  • Take Action! A resource guide to encourage audiences to become a stone in the mosaic of the women’s movement

The lessons and workshops can be used individually in single class periods or combined for a more immersive classroom experience. They are aligned with Common Core standards, and are suitable for social studies, art, law, economics, gender studies courses and more.

Brazilian graffiti artist Panmela Castro’s work around Rio de Janeiro. Credit: “Little Stones”

Brazilian graffiti artist Panmela Castro’s work around Rio de Janeiro. Credit: “Little Stones”

Kruz said the film and accompanying education initiative have been designed to raise awareness about global women’s rights issues and to celebrate creative, entrepreneurial and arts-therapy based solutions to the most pressing challenges facing women globally.

“The sentiment, that we all have a role to play in the global fight for equal rights, to me perfectly encapsulated the work of each artist featured in the documentary, and my own goals for ‘Little Stones,'” she said. “I hope the documentary encourages creative dialogue and expression around issues of global gender based violence, and that through Driftseed, the 501c3 nonprofit organization which (Meena) Singh and I founded during production, we will continue to grow the mosaic of the women’s movement, stone by stone.”

“Little Stones” has won Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival, Best of Festival at the Zonta Film Festival, Best Foreign Documentary at the Female Eye Film Festival, Best Documentary at the Vail Film Festival, a Humanitarian Award from Docutah International Documentary Film Festival, and an Award of Excellence from the Impact Docs Awards.